She is a top educationist, in fact she owns a school as well as an innovative enterprise institution. It is an industry specific higher institution which is focused on early years for those who need to set up and operate an early years learning center. She is presently the national president of African women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) and sits on the board of a lot of many other organisations. In this encounter she talks about getting child education right and proffers solutions for women on the way forward for excellence in the business world
“My name is Angela Ajala, I have passion for education,” she began her story that chronicle her journey through life and her determination to create a better society by building future leaders. “Apart from my nursery, primary and secondary schools, I have what is called an innovative enterprise institution for those who want to set up and operate early years learning centers. I set up that institute because I believe that the foundation of every child is very important. If you put kids of one to five years through the right education, the child’s chances of success is very high.”
For her, the problem of Nigeria’s education system is lack of attention to the early years of learning. In fact she has published a book: entitled ‘School guide- How to run a great school’.
“It shocks me that Some school owners put school certificate holders to take charge their nursery and even primary schools, thinking not much is learnt during this period. That is not true. This is actually the period that we are able to identify early enough the challenges a child has and be able to do what’s best for such a child.”
Mrs Ajala, an Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria graduate, attended Maryland Secondary School, Lagos. She holds a Master’s degree and an advanced diploma in guidance and counselling.
“I have two children and a grandchild. My husband is retired and even though he has his farms, has been a strong pillar for us at the schools. His support and wisdom have kept us going.
“I have been within the education sector for close to 30 years. I was a lecturer at the Kaduna Polytechnic for over 11years, I was on the board of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), which till today I still consider a great opportunity to sit on the board that takes care of polytechnics all over the nation.
“I am somebody who believes in continuously improving myself, sitting on the board of Enterprise Development Center (EDC) of the Pan Atlantic University, I was introduced to one of their programmes which borders on mentoring, it’s a Mentoring Program which I attended. There we were taught some of the factors that lead to business failure. You find out that a lot of people go into business out of passion and not out of knowledge, instead of it being the other way round.
“One of my strong points is that I read a lot. I read because I need to build myself and be knowledgeable enough to be able to pursue my dreams. That is why you see me doing many things at the same time. Besides these schools that I run, I am also into agriculture. The fact is that I believe so much in multiple streams of income and that is what I recommend for every woman.
“What I have discovered is that many times women are not willing to pay the price to get better. You can never grow above your knowledge, your choices determine where you will be at all time.”
As the president of African Women Entrepreneurs, an organisation set up by Hilary Clinton to help African women improve their earnings by getting their goods across to the U.S, using the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), Ajala says her role basically is to ensure that Nigerian women benefit maximally from AGOA.
“We have branches in the 36 states of Nigeria and we have six vice presidents, one each for the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. These are given target to train and produce quality products. We insist on quality products because quality always speaks, we also tell women to look beyond the Act, to standardise their businesses, because everyone likes good things.”
For her, one man business is no business. “I believe that every business owner should be concerned about the sustainability of that business. You should aim at leaving a legacy. How do you achieve that? You have to seek partnerships, the right partnerships of course. I am a member of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW), in fact I am the president of the Nigerian chapter, part of what we do there is developing the potential of the professional business women through advocacy, mentoring, networking, building their skills and helping them with economic empowerment programmes.”
A philanthropist to the core, Ajala is on the board of two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which she is also emotionally attached to because they were born out of giving back to the society. “When I elected to join TeamMember, an NGO whose founder is a survivor of the UN bomb blast who went through series of surgeries and an amputation, I did so because it is amazing what that young lady is doing for humanity after all she went through.
“The other one is the Irede Foundation, the founder is one of my mentees who gave birth to a baby with no bones in one leg. Of course the leg was amputated and an artificial leg provided the child. The mother came out of that experience and decided to give back to the society by providing prosthetic legs to less privileged children aged from 0 to 18 years in need of such. I am always inspired by such show of concern for the less privileged and whoever is doing something in that direction easily wins my sympathy.
“Of course I have my own NGO, Educate Nigeria Initiative (ENI) which we set up primarily to teach our students the benefit and impact of giving back. In all our schools, no student can graduate without having a project. We have used the E.N.I platform to revamp orphanages, renovate schools and donate books to libraries.
“The students who graduated this year supported 50 less privileged students in other schools in the payment of their WAEC fees. We use this to teach them that life is not a bed of roses for everyone.”
For the youths, the educationist cum entrepreneur, advises that it is better for them to think of providing generational solution to the society’s problems than just sitting and waiting for employment.
“Our youths should know that the future belongs to them, rather than sit and wait to be spoon-fed, they had better start fending for themselves. They have the advantage of technology and research which they should use to their benefit.”
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