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‘Running school business is beyond profit making, you’re adding value to lives’

Omeke

Bunmi Omeke is a lawyer, a principal partner of JJC Partners and an educational consultant, having worked as an administrator for a top-notch institution and presently serving in advisory boards of different schools. Mrs. Omeke was the keynote speaker at a just-concluded Eduskills Fair, an event organised by the International Educational Management Network (IEDUMAN), a platform that showcases and emphasises vocation in education. She spoke with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on the business side of education and its sustainability.

How has your profession as a lawyer influenced your passion for education?

I am a lawyer with a very keen interest in education. I am a business lawyer and a commercial lawyer. My practice is not just in education.

I have clients that cut across the oil and gas, and telecommunications sectors.

However, in my years of experience, I have found myself, several times, in the educational sector.

As a business lawyer, I would like to contribute my quota and do things better. We need to ensure that things are done properly to ensure that the education business is sustainable.

As a lawyer, that has been my passion. I see education business as something that should be managed in a very sustainable manner because I see every sector of the economy as a contributor to education.

I think it is worth imitating from the West that we give back to education through research and training, giving back experience they have garnered over the years, contributing it to academic research.

Education should be something of concern to everybody. Whatever professional you are now, education gave it to you. So every professional should be interested in education. I have seen the way the business of education is being run and I think it can actually be better.

What do you consider when going into the business of education?

As an educator, your business interests are quite divergent. They are unique; they are not like every other business.

As an educationist, you are impacting lives; you are adding value to lives. You are running the business of education, which I think should be sustainable. When you are talking about interest, you are talking about having human relevance first before profits.

When you impact lives positively, you can be in business forever. That is sustainability.

Your business should be protected legally; there are different formation of businesses, and factors that should inform your decisions in business.

For example, what kind of business form should you adopt when starting an educational institution or a school?

There are the sole proprietorship forms of business, limited liability kind and the incorporated trustees business.

I advise school owners, when starting their businesses, to think beyond the now, the money, and the profits. They should have the big picture in mind, especially, in the case of the sole proprietorship.

In a case study of a man, who obtained loan from a very close relative, unfortunately, he was not aware that the money he got from that relative was a product of fraud and used the fund to recapitalise his school business.

During an Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigation, it came to light that the money used in running the school’s business was a product of fraud.

Apart from the arrest of the school owner, the school was also closed.

The students were sent away and they started looking for another school. That incident not only affected the owner’s business, it also affected that particular environment.

It had affected the children attending the school and the reputation of his school, even if he decides to start his business all over again.

Obviously, the owner didn’t take an educated-business consideration, because it was a sole proprietorship business, he couldn’t go to a bank to get a loan; if he wants to get a loan from most institutions, the first requirement is that he should be a separate entity from your business, the school should be a limited liability business.

What is your assessment of the Eduskill initiative?

It is a very wonderful initiative. It is unique. I have seen associations of schools coming together for training.

It has always been about school owners and teachers. Eduskill took things above and beyond that. They are preparing and tailoring children to suit our present society.

The initiator has married academics with every other sector of the economy, connecting them back to their root because education gave birth to doctors, engineers, lawyers and also teachers.

Education is the bedrock. Bringing back all these professionals to contribute their quota to education is a fantastic one.

What can the present administration do about our educational system?

This is a problem that has circular effects. The economy is bad. Not many parents are ready to pay so much for education.

Quality education is quite expensive. No matter how good the private sector is, we still need the government.

There is a need for some subsidies, some forms of encouragement, because if the private sector wants to put monetary values on the services they give and reap profit like in every other business, I tell you, our parents will not be able to pay the price.

I am saying this from experience. I have worked at a secondary school and as an administrator in Centre for Law and Business.

I know the cost of education. I know what it takes to run a school, how difficult it is to marry the interest of the business owner (which is making a profit) to providing quality services.

Take the Montessori for instance, it is the most effective teaching model, but very expensive.

I am referring to that because that is the foundation of learning. Most of the things learnt at the pre-school level are translated into adulthood.

So for a high-quality service to be delivered at the pre-school, money is needed, and to balance this interest, the support of the government is needed by educators, especially, those in the private sectors.

How would you describe yourself?

I always tag myself as a multi-faceted person. Apart from being a lawyer, my love for education is boundless.

I also co-manage and consult for a pre-school in Lekki called Beliza Bambini, a Montessori school. It has been an amazing journey as a lawyer and an educationist.

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