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CHIKEZIE: Advocate Of Quality, Affordable Education

CHIKEZIEOLUFUNSHO Chikezie is an advocate of children, teenagers and quality, affordable education. A seasoned consultant, she has been in consulting service to government, financial services, manufacturing, FMCG, and education sectors for 10 years. As an education consultant, she brings to the table a rare blend of diverse skills, experiences and expert links, which enable her to deliver exceptional solutions to schools. Her clients often look to her for expert opinion on global best practices and international standards in the education of children.

She began her consulting career with Deloitte West and Central Africa, where she was trained in several aspects of business diagnosis and improvement, including certifications in project management and business process improvement. At Deloitte, she was a key player in several projects, including feasibility and viability studies, business process mapping, business operations review, restructuring, reviewing and redesigning of operational procedures manual, financial audit and assurance, as well as staff recruitment.

After five years of working with Deloitte, Chikezie felt urged to move to a higher level. She was inspired to establish a consulting outfit, which focused on the education sector. The skills and vast experience she acquired while supporting and improving large corporations, in addition to a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Wales, gave her the platform to move good and reputable schools to the Ivy League.

After a Post-graduate Diploma in Education, an international diploma in Montessori education and a training in the support of children with difficulties in reading and writing from the University of London), curriculum mapping, and a number of other skills acquired from international and regional conferences and seminars, she was poised for a professional approach in the delivery of her job.

Currently, Olufunsho works as the Managing Consultant at Early Years Consult Ltd. She also serves as a part-time tutor on the faculty of Heritage House Montessori Centre and trainer and consultant with Soams Creative Education and Consultancy. She has strategic alliances with key internationally recognised curriculum providers, including HighScope, Kip McGrath, the Creative Curriculum, the UK EYFS, as well as Montessori. She is also currently receiving training from the UK Department For International Development (DFID) and its Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria (DEEPEN) office as part of a team of selected school improvement service providers, with a view to working with Nigerian private schools in enhancing their levels of effectiveness and student performance.

With this formidable background, Olufunsho is able to provide strategic advice to clients depending on their individual settings, goals, student needs, teacher qualities, and budget. She is also into magazine publishing as a means of providing enlightenment to parents and teachers of young children on current trends and global best practices in line with early childhood education and care.

In my opinion, the average parent of this age group in Nigeria is generally uninformed or under-informed on such things as child-appropriate toys, what distinguishes one school curriculum from the other and what makes a good school among others.

“The magazine, ‘Early Learning’ is published to shed light on these sort of issues and it is distributed free of charge. A school proprietress read it in Bayelsa State and was so intrigued by the contents that she became an avid customer, making several trips first to Accra and then to Lagos for our training conferences.

Olufunsho’s foray into educational consulting was as a result of her search for the best care and education for her first daughter when she was a toddler.

“I discovered that the more I researched, the more my eyes were opened to the great sensitivity and importance of the first years of life and I just felt drawn to build a career as an advocate of this stage of life. I felt so compelled by the information and vision that I resigned my plum job as a management consultant and set up an educational consulting business, which initially focused on training teachers, head teachers and parents,” she recalls.

Although participants at her training programmes found her sessions as “eye-opening” and “excellent,” many school owners are, however, reluctant to sponsor their teachers for training because of the high rate of staff mobility and attrition in the industry.

“This has been the major challenge besides the difficulty of getting support from corporate organisations through advertising in the magazine and getting sponsorship for low-income schools to benefit from our premium training programmes”, she explains.

Her global approach and research-orientation makes her challenge and scrutinise general opinions and myths about childcare and education.

“When I go to a school to improve their processes and services, I benchmark them with the most current global standards. The fact that I have an international MBA plus degrees in education, as well as being a business consultant gives me a unique perspective that regular educational consultants don’t have,” she says.

Aside being a member of international education organisations such as the U.S National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC), she also has a certificate in parenting education from the Positive Discipline organisation, USA and belongs to the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN). Her ultimate ambition is to support stakeholders to give the African child a learning experience at par with their peers in developed nations.

Business aside, she serves as a volunteer tutor and mentor in a number of educational outreaches including the Seedtime Reading Club for children, Kip McGrath (after-school) centres for student performance improvement, PEARLS (a club for teen girls), and the Solid Foundation ministry for teenagers. In 2014, in recognition of her efforts, she was shortlisted by the US government as a semi-finalist in the Young African Leaders Initiative, a Mandela Washington Fellowship programme for emerging leaders across Africa.

In 2013, she was among 50 women selected by the US Consulate in Lagos for a certificate programme in leadership, public speaking, and effective presentation skills. In 2010, she was also among the first set of entrepreneurs to benefit from the Diamond Bank-sponsored ‘Building Entrepreneurs Today’ programme, initiated by the Pan-Atlantic University’s Enterprise Development Centre.

Olufunsho is no stranger to getting recognition for her abilities. As a secondary school student and undergraduate, she received several prizes and represented her school in competitions.

“In business development, I’ve been a beneficiary of sponsored programmes with the US Consulate and the Pan-Atlantic University’s Enterprise Development Centre, based on my business exploits,” she explains.

Like all little girls, she dreamt of being so many things, while growing up. First, she wanted to be a surgeon. Then she decided being an engineer or an architect would be better. However, she has naturally been drawn to entrepreneurship.

“As a teenager, I was involved in different small businesses throughout my undergraduate days. I have a first degree in Estate Management, but all my career experience has been as a consultant. Initially, I was consulting for businesses, but later, I took on schools and educational organisations. Writing and publishing is only an aspect of what I do. I also carry out operations improvement projects in nursery and primary schools, as well as professional development for teachers, school heads and administrators,” she says.

Her fondest memories of school were at Mayflower School, where she had her junior secondary education.

“Schooling there was very inspiring and diversified. Whilst there, the late Dr. Tai Solarin took a special interest in me because of a literary prize I won as a JS2 student. It was a school-wide competition, which required reading the highest number of books, writing an essay and doing a recitation. The whole school was shocked because I was just in JS2. I beat even my seniors. From then on, Dr. Solarin began to personally mentor me and I became a star. I was given the nickname ‘Uncle Tai’s daughter’. Unfortunately, my parents transferred me, when I got into senior secondary because of incessant strike actions by Ogun state teachers then,” she recalls.

Olufunso hails from Oyo state though she married into Imo State. She was born and bred in Lagos. She is the second of four children of her parents.



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