‘We want to ensure that students wanting to study abroad are doing it properly’
Mrs. Anthonia Foluke Sawyerr is the Managing partner of ALTS Consulting, an education consulting firm that assists students to study abroad. In this interview with KEMI SOKOYA, she spoke about her firm’s functions and what it is all about.
What led you into this field of endeavour?
I am very passionate about helping young people realise their full potential, because it is very important to me that our young ones are guided and counseled properly, when choosing a career or school. I very much enjoy the time I spend with parents and their children, as it is really amazing to be part of somebody’s life story, especially on their journey to success. We don’t just work with children, we also work with young adults, as well as adults.
Tell us about your educational and work history
I studied English Language at the Lagos State University and then did my Masters at the University of Greenwich in the UK, where I read Computing and Information Systems. I have completed various courses in such other fields as project management and attended a lot of seminars on education and career counseling. I am also part of many different international groups on studying abroad. After, my graduation in 1989, I did my Youth Service in Kaduna, where I served at the National Primary Education Commission. It was at this time that I discovered my interest in education. Although, I worked in other areas, but my interest and passion for education have remained.
After completing my Master’s degree, I started a 10-year career at the Royal British Legion, a charitable organisation, where I worked as a programmer, project manager, and a trainer. I then joined KPMG in Dubai and worked as a project manager in the Advisory unit. All this while, I was freelancing as an education consultant any time I was free at no cost to parents that demanded my help. I was the ‘go-to’ mom on advice for school search for many of my friends, as well as other parents in my children’s schools.
What actually led to the creation of ALTS Consulting?
I relocated to Lagos because work moved my husband here, which meant exiting my role at KPMG in Dubai. There was the option of joining KPMG in Nigeria, but I felt I was done with business consulting. There was a strong calling to education consulting. So, I took time to understand overseas schools and their requirements. I gave free counsel to anyone that needed assistance for their children’s educational choices. I spent a lot of time travelling in the UK, Canada and the U.S., visiting schools and confirming that they are right for our students.
Consulting was natural for me since I had done it with KPMG and my desire in knowledge acquisition, passion for education and strong interest in children and youth’s careers inspired me to establish ALTS Consulting – an education Advisory with the main aim of assisting students to understand where they are heading in life, options that are available to them and how they can maximise their potentials. We didn’t have this level of guidance, when I went to school in Nigeria. Perhaps if we had, some of us could have done some things differently.
As a managing partner for ALTS Consulting, what is your Job description like?
As the Managing Partner for ALTS Consulting, I direct the company’s day-to-day activities. We are a small company. I, therefore, get involved in every aspect of the company in many ways, as I remain very close and available to my clients. As an education consultancy company, we counsel our students and guide them in terms of school and programme choices. We work very closely with parents and students in assisting children wanting to study abroad. We counsel parents, making them understand that students have their own requirements in terms of their abilities and ensuring that we identify the right school for the students, whether home or aboard. We also administer entrance examinations in our office on behalf of schools abroad.
Can you share with us the challenges ALTS Consulting is grappling with?
One of the challenges we had at the early stage was that we worked from a home office, as opposed to a physical office we now have on Victoria Island. Our major challenge, today, is reaching out to schools to let them know we can assist their students with identifying the right schools abroad, if their students are considering such. Schools don’t generally tend to open their doors to educational consultants.
What are your long and short-term goals for your company?
Ours is ensuring that students wanting to study abroad are doing it properly. We visit a lot of schools and spend a lot of time inspecting them to ensure they are right for these students. In five years time, we want to see this grow, not just for people in Lagos, but we also want to do more with locations outside Lagos, such as Port Harcourt, East and the North.
We have a fair coming up in Lagos and Abuja, with 17 schools from UK, USA, Canada, Switzerland and the UAE. We want to reach out to more parents and students that want to study abroad and ensure they are well informed about their choices.
What other business do you do aside counseling?
Apart from education consulting, I don’t engage in any other business. I have a strong interest in interior design, as I love decorating homes.
So, if it wasn’t education consulting, I would probably have been an interior designer or do it as my second job, but I haven’t even got enough time for education counseling, so there is no room for that!
What do you think are the challenges facing Nigerian education system?
There is decay in our educational system that needs to be corrected. Regarding what should be taught in school, in addition to teaching Mathematics, English and Science, we need to teach students what is relevant to this society that would impact and build our society. This could include etiquette, love, and patriotism for our dear country. The citizens of this country need to learn to love and nurture it. We all need to learn to look after our country and not treat it like something that should be battered. This reorientation can be made to start from school.
How do you combine family life with business?
I try to strike a balance between my family and my work, although it can be difficult, as I find myself working almost all the time and with children all grown up, it is easy to spend all one’s time working.
How do you unwind?
I walk and exercise. I watch documentaries and also read, though not so much any more due to lack of time.
What is your fashion sense?
I like to be simple and elegant.
Who is your role model?
My aunt. She was a fantastic mother and someone anyone would look up to. I really admired her a lot.
What do you have to say to parents and youths?
For parents that choose to send their children abroad to study, it is very important they stay in contact with these children, and make time out to visit and check on them if possible, to ensure that the children stay on the straight and narrow. I know of cases where children were not attending classes and were just wasting away. Youths need to take their studies and careers seriously because time wasted cannot be regained. Sending a child to study abroad is a major investment in their future, which we would hate to see go to waste. They must learn not to give up.
What advice do you have for Nigerians?
My final words would be on developing our educational system and improving the quality of the system in the country. Nigerian citizens must be proud of their country and be willing to give something back to it. Our teachers need to be enlightened and empowered, so that they can do their jobs effectively. We need to learn to appreciate and respect our teachers, because teachers are the best assets in any society. We really should take a careful look at our teachers and improve their skills. Teaching should be a job people should be proud of, a career people desire to do, and those that do it should be celebrated and compensated properly. As Henry Adams said, “A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.”