‘Our traditional learning system is broken, not beneficial’
Obasolape Abiola is the founder of ProTeach, a platform aimed at redefining education and learning in Nigeria by connecting expert tutors to learners. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, he reveals the inspiration behind ProTeach, the country’s poor educational system, challenges of keeping an educational start-up viable and other issues.
What inspired the development of ProTeach?
The inspiration came from a personal experience. I was teaching in a public secondary school as a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member and one of the older teachers in the school approached me to help her daughter in her schoolwork; she had been performing woefully in Mathematics and the school system wasn’t helping her at all. I took up the challenge and started tutoring the young girl twice a week at their home. After about two months , she showed great improvement in answering tough mathematical questions and wasn’t not afraid to ask questions in areas she found difficult to understand. Above all, at the end of that academic term, she had risen to the top of her class even in other subjects including, Mathematics that used to be a problem.
Our traditional classroom learning system is broken. The teaching methods applied in most schools today are not beneficial to a lot of learners. It is absolutely impossible for one teacher to give the required one-on-one attention to all the learners in a classroom, the average teacher focuses on a couple of kids in the classroom and leave the rest of the learners to struggle through learning. School kids in turn lose interest in learning, and this is a big problem our current education system has created for a growing generation of young learners. ProTeach is a solution we are building to make learning personalised for learners across the country.
What experiences or qualifications do you have for running such a vocation?
First, I come from a family of educators. My mother is a retired school teacher and also ran a school business. While I was growing up,, I had access to a lot of good teachers who tutored me at my mother’s behest. I had no problem remaining at the top of my class because of the personalised learning sessions I got outside the traditional classroom system. After finishing with my undergraduate studies and proceeded to teach in a school, I realised how much parents yearn to have their kids do well academically, despite the several problems posed by our present school system.
How does ProTeach work?
The way it works is quite simple. There is a website you visit – www.proteach.ng, which serves as a job site for tutors and also a place to find good tutors for a wide range of academic subjects. It’s basically an online marketplace for tutors. Parents, and learners alike can find the best tutors to help them reach their learning goals using ProTeach. We also open up our platform to people who are qualified to teach or are passionate about teaching.
What’s the recruitment process for the tutors on ProTeach?
Quite rigid and thorough. We pride ourselves as the best tutoring service provider in Nigeria today through a strong background check and vetting system in our tutor selection process. We have an open application policy but anyone not worth their onions will not even scale past our three-stage interview process. We meet each applicant physically at our office for a chat with our education consultants and human resource personnel, we run through each tutor application’s educational background through the certificates submitted and then verify each claim. We also go further to learn about each applicant’s teaching philosophies and their work experience in teaching.
What are some of the challenges you faced starting out and how have you dealt with them?
There are a million and one challenges start-up’s face in Nigeria but we have to rise above them to build solutions that will create real value for those who use it. Raising funds for business, expansion and innovation is another big challenge as well as solving real problems but all these won’t stop us from reaching for the skies in all our efforts. We have particularly learnt to satisfy our customers and personnel in diverse ways, as they remain our biggest backers.
What is the most satisfying aspect of running a tech-based business?
The reach, I must say. The possibilities that the Internet gives in today’s business world are limitless. There are so many places we don’t know or ever been to as a business and we get requests for our services. As a tech-based business, we also have the opportunity to continue to innovate with tech around the learnings derived from running our operations to better serve our growing customer base and allow us scale easily.
You were in the Ventures Platform Acceleration Programme. How has that helped you?
Phenomenal. The experience at VP Acceleration programme had us focusing on the growth of the startup. At the completion of the programme, we had grown 600% from when we started. We had the opportunity to review our business strategies with experienced startup founders and mentors who took a critical look at our business and advised on what we could do better.
I personally think the success of startup businesses in Nigeria lie in the hands of the founding team; how hungry they’ll remain to challenge the status quo and build great businesses. One good way to remain on that track is to build a network of mentors and backers that can point one in the right direction. At ProTeach, we found Ventures Platform, or they found us, whichever way, and we will continue to grow a highly beneficial symbiotic relationship.
What would you say is the best part of the experience?
I would say the opportunity for us as a business to expand our reach and start developing a new market in the Northern part of the country. We learnt a whole lot with product vision, customer behaviour, focused execution and unwavering ambition. It was an eye-opening experience that has made us see other possibilities in Nigeria’s business climate.
What is your vision for ProTeach in the long run?
We are definitely going to be the biggest provider of academic solutions in Nigeria in a few years from now.
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