EXECUTIVE BRIEF: Yinka Ogunde

We spoke to Mrs Yinka Ogunde, Convener of Concerned Parents and Educators Initiative (CPE) and Founder of Edumark on the role the CPE is playing to encourage sustainable development in the Nigerian educational sector and its plans to bolster the sector for the nation and Africa at large. 

Concerned Parents and Educators Initiative (CPE) is a big player in the education sector in Nigeria. What is its focus/mission?
CPE was created as an online group 4 years ago. The initial objective was to provide a platform where parents and the education community could come together and deliberate on issues of mutual concern in order to allow for the improvement of the Nigerian child. We created a platform where the parents and education community could ask questions and have a better understanding of each other.
When we started the platform, we realized that the problems in the Nigerian education sector were a lot bigger than we envisioned. We started thinking of innovative ideas and reforms to solve the education crisis in Nigeria.  The quest for providing reforms to solve our education crisis in Nigeria has now become our mission and focus.
How does CPE encourage sustainable development in the education sector? 
The Nigerian education sector is an interesting ecosystem with several key stakeholders. These stakeholders include: the parents, students, public school teachers, private school teachers, private school owners and the government. In all of this each stakeholder has distinct needs. There is a need to create policies that will be favourable to all stakeholders. In Nigeria we have a very strong private sector and this is a ticking time bomb. It is very dangerous for a country to leave the development of its future leaders in the hands of private operators except there are very strong regulatory policies in place.
With CPE, we have tried our best to understand these dynamics and have sought about ways to proffer solutions to them. One of the major issues we solved is the problem of teacher development and CPE has an education development service for all teaching personnel. We also decided to start parenting forums in order for us to understand how the average Nigerian parent thinks. The capacity of Nigerian Schools is really low, and a lot of parents have higher expectations which these Schools cannot meet. Through these forums we have been able to act as an intermediary between the parents and the Schools to help both parties deliberate on issues and come to an agreeable consensus.
What role does CPE play not just in the educational sector but to the country at large? And what recognizable achievement does it have in the education system in Nigeria?
One of the reoccurring issues we noticed when we started CPE was that there is a need to bring the issue of education to the front burner.  Just like we have the cancer awareness month in October, we decided to create a February advocacy month for education. We want to start a discourse on ways the society can proffer solutions to the problems in the education sector. 
We have Chapters in 21 Nigerian states, each Chapter is presenting letters to the Commissioner of Education, to the State House of Assembly as well as to the Governor of their State. Last term, we payed the school fees of 290 children in various parts of Lagos. That’s when we realized that there is a huge need. There are a lot of poor children that lack the basic school amenities. We also support special needs children. Last year we donated seven wheelchairs to children suffering from Cerebral Palsy in Schools.  We also have a widow’s scholarship scheme, literary challenge where talented writers are encouraged to write short stories, and teachers’ appreciation day. 
How have these projects been funded? Has the Government assisted in the funding of the initiative? 
I can confidently tell you that we have never received a kobo from any government organisation. All funds have been internally  and privately internally  and privately sourced. 
In a society where majority of people without an education are extremely successful. People like the Mack Zuckerberg’s, JayZ’s, YouTubers who dropped out of School etc.  What role are you playing in this narrative? 
If we are to analyze it in terms of percentages, how many Mack Zuckerberg’s are there?  It is dangerous for us as a nation to raise an illiterate generation. There are some societies and nations that promote self-learning and Nigeria is not one of them. A person who chooses not to go to School in Nigeria has very limited options. They either choose violence or other crimes we are trying to save our nation from. It is impossible for a person to give what they do not have and everybody has their own areas of strength. .
How would you describe your transition from the Advert, Media & Communication sector to the Education sector? 
My background is in the Marketing and Advertising field, but I believe that is still what I am doing. I have used my skills from the advertising sector in education. The name of my organization Edumark means education marketing. We have created programmes in this regard. The Total School Support Exhibition (TOSSE) we organize every year is regarded as the biggest in Africa at the moment. I believe the success of this exhibition is due to my background in advertising. Bringing people together on the CPE network also requires communications and advertising. My skills have enabled it grow to its current size of 119,000 members.
What should we expect from CPE in the coming years? 
We want to have impacted education nationwide because with the various Chapters that are now emerging in CPE we are getting into places we never knew we will be. For instance, CPE Kano was the first Chapter to spring up, there is another in Niger, Kaduna, Anambra and many other states Apart from our Chapters in Nigeria, we inaugurated a Chapter in the United Kingdom. We want to bring Nigerians from all over the world and proffer solutions to the education crisis in the country.
Photo Credit: SpeakerHub