Saturday, September 23, 2023

Lilian Kajo: I found my success after leaving teaching to start my own school

Lilian Kajo is the director of Zoar School. Zoar is a school based in Kisumu offering the CBC curriculum tailored with various extra-curricular activities including chess, games, French, swimming and mentorship clubs.

I am a trained teacher and I taught for eleven years in both private and public schools. This gave me enough experience and knowledge to know my mandate as a child’s nurturer as well as the basics of running a school even though I was not in an administrative post in my prior stations.

Zoar first opened its doors in January 2020 then closed almost immediately when the 2020 pandemic struck. I would however say it was a blessing in disguise since it gave us an opportunity to re-strategize.

I had a small saving of Sh. 500,000 and with the help of my spouse, we managed to put up our first structure, register the school and hire our start-up staff. Looking back, if I were to start all over again, I would develop a robust business plan and a financing portfolio to assist me in my growth strategies.

My main challenge in the school business has been teacher turn-over. We hire teachers, and since we advocate for quality education, we rigorously train them, but unfortunately, with all the expenses incurred, we sometimes lose these teachers to either the Teachers Service Commission or they get poached by competitors.

As a result of the 2020 pandemic also, attracting adequate financing has been a challenge and this derailed our hope of infrastructural expansion.

I was employed by the Teachers Service Commission before I left employment to venture into my own business. Going from a classroom teacher to a financial manager with no prior knowledge in financial management threw me off-balance.

I was unable to run the school with the pre-requisite financial skills. I did not know how to separate my personal financial account from my business financial account. This made me unaware of whether I was making a loss, profit or even breaking even.

Do Europe airports, airlines mistreat Africans; use old, rickety planes on African routes?

I laud Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) in association with Ushindi Empowerment for giving me an opportunity to learn these skills through their Dream Builder program.

Now, I have my Business Plan and have an updated profit and loss account which also helps me to monitor the school’s finances separately from my own finances.

The transition from the 8-4-4 system of education to the competency-based curriculum has given us our biggest milestones. For instance, as a young school, it was a moment of glory when we were among the first three schools in Kisumu County to be picked for a survey on the implementation of CBC by the KICD through the office of the education county director.

From my experience, entrepreneurship will always rank higher than employment. As much as an entrepreneur must work double than when employed, the room for my personal growth has expanded.

I now have more responsibilities that enhance my leadership skills, and when all shall be said and done, I shall leave a legacy of my existence. The scope for touching and changing lives has also grown unlimitedly.

Money is earned, not given. Currently, we use a segregated financial management system; this enables us to save on our vote heads separately. Since I started Zoar, I have come to learn that you must put your best foot forward no matter what you are doing.

If you get a chance to do something, do it with your entire mind, all your might and all your strength and it shall surely come back to you ten-fold!

A version of this profile feature on Lilian Kajo was also published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.

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