Sunday, 20 December 2015

Unsung : Nzube Akugaranwa, CEO Zubby's Foundation

It's not unusual to see people take career paths different from what they have studied. Many study courses they have no interest in just to please their parents. The rate at which this affects productivity can't be neglected. Nzube Akugaranwa, the CEO of Zubby's Foundation saw the need to offer career guidance to teenagers and to encourage youths to pursue their dreams against all odds. She's determined to reach out to teachers and parents as well, who she believes should offer encouragement and support to their students and children respectively in the pursuit of their dreams. In this exclusive interview, Ms. Akugaranwa talks about the challenges she's faced with, in running her foundation. She also mentioned the foundation's plans for 2016. Enjoy...

What is Zubby's Foundation about? : Zubby's Foundation is formed as a result of having passion for the development and well being of the youths. We were bothered about why the youths do not do so well and why they shy away from certain things. We decided to assist in exploring the talents in our youths. We decided to offer guidance and counselling to the teenagers in secondary schools and help them explore their talents through competitions knowing that competitions bring out the best in people. Basically, what we do is to harness young potentials.

What programmes have Zubby's Foundation organised? : So far we have been moving to different secondary schools in Port Harcourt where we started. We visited Bereton Nursery and Primary school and Besona Nursery and Primary school, we also visited Holy Rosary Secondary school. We held seminars. Some of the school gave us the opportunities to counsel their students one on one after our seminars. From there we discovered that these children have related problems as regards the courses they do in school, why they do not do as well as their parents expect. We discovered that these children mostly flow on what their parents decided for them and not what they want. We found a lot of talented children who do not explore their talents because their initiative are limited to what the society portrays as best.

How receptive has your programmes been? : On the part of students, the students give warm receptions. They are happy to have some one to talk to, someone that comes down to their level, to understand their feelings not someone who already decides for them before asking for their opinions. They are free and open minded. They love what we do. On the teachers part, most of the schools we visited responded positively. Most times, when we leave, the Guidance Counselor takes up from where we stopped. We help them understand these students. On the parents level, we haven't really gotten access to the number of parents we want, but I believe that teachers and school proprietors and management staff are parents also. The parents are the fundamental, if we can get to  the parents, we can get to the kids. We are looking for the best strategy to get to the parents and make them understand the need to allow their children do what ever they want to do with their lives provided that it is legal.

What plans do you have to sustain your programmes making sure that the impacts of it doesn't wear off? : I keep contacts with the schools we have visited. Some of my team mates are in Port Harcourt and they go to these schools from time to time to check out the problems the students encountered after we left the school. We advise the schools to keep records of each students' problems. So, when we get to the school we address those issues they weren't able to address. We meet these students individually and if they is need for a seminar, the school contacts us.

What challenges do you face in running Zubby's Foundation? : Time is one major challenge. The way I want to run my foundation isn't the way other people would run it. Most times, I do not bother my team mates with certain issues. I have the passion, and the way I pursue my passion isn't the way others would. Sometimes, I tell them to do things in a particular way and I don't get the exact results I expect and because of distance and my academic schedule, I may not be able to do things the way I want to do it. We face financial challenges, hosting the seminars, videoing them, getting things for the students, some times, the school management complain of some of the things they need in their school, expecting us to finance them.

How do you beat these challenges? : They have been individual financial supports. There are some individuals we have met, some of them are students who share the same vision but who are not in the forefront leading this campaign. They make their donations. Some firms, like Nigeria Navy Secondary School Ogbomosho, owned by mum have been very supportive.

Talk about your leadership skills that help you work with your team mates : I have one strategy for that. I do most of the things I want to do by myself. This makes them realize that I do not solely rely on them, making them know that I am not being bossy nor asking them to do things that I can't do. I still report to them and I am very transparent when it comes to leadership. I respect every one of them. Some of them are older than I am, some are lecturers. I see myself as their servant and I usually listen to hear from them. I listen to their opinions even when it counters my own opinion. I don't force my opinions on them, because that would give an impression that I want to do things on my own. It's not about being the boss, it's about doing what one has passion for.

How do you manage the financial aspects of the team? : What I tell them for now is to put aside every personal interest. I tell them that they would come a time, when we would have partnership with the government, partnership with a lot of companies like record labels, modelling agencies, schools, money would start coming. By then, honestly, they would appreciate being with me from the very beginning. But for now, I appreciate them by giving them gifts anytime I can. I don't have to wait till I have everything to appreciate them.

You mentioned partnership plans, which organisations are you currently in talks with? : I have written lots of proposals, but I have not received any positive response for now. The kind of firms I want to partner with are studios for those who like photography, then modelling agencies, institutions, learned persons, persons who are passionate about academic pursuit. Let's look at Prof. Igwe, a lecturer in History and International Studies Department, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. He is the leader of UNIZIK Debate Club. I believe that with him by our side, we can achieve a lot.

How supportive is your family and friends? : My mom is my biggest support. She has been my inspiration, she is an academician, she is very supportive and she understands what I do. You know parents, some times, she would be like, 'you have been harnessing other people's talent, has anyone harnessed yours?  You have talents also.' (laughs). Aside that, she is very supportive, my siblings; my kid sister doesn't really know much about what I do, my elder brother is very supportive, morally, ethically and financially.

What has being the CEO of Zubby's Foundation gained you? : One thing that I have benefitted is satisfaction and self purpose cos that's what the foundation is based upon, helping people actualize their vision is my passion and my mission. I have earned respect. When people see you on a normal day, they don't know what you are capable of, but, when they begin to see your innovations, they begin to accord you some kind of respect and by that you begin to affect the change you need.

How has being the CEO of Zubby's Foundation affected your relationship and social life? : Actually, I'm usually very hot tempered, but being in this position, I realized that my hot temper won't pay, so it has helped me learn how to handle my anger issues. It has made me kinda reserved and coconservative because I am now almost always thinking, thinking of doing new things, thinking of new ideas, new reforms, thinking of ways to implement my ideas. It has brought me to the point that I am now. It has helped me morally. Right now, I see myself as a role model, people expect to see in me what I advocate for in our youths and teenagers. They watch to see if I have achieved what I want to other youths to achieve, and to see if I explore my talent as I advice others to. It has helped me build in myself those things I want to build in others.

What programmes do we expect from Zubby's Foundation next year? : The first major programme would be a debate competition at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Auditorium. We would involve as many people as possible. We would introduce a new style of debate, that is the British Parliamentary Style of Debate and this style is not known to UNIZIK students. We would collaborate with UNIZIK Debate Club. The second major event would be to organise a singing contest that will involve as many people in Anambra state as possible. Before the programme, we must have gotten positive response from the various record labels we have written to. The winners of this contest would be signed to our partnering record label and we see to it the sponsorship of their debut tracks. We would also have seminars in different secondary and primary schools.

Where do you see Zubby's Foundation in the next couple of years? : Let me narrow you, two years from now, Zubby's Foundation would be in everyone's lips. I see Zubby's Foundation become a house hold name. We are working towards having a platform through which we can be reached online, in our offices, and branches, we would also be accessed one on one. When we are able to accomplish our partnership deals, our outreach would be easier and faster. Imagine, having the backing of ministries of education in various states. In two years time, I see our youths rebranded, I see a lot of talents harnessed by Zubby's Foundation.

Your words to our parents, teachers and students about career guidance? : Our teachers and parents especially, have a huge role to play based on their children's career. We want to use this forum to advise parents to watch out for the things God himself planted in their children, things they do not necessarily need to stress themselves to do, they excel in these things naturally, they should encourage their children to do these things that they are naturally good at. A lot of teachers are in the habit of destroying the children because these children failed once or twice in a particular thing which they may be gifted in. These failures may have been caused by the child having a psychological challenge at the time or by any other factor, but the way teachers some times respond to this situation can kill a dream. We recorded some of these situations during our seminars. There are a lot of courses that can be studied in the university. There are a lot of things one can do to make money if money is the sole aim of going to the university. But, it's about self satisfaction, which I suppose is the main reason for life. Parents and teachers should guide our children properly. I want to encourage the students. There are a lot of things they want to do, but the society and the parents keep telling them that they can't. They just have to be determined, never giving up. Students should learn to strive for the right things and to always discuss with their mentors. With these we can produce youths that can compete internationally with other youths.

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