"Your first husband should always be your education," she uttered with a serious expression: low eyebrow, thoughtful appearance and firmed voice. Despite her straight face, grand ma was in deep contemplation. Her eyes were filled with hope, love and a strong vision. My late grand mother was a teacher, not simply by name but because she strongly valued education.
 
Raised by a single mother and a grand mother, my family never worried about my future marriage. They constantly retaliated that the ups and downs of life could easily take everything i would physically possess, but never what is engraved in my brain. An educated woman, grand ma often said, did not need to beg. She did not need to humiliate herself to make ends meet, because she thinks differently and turns her dream into reality. An educated woman cannot be undermined by her husband because she contributes to her home. An educated woman is not defined by her gender or beauty, but respected because she solves problems. An educated woman is a powerful woman.
Education is the key to freedom, and the door to opportunities, she often said. Her words remained engraved in my mind. I believed in it and strived to do my best in school. I am passionate about education. It is no wonder that my company focuses on non-formal education.
 
Like my late grand mother, many public figures continue to share what education means to them and emphasize its importance.
Michelle Obama: “the ability to read, write and analyse; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in that door and take your seat at that table- all of that starts with education.”  
Nelson Mandela: “without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they face. So it is vital to educate children and explain that they should play a role in their country.”
Emmanuella Aboa: “Education is as important to your future as air is to your body.”
 
Last week i attended a thought provoking discussion on E learning. Present were owners from private and international schools/universities and parents.
Covid 19 has brought many uncertainties and disrupted many businesses- schools included. In the word of one participant "we were the first business to close, and might be the last business to reopen."
Schools should never be considered an option but rather an essential service. I strongly believe that education must be considered a physiological need- the very basic need as described in the Maslow hierarchy need. 
As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure our children get an education. While, Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs stated that " children are born learning; it’s a survival skill that comes naturally to them", other researches indicate that "intellectual and physical education lead to numerous cognitive, social, emotional and health benefits." Unlike Europe where talents guarantee success, in Africa, our degree is our first step towards success.
 
Covid 19 brought many ambiguities. Since no one can guarantee how long the virus will remain, we can neither provide a one-size-fits-all solution nor suggest a normal solution to an abnormal situation. Teachers will need to think like entrepreneurs. The learning gaps will undoubtedly widen up children from poor and higher social classes.
 
To survive, schools will need to:
 
  • Embrace E learning. When schools reopen, some parents (such as myself) will not take our kids to school. Even though the death rate from the coronavirus remains low, as a parent of 4, I have no guarantee that should they get infected, my children will survive. I can gamble with my own life but not with that of my children. Virtual learning is a paradigm change. Other parents, however, will still take their kids to school because they have different perspectives. Schools must therefore ensure that they provide the infrastructure to accommodate both options, and maximize ROI.
  •  Prioritize well-being for students and their teachers. Reopening schools' shouts "money" rather than "we care". If we, as adults, find it difficult to stay a few hours with a mask on our faces, how do we expect our kids to comply with the same regulations? How can you ask children to respect social distancing when children are more social than adults? How can a kindergarten teacher restrain a child from sucking his/her finger, touch surfaces (contamination) and promote hand washing , while she has other kids to attend to? How can we respect social distancing in kindergarten when teachers constantly hold the children? 

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  • Understand that parents are not trained to be teachers. I remember how i would run to Google whenever my kids would ask a question on chemistry. I was already terrible back in school in chemistry, what added value could i possibly add to them? There is a reason why i do the things i do and that teachers teach. Lets’ embrace the differences. Similarly, most kids are also not self-regulated to work for a long period of time without constant supervision which is impossible for parents who are trying to balance work and school. Schools must reinvent themselves, re-train teachers and collaborate closely with parents. I recommend a guideline that encompasses among others, information on protecting our children online and the roles and responsibilities of each party. Eg: the schools will provide teachers with the necessary training and infrastructure to maximize virtual learning, while the parents will ensure that children are ready for their lessons and complete their homework. 
  • What is the value provided by the school? Is virtual learning just about math and english? Newsflash they are many online sites that provide the same for free. As a business owner, you must provide and communicate value to attract investment. Yes you can still have physical activities online (we do and the young people we train love it), yes you can still pray with your students, and yes you can continue music classes. What value are you adding for your suggested fee?
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Remember some parents will loose their jobs (in certain cases both parents), some will have a pay cut, yet, others won't be affected. These are different clients’ categories which will require different solutions.  Virtual classes are expensive for most. The budget for food is increasing. Some homes may now have to install Wi-Fi or purchase equipment for the lessons. This means that the purchasing power will be changing. A 10% school fee reduction is unpractical and insensitive. Schools must provide options to parents. For example if Wi-Fi is available in one home, students may not encounter any problem with daily online courses, while someone who is on data and has no stable job may have challenges. As a solution provider, do you abandon that parent or do you offer flexibility by providing a subsidize fee for 2/5 days of online classes? This will definitely affect completion rate, but kids will still go to school and get some education. Because in the worse case scenario, parents will not enrol their children and you will be forced to close your school. Disrupt yourself or be disrupted.
 
According to WHO, we must learn to live with the virus, it is therefore important for schools to be proactive. 
If you are a school owner and you would like to brainstorm on governance, management and delivery of your school, develop an effective plan and implement strategies to mitigate risks , send us an email on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
May God bless us all.
 
#emmanuellaaboa #transolutionservices #education #thefutureofeducation #teachers #schools #universities #Kenya
 
“My life is a mess. I am always anxious and i am constantly screaming at my children for absolutely no reason. My business is collapsing. I have no saving. I have no one to help me.”  Margret* (not her real name) uttered with tears rolling down her cheek. Mother of 4, recently divorced, Margret’s once booming event planning business is on the verge of collapse.
 
Since the declaration of covid 19 as a global pandemic, researches have indicated an elevated level of stress and anxiety among people. Worries about money, job security and businesses have been rampant.
 
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                             Photo credit: apnews
 
Contrary to public knowledge, stress is not always detrimental. It can be positive (eustress) or negative (distress).  While eustress can motivate and improve performance, distress can cause anxiety and reduce performance. People are generally remembered for two things: the problems they solve and the problems they cause. Eustress can force an entrepreneur to re-strategize, think differently and adapt their vision to this new normal. Distress, on the other hand causes depression and can be fatal. Employers and employee must be able to differentiate these two phenomenon to manage alarming reactions and adapt accordingly.
 
Stress can have several consequences on an individual. 
Physically, chronic stress can reduce ones immune system’s ability to deal with bacteria and viruses, making him or her prone to diseases. Psychologically, stress can cause high anxiety and depression and affect ones quality of life. In terms of behavioural change, a person with increasing stress is more likely to smoke more, become violent, get involved in sexual intercourse with different partners and consume more alcohol. These changes always affect  work outcomes. An employee with increased stress is less likely to concentrate, be less motivated, committed and become more absent.
Stress is an imbalance between demand and resource- where resources refers to ones ability to control or cope with the stress and demand, corresponds to demand from work, family or general responsibility . When demand is higher than resource, the organization must take the necessary steps to manage the stress. 
 
“Referred as the health epidemic of the 21st century by the World Health Organization, stress is said to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year and $30 billion a year in Australia.” (Stress to strength, 2019)
An effective organizational structure can help employees manage stress and maximize return on investment.
 
Goal-setting:
Research shows that “employees who are highly committed to their goals and see purpose in their jobs experience less stress.” Challenging positive goals can motivate and reduce stress.
 
Reassurance:
Many times, employees who are stressed are uncertain about goals and expectations or unsure about job security. Involving employees in decision making show that your care and give them an opportunity to embrace their role within the organisation.
 
Open communication:
Establish an open communication policy at work to share concerns, clarify misunderstandings and minimize stress.
 
Encourage time off:
Now that employees have transitioned from office to work office, zoom meetings are increasing. Allow one sabbatical day in the week to recharge, when a staff is feeling overwhelmed. 
 
As an employee, know that your employer can only do so much, the rest must be done by you. Some effective initiatives to manage your stress can include: increase physical exercise, relaxation training, support system and positive thinking exercises.
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Photo credit: Synergy Natural
 
Most importantly, “pause and remember: every single event in your life, especially the difficult lessons, have made you smarter, stronger, and wiser than you were yesterday.”
 
#emmanuellaaboa #covid19 #productivity #stress #managingstress
 
Since the first confirmation of the coronavirus in Kenya, on Friday 13th March 2020, the country has joined the increasing number of territories that have been affected by this global pandemic, and the changes that emanated from it. One of those changes included transitioning from office to home office.
To curb the spread of the virus, the Government ordered a cessation of movement for an initial containment period of 21 days from 7pm to 5am, which has today, been extended for an additional 21days. This continues to redefine the meaning of work as we traditionally know it as, and the impact this method of work has on businesses. 
  
Working from home means different things to different people. While an introvert feels comfortable working alone, extroverts find it more challenging and ambiverts switch between both. Organizations should not employ a one-size-fits-all approach policy to manage change.
 
Effective communication in the workplace is important as you continue to provide your staff with the technical support needed to effectively work from home. These supports vary from industry to industry and include among others: ecosystem management and structure of the new modus operandi.
 
Introverts love to work remotely. 
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They gain their energy from working alone or in groups with a limited number of people. They are strategic, plan their days and activities in advance, to be effective. Introverts love to communicate remotely because they control the space they are into. There is no body language requirement or any need to manage people’s expectations. Introverts will happily participate in calls without uttering a word if they don’t feel that their input is necessary, or delegate if their presence is not important.
Plan, plan, plan. If your staff are introverts, ensure that sufficient time is provided to delegate and KPIs are provided to manage expectations. Introverts do not like being called into last minute meetings or being pressurised into finishing unexpected tasks.  Be as clear as possible when delegating. Give them private time- remember introverts perform best when they work on their own terms. Set a deadline and give them their space to work. Use emails to communicate rather than calls. Appreciate and praise them quietly.
 
Extroverts, on the other hand, can work remotely but must constantly interact with others, through calls and videos.
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Working remotely requires a lot of self-motivation for extroverts. They gain their energy from being around people and their best ideas come from unplanned conversations/meetings. An extrovert works better within a structure: he must set a designated workplace, dress as if he was going to work, and must have a to-do list to be on track and be effective. Employers must ensure that expectations are set and followed regularly. Extroverts will be present in all video and call meetings and make sure that their voices are heard and inputs shared. 
If your staff are extroverts, provide structures and deadline for completion of tasks. Encourage routine to help them remain creative.  Delegate and assign leadership roles to help them communicate and connect with others. Assign challenging tasks to stimulate their minds. Introduce happy hours to communicate with them. Happy hours are social chit chat spent understanding what your staff are going through, how they manage the situation, find out they fears, pray with them, share global and local information about the pandemic to make sure they are up to date and ready to tackle whatever may come their way. Appreciate and praise them loudly.
 
 
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For the longest time, introverts and extroverts have been the two terms used to define personality traits. However, researches have evolved, changed the narrative, and illustrated that personally traits are part of a continuum. Ambiverts are people who cannot identify themselves as introverts or extroverts, as they have both traits. They can work alone and in a group. They can be quiet and highly social.  The greatest skill of an ambivert is her flexibility.
 
Employers must also consider other factors such as how staff gather information (sensing vs intuitive) and how they make decision (thinking vs feeling), when managing remote employees. While a sensing person tends to be pragmatic, hands on, mentally in the present and likes to take things step by step, an Intuitive person is imaginative, creative,  future focused and takes a leap into future opportunities. When it comes to making decisions, a thinking oriented person makes decision from the head, is data driven, analytical and objective. A feeling oriented individual, on the other hand, makes decision from the heart, is emotionally driven, focused and subjective. 
 
People with different psychological characteristics work differently and are more vulnerable than others to work from home. Understanding and appreciating those differences help facilitate work, manage uncertainty and ensure productive.
 
#emmanuellaaboa #productivity #personalities #personalitytraits #introverts #extroverts #ambiverts
 
How many times can a child utter the word mum in a day? Out of curiosity (or maybe boredom), i took up the challenge to count the number of times my 4 kids call out my name, and between 10am to 3pm, yesterday, we were at 85 and counting. Whether I chose to ignore or answer them was meaningless, as they appeared to like the sound of the word.  
 
I thought working from home would be easy, satisfying and fulfilling, but i was wrong. For a mother, specifically, this is very confusing. I struggled, the first week, to find my footing between teaching my kids, becoming their Priests,  managing and balancing their physical and mental well-being, cooking, cleaning, studying, working in an extremely noisy environment and getting a simple shower. As a matter of fact, below is a picture of me, taken by my son, in my pyjamas, cooking lunch.
 
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With the fear currently crowding people judgment, speaking to individuals bring out a very depressed outlook about life. While economists predict a global economic and financial crisis similar to the 2008-2009 great recession, psychologists predict a great depression similar to that of 1929-1933. Whatever the case, no one is predicting anything positive. 
I am often reminded in such trying times of one of my favourite quotes  “tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Sitting the whole day, every day, watching Netflix won’t help. This is the time, for entrepreneurs to re-strategize, think ahead of your competitors, and take bold, calculated risks.
 
After ‘’suffering’’ for about 10 days, i chose to be proactive and make a plan that would help me become more productive, and most importantly innovative. Working remotely is a continuous trial and error process you will go through until you find specific ways that would work out for you.
 
  1. Redelegate: The first thing i did was to speak to the teacher of my children with some suggestions regarding how she could teach the kids online. I was happy to know that she had similar thoughts, and happily agreed to my approach. This saved me 4 hours of teaching and correcting what seemed like endless assignments, without counting the number of times i had to use Google to teach Chemistry.
  2. Go back to your routine: Our Bible reading/studies went back to the evening as we would on a normal day, as opposed to the spontaneous ones we started to have this past weeks. Even though the kids adore my food, i made it very clear that i would cook more often, but definitely not every day as mummy needed to work. Cleaning was never my cup of tea, i happily handled it back to the house manager. I wake up, dress up and work as if i was heading to the office to motivate and stimulate my mind.
If you are a manager, be aware that communication can be a big challenge when working remotely. Yet, your team still need your guidance to make the transition successful.
  1. Set clear goals and expectations: employees need to comprehend that this is not a holiday. You still need to hold them accountable for their work.  Progress must be evaluated in line with the employee’s KPIs. Weekly reviews should be implemented to ensure that staff are committed to the company’s objectives and vision.
  2. Be realistic: despite the fact that work needs to continue, it is a different environment which tend to be harder for employees with children. As a manager be realistic about what this might entail. Establish hours of availability to maximize output.
  3. Embrace virtual communication: emails, calls or texts are not as effective remotely as they are when your staff are physically present in the office. Choose video calls such as Zoom, Microsoft team and GoToMeeting to communicate, connect and most importantly clarify misunderstandings.

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The coronavirus may have unexpectedly forced employees to work remotely, but this might become the future of the workplace. In this uncertainty times, where laid-offs are becoming increasingly rampant, nothing should be left to chance. 

#emmanuellaaboa