Injini has always prided itself for being the first and only EdTech specialised pan African Incubator and seed fund. Since its inception in 2017, we have had 4 cohorts for our incubation programme, supported 29 early stage African EdTech start-ups, and adozen events dedicated to stimulating growth and development of the African EdTech ecosystem. . In response to the market need, and an evolving and growing EdTech landscape, Injini embarked on a new iteration of our support offering to the African EdTech ecosystem.
Meet 1 Million Teachers (Nigeria), who is part of the inaugural batch of EdTech start-ups in our Acceleration Partnership Programme. The Injini’s EdTech Acceleration Partnership Programme is an evolution of the traditional accelerator model to a more uniquely bespoke and customisable approach to accelerating promising African EdTech businesses. 1 Million Teachers offers that programs address effective teaching and educational leadership – especially in the most deprived regions of the world. 1 MT is the international programming partner for the development of empowered teachers that goes beyond training to also create pathways to job satisfaction and consistent income to achieve sustainability. They aim to have a critical mass of highly competent and enterprising education changemakers who will help provide the needed improvement in learning outcomes in their communities. With programs that go beyond training to providing the teachers with pathways to lucrative professional teaching careers and job satisfaction.
We spoke to Hakeem Subair, who is a Social Innovator, Co-founder and CEO of 1 Million Teachers, and got to learn more about the person behind the EdTech start-up on a mission “to build a critical mass of highly trained and enterprising education changemakers who will lead grassroots improvement within their communities.”
“I think generally, people recognize the noble and valuable contribution of teachers – it is just that we will live in a materialistic world where most people are attracted to materials things which teachers do not have due to their poor remuneration. Because teachers are poorly paid in most parts of the world, particularly Sub Saharan Africa, they are usually in the lowest rung of the economic and social strata, hence are looked down upon by other members of their communities (even their families).”
– Hakeem Subair, Social Innovator and CEO of 1 Million Teachers.
Who is Hakeem Subair, outside of being a CEO who does such revolutionary work?
Outside of 1MT, I have a passion for exploring ways to apply business principles to tackle social problems (actually, I get a kick out of this). Another passion is teaching or what I call learning facilitation. It is partly why I am an adjunct lecturer at St. Lawrence College in Ontario, Canada, where I have taught Innovation and Change Management, Artificial Intelligence and Entrepreneurship, and now International Business.
Outside of these, my introverted nature (I hate the spotlight, and I don’t do ceremonies, including birthdays. I like to work behind the scenes) takes over and I like to disappear from time to time to just read and reflect and watch movies. I relish a game of ping pong, and tennis whenever I can find a sparring partner or two. Chess and Scrabble are also my things – I am excellent at Scrabble. I love to travel. In fact, some of the best ideas and inspirations that I have received are from travelling – seeing different places, sometimes just from the solitude of a long walk or road trip devoid of music or any other distraction. I get a lot of ideas and inspiration when I am doing dishes. And by the way, I am working on a playlist of 1 000 of my favourite songs of all time across various musical genres.
While doing some research, I found out that you had a dream of being a pilot. Where do you think your younger self would have loved flying to?
Just anywhere different all the time, new cities, new towns, different countries, meeting different people, doing different activities, trying different foods – no routine.
You speak about never thinking that one day you would become a teacher, much like people in your communities – do you think this is caused by our perceptions of what teachers do? Do you think we undermine their contribution to society?
For me, it was not about perception, it was just something that never crossed my mind until I got involved in setting up and running a school and training our teachers. I do not think I am a teacher in the traditional sense – I am just someone who is trying to leverage my gifting to support the most valuable members of the education value chain – teachers. Back to your question about perception, however, I think generally people recognize the noble and valuable contribution of teachers – it is just that we will live in a materialistic world where most people are attracted to materials things which teachers generally do not have due to their poor remuneration. Teachers are poorly paid in most parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, they are usually in the lowest rung of the economic and social strata, hence are looked down upon by other members of their communities (even their families). To me, this perception is largely economics, and will only change for the better when we begin to reward teachers appropriately. It is an economic signal that will help attract great candidates to the profession, ensuring a steady pipeline of talent and eventually a virtuous circle of great educators.
A UNESCO report stated that “there are close to 85 million teachers worldwide”, this report examined the number of teachers that each country needs, found that “sub-Saharan Africa needs an additional 6,3 million teachers if it’s to attain universal primary education by 2030” – Through your work and experience, do you think that we can reach this number of teachers by 2030?
I am an eternal optimist, so I think we can – whether we will, is a different matter. I believe in the saying: ‘When there is the will, there will be a way’. When key stakeholders, particularly governments are resolute about achieving this, then we will. However, it will take all stakeholders pitching in – doing their bit and working collaboratively. SDG Goal 17 talks about all hands being on deck – that the achievements of the SDGs require different sectors and actors working together in an integrated manner by pooling financial resources, knowledge and expertise. This is what we will need to reach this number.
What would you say is the biggest obstacle to access to equal education that can impact the quality of educators of tomorrow in Africa?
To me, it’s the reward system. If we are serious about transforming education, we will reward the behaviours that will attract and bring out the best in teachers who are the most valuable component.
There is a lot of information on the internet about what 1 Million Teachers is and the work you have done Hakeem, according to you what would you say best describes the work you are committed to doing with 1 Million Teachers?
Simple: helping to create a critical mass of efficacious homegrown and community-based educators – in particular, those from the most under-resourced and vulnerable communities and groups.
You wake up 10 years from now and there is an article about 1 Million Teachers on Forbes Africa, what does the headline say?
1MT: How a Scrappy Organization Led a Movement That Helped Empower Millions of Teachers in Africa.
The EdTech space in Africa is becoming a formidable force. What would you say this space will look like in the upcoming years?
The emergence of fewer but stronger players with multiple offerings across the educational value chain; learners who are taking less traditional paths to gain the knowledge and skills they require for the jobs that they want.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Especially when it comes to work that requires your full presence, what keeps you going?
From the teachers. Often, when I think about how difficult it is to raise one kid, let alone spending most of your day with many of them.
Please share any words you live by with us. It can be a quote from an author or a lyric from a song.
“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar.
“I hope tomorrow will bring better you, better me
I know that we will show this world we got more we could be
So you should never give up on your hopes and your dreams
You gotta get up, get out, get into it, get it on to be strong”
-Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me) – Quincy Jones Lyrics (feat. Tevin Campbell).
To learn more about Injini and its Acceleration Partnership, follow this link.