Hakeem and The Breakout Project CEO, Grant Goodwin

The first thing you notice when Hakeem walks in the room is how happy he is to see you. His smile radiates, and you can’t help smiling yourself. I had met Hakeem once before, and it was the same feeling both times. You can see the passion rolling off him as he speaks about his exciting project.

I had the pleasure to get the information first hand on what 1 Million Teachers Project was all about. I asked questions, and as I listened attentively, on the inside I was like….

This is what got us so excited here at The Breakout Project.

So how did this all start?

One day Hakeem and his wife, while still in Nigeria, went searching for the right school for their daughter, knowing there would be slim pickings they didn’t go out with very high expectations. What they encountered was, they hadn’t lowered them quite enough. The teachers were not enthusiastic to be there. The teachers were struggling with basic learning skills. The schools had barely tolerable conditions.

Hakeem and his wife did what any other parent would have done if they had the means to do so. They found a landlord that would rent them out a unit to make a daycare – somewhere the children could go.

Simple things like air conditioning was added to the unit. Hakeem’s wife was a respected Doctor in the community, other parents felt they could trust her and decided to leave their children there as well. The same person that started with Hakeem, caring for the children, is still there until this day. They now have over 6 different units in the same building.

On October 1st of that year, on Nigeria’s Independence Day, the school was launched.

What were some of the problems you faced?

People felt intimidated by the new school. There was a sense that they were being threatened by a better and more accessible school. It was not as well received every where.

The biggest problem is the perception of what teachers are. Teaching is not seen as cool. There is nothing offered to attract budding and excited teachers in Nigeria. The pay is so low that most teachers can’t even afford good schools for their own children. Some teachers can’t even read, and they are expected to teach others.

“Teachers would just not show up. It was too easy to walk away. It wasn’t ‘cool’ to be a teacher.”

“You may not become rich from it, but if we make it cool, we can show that there is more that it can give.”

How did moving to Canada spark this vision for Nigeria?

“Now I am thinking about things on a bigger scale. It was just one school and now that the goal is to reach many more, I feel comfortable asking for more support”

Canada, which has always been a dream for Hakeem, offered a view on a different educational system. One thing his daughter pointed out that was a big difference, was how they allowed room for creativity. In Nigeria, where success is measured by financial stability, creativity tends to be quite secondary. And where even reading is an issue, art and design never comes into play.

This opens up doors for a number of things:

  • How you approach issues is different. You cannot be expected to explain concepts to someone, without getting a little bit creative.
  • Art allows you a creative outlet. A calm mind is a better mind.
  • Critical thinking is enhanced by being able to reach different solutions and tackle problems from several different sides.
  • Expression. Personality. Individualism.

“Here you learn to use a picture to tell a story, where as I can only use words, because of my education they drill you with information and give no chance for creativity or other forms of communicating a point.”

“Canada goes beyond education. It gives opportunities to achieve full potential.”

The Goal

1 Million Teachers Project’s goal is to educate one million teachers in one year and to keep expanding from there.

The Strategy

The hope is that an app can be created filled with educational content. It will be gamified in order to engage teachers with the fundamentals of teaching. To demonstrate the seriousness, milestones and awards will be granted as you graduate through the app. It will need to be a very small app, in terms of byte capacity, in order to allow for maximum accessibility.

“Technology makes it all possible. You want to teach 1 Million teachers? Technology can help you”

What do you need in order to succeed?

“What we need is to create better and more qualified teachers. For that we need a lot of resources. We need funds, of course. We need people with skills: instructional designers; subject matter writers; Content creation (writers); Application developers (telecoms providers).”

Basically, Hakeem needs everyone. He needs passionate and caring people, who want to use their skills to make change happen. Could that be you?

Are you happy where you’re at with the process?

“When you are doing something that you feel like this is your life’s work, and you are on the right path, it feels very good. Sometimes work is overwhelming, but mostly I just feel like I’m walking on air.”

“This will resonate around the world, we all have family, or know someone who is a teacher and may have been somehow neglected”

That’s where The Breakout Project platform comes in. Our goal is to connect him with the resources that he needs.

“The Breakout Project will put Kingston on the map.”

It reinforces the message coming from Canada that we want to help, we want to save the world.

“Up until 3 weeks ago the plan was to finish here and move back to Windsor, but the amount of support coming from Kingston may have changed my plans. It is looking like I’m going to be coming back. This is home now.”

“It’s like a marathon, if you want to run the London marathon you need qualifying times, we want to create the most qualified”

To find out more about Hakeem and his ever expanding team check them out on Facebook at OneMillionTeachers.