Lilian Mc’Kenna Kajo is the founder and director of Zoar School, a school based in Kisumu offering the CBC curriculum.
Ms Kajo speaks about her transition from teaching to a financial manager.
I am a trained teacher and I taught for11 years in both private and public schools. This gave me enough experience and knowledge to understand my role as a child’s nurturer as well as the basics of running a school. Zoar first opened its doors in January 2020 then closed almost immediately when Covid-19 struck. I would however say it was a blessing in disguise since it gave us an opportunity to re-strategise. I had a small saving of Sh500,000 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 turnover. 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 Covid-19 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. 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. I laud the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) in association with Ushindi Empowerment for giving me an opportunity to learn these skills through their Dream Builder programme.
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.
From my experience, entrepreneurship will always rank higher than employment. As much as an business people 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 I shall leave a legacy of my existence. My dream of 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, might and strength and it will payback.