[INTERVIEW] “ON THE FIRST DAY, I HAD TO TEACH AN EMPTY SEAT WITH A BOARD AND MARKER.” ~ NNAEMAKA EZE, DIRECTOR, POTTER’S HOUSE ACADEMY

His burning passion to contribute his quota in repairing the damages done on our educational sector lingered for years until Potter’s House Academy was born in August 2014. Ever since it’s birth, it has moved from success to success, grooming students for in-depth knowledge of their subjects and guiding them for exam success.

Brojid.com Editor, Joseph Dinwoke, sat with the Director of the academy, Nnaemeka Maduabuchi Eze to hear the story of their humble beginning, challenges he encountered and how he weathered through them. He also shared what made Potter’s House Academy stand out and offered exam success secrets to students.

It’s an engaging conversation; a study on pursuing vision despite challenges and challenging the status quo.

Sit back, read and get inspired!


Thanks for joining me on Brojid.com, Career People. Let’s get to know you.

My name is Eze Nnaemeka Maduabuchi, a Master’s student of University of Nigeria, Nsukka; department of Plant Science and Biotechnology. I am the Director/ Manager of Potter’s House Academy.

How did Potter’s House Academy start?  What’s the motivation?

Potter’s House Academy is an impact making platform. It was birthed by Rev Cannon DR.  Moses Omeke, my father in the Lord; because of his desire to create a platform for students to get quality academic development. It’s a platform to equip students academically and spiritually. We decided to create a platform where students will come and get groomed for academic excellence.  That propelled the journey, it’s like a journey because we keep unfolding each year and God has been helping us.

You said that at Potter’s House Academy, your mission is to train students academically and spiritually. Many times when people try to combine academic and spiritual development they over flog the spiritual and over look the academic. How do you strike   the balance?

Actually, that’s a challenge. The essence of the academy is that someone can become academically sound and yet a good Christian. About 90% of our attention is to get these students equipped academically; however, we devote 10% for a spiritual foundation. THE spiritual work we do is to  lay a solid foundation for academics. If it is built on lies it will crash. The spiritual is the foundation upon which the academic will be built to success. So, we make sure that our time-table is such that students come in and see more reasons to be more successful.

The spiritual is the foundation while the academic is the building block for their life success.

The beginning of it was very tough. We started without actually anything. The number of students that turned up on the first day was 0%. Nobody was there to believe what we were saying. But because we believe that what we are offering has come to stay, we persevered

There are other preparatory academies around you. What makes yours unique?

Number one is that the  standard we have set. The emphasis is not on money-making. The emphasis is on impact. We have seen situations where you register in a JAMB lesson centers and they are not taken care of; nobody cares if they come or not. But at Potter’s House Academy, if you come 30 mins late, you must go back home.

Eee?

Yes; because our interest is not to get your money. You need to sit down and learn. It’s applicable to our teachers. You can’t walk into the class late. We discipline the students and the teachers alike.

Secondly, we introduce integrity. It’s not a place you come and start hanging around. At every point in time, there is a class going on and you must be involved. So, you find out that it’s within this interval of not doing anything at a lesson centre that a boy will have  time to talk to a girl or make exchanges that are not meant to be.

If the students are engaged, there won’t be any need or time for such exchanges.

Another thing we do is that we involve able hands. We  get competent people to teach in our academy. One of them is Dr S.C Chuta, a man whose interest is to see the students get better. He is not coming because of the money we are paying him. He comes because he wants to make impact. We can’t pay him but he pours out his heart because he want to see the next generation being transformed for the better.

Other lectures from the University of Nigeria are coming because, for them, if there is a platform like this where students are willing to learn, they are willing to teach. So, we don’t go around looking for a hungry person to employ. We look for unique teachers.

We also make use of projectors. Our students are taught with projectors. Sometimes what you see and hear stick to your mind more than what you just hear. So, we use the projectors to impress the message on the minds of our students. We manage the crowd effectively with good sound system to ensure you   do not only see with the projector but also hear the teacher clearly. So, the students’ visual and hearing facilities are fully engaged.

Our students are for excellence. We train them for excellent results. They are testifying. The records are saying it!

Earlier, you said that Potter’s House Academy is not money-making; but impact making academy. If you don’t make money, how do you sustain yourself?

Like I  said earlier, our lecturers are not coming there because of the pay. Their utmost desire is they want to transfer knowledge. They want to infuse the success mentality in our students. That’s why they give us quality teaching and collect less than what they are delivering to us.

Of a truth, the church has also helped us by giving us a platform where we don’t have to pay a damn dine because their interest is to see these students become successful.

Last Post UME, about 70% of our students were admitted into the university. This is just for those that were admitted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Some others called telling me that they got admission in various schools.

Above all, money is also needed but it’s not a priority. At Potter’s House Academy, students write test every week. It’s JAMB standard and typed. Once we finish a topic every week we go to JAMB questions and fish out questions, make it more standard and bring it for the week. Sometimes, they don’t even pay for it; We foot the bills.  God created a platform where the academy can run without much demand on money. Because the platform and the people involved are not money desperate….

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“Our students are for excellence. We train them for excellent results. They are testifying. The records are saying it!” Those were your words. Let me hear the records.

Last Post UME, about 70% of our students were admitted into the university. This is just for those that were admitted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Some others called telling me that they got admission in various schools.

The record is mind-blowing. In fact, we can say of a truth, it has been God. It can only be God that did this. Our students have brought their siblings and invited their friends because of the success they recorded. Our publicity is not in posters and flyers but in the results we have in the academy.

There is this claim that nothing can be done in life without challenges. Did you encounter any challenge starting and running Potter’s House Academy?

Yes. It is one thing to have a product and another thing to convince people that your product is genuine and can make impact in their lives. So, being able to convince people and get them to believe that something better has come was not easy.

The beginning of it was very tough. We started without actually anything. The number of students that turned up on the first day was 0%. Nobody was there to believe what we were saying. But because we believe that what we are offering has come to stay, we persevered. On the first day, there was  no student. I had to teach an empty sit with a board and marker.

(Cuts in) You mean you came to class and you saw nobody but went ahead to teach?

Yes sir. We believe in the principles that something can come out of nothing. Because of my passion and desire to ensure that this vision does not die, I taught an empty class. As time unfolds, we started seeing students. And when they come, they stayed. One thing about Potter’s House Academy is that it is a place where students come and stay. As time goes on we grew from nothing to something.

Another challenge was being able to find competent teachers. There are teachers everywhere but being able to find a teacher of worthy qualifications and characteristics was not easy. We weren’t able to get and engage the right teachers at the right time.

Also, being able to run the lesson for months without the students paying was not easy. We wanted to prove that we have something to offer them. At some point the challenge was looking for a venue to contain out expansion. We rented a hall at Central Primary School but at some point, it couldn’t contain our students.

One of the challenges you pointed out is being able to convince students or teachers on the value you have to offer them. I like you to specifically tell me how you tackled the challenge?

One, the key that played a role there is perseverance. You can’t expect people to believe in the vision you don’t believe in.  We carried on, even when nobody was there. We continued even when people thought we are mad. We ensure that what we are giving our students is what they can’t get anywhere. The classes were sound. We didn’t dilute our classes. We didn’t go out looking for half-baked teachers. The quality of the service was much more than they expected. Before you know it, students were going about testifying that they get more than they paid for. That was the strongest weapon that helped us to break the land.

What you see and hear stick to your mind more than what you just hear. So, we use the projectors to impress the message on the minds of our students. We manage the crowd effectively with good sound system to ensure you   do not only see with the projector but also hear the teacher clearly. So, the students’ visual and hearing facilities are fully engaged.

You are the Director of Potter’s House Academy. What it means is that you manage human being and resources. How do you manage human being to achieve result?

One of the things you must know about human being is that their desire is insatiable. If you want to give them what   they want, they may never get better. So, we made sure we offered them what they need and not what they want; especially the students. Most students want to be pampered. They like convenience. They don’t want to pay the price of success.

One of the things we did is that we created a syllabus  and  imposed it on them to stretch them from their comfort zone. That compels them to work harder. We didn’t create a platform where they come and lazy around and go. We created the system that put a serious sense of urgency  in the students. When they saw the seriousness and discipline we imposed on them, they became serious with the class. You dare not answer call in the class!

We also send SMS to the parents of our students to give them feedback on how their children are faring. We involved the parents in their child’s education. That puts students on their toes knowing that their parents will get notified of their progress.

What prepared you  for  what you are doing now?

I must say of truth that my mentor Rev. Cannon. Dr. Mosses Omeke is a man whose mentorship has really helped me. There are times I get discouraged and he encouraged me to forge ahead.

I hate the decay in our education system. One of the things I beg God for is for a platform to contribute to changing our educational system. So, Potter’s House Academy is an opportunity for me to start somewhere.

Very importantly, the desire to succeed was stronger than the desire to give up.

The first student in your first class was an empty seat in the hall. What is the capacity today?

During the last Post UTME, we had close to four hundred students; but, 350 not 390 students were consistent.  For this year’s JAMB preparation, we have 300 already for this year, 2016.

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Which subjects are offered at Potter’s House Academy?

We offer subject that will give you admission into science, arts and commercial field of study. We also offer the preparatory lesson for WAEC and GCE students. Mathematic and English are top on our priority because of the level of failure we have seen in those subjects. That’s why we create extra time for such subjects.

If I were a JAMB or WAEC candidate sitting before you now, what will you tell me is the secret of success?

First of all, understand that God is the author of success. Secondly, a man who wants to succeed must be determined. Success is first a thing of the mind. If you decided in your head to pay the price of success, you will obtain it.

Two, we believe in reading and hard work. We encourage our students to work hard. We tell our students that what we are giving them in class is not enough and encourage them to go extra mile in reading. Extra-ordinary result is function of extra mile preparation!

Any academic pursuit that leaves it all to God is an irresponsible academics. I believe God is there to help your effort to succeed not to take it away. A combination of a man’s commitment to hard work; coupled with God’s grace will produce extra ordinary result that the world will marvel at.

One of our students that got admission into pharmacy had a secret: as her parents are leaving for work, she is leaving for the library. She will stay in the library from 7am to 2.30pm pm and start hurrying down to our academy that starts at 3pm. So she uses the library for her personal reading and the academy to get taught. So, a mix of personal reading and mentorship teaching from her teachers, must have given her a mind-blowing result. We have done it and it has been proven. We encourage our students to read hard but you know there are things you can’t fully grasp until you are taught.

We don’t give you the impression that we are giving you all. Study your past question. Compare your notes. Read your text books and solve the past questions again and again. And you will see no reason to buy the supplementary form because your name will be on the primary list.

Does God have any place in exam success?

Yes. God does not over rule hard work. God enhances hard work. Any academic pursuit that leaves it all to God is an irresponsible academics. I believe God is there to help your effort to succeed not to take it away. A combination of a man’s commitment to hard work; coupled with God’s grace will produce extra ordinary result that the world will marvel at. When God is seen as a magician that will make you get result you didn’t work for, failure will be inevitable for you!

‘Behind every successful man is a strong woman.’ they say. If this claim is true, tell me about the woman in your life.

We are still looking up to God for that. I don’t want to be distracted by such matter now; even though it’s important. God gives a man purpose before a partner. When a man gets a partner before a purpose, he may crash.  So, our intent is to consolidate on the purpose. Once the purpose is well-defined, partner will fit in perfectly. I am not in a hurry to get a partner now. As long as the purpose is being driven, the partner will come.

There are three Nigerian youths – one in Oyo, another in Imo and the third  in Kano and they have Potter’s House Academy in their belly.  They are supposed to give birth to them at their different locations but feel inadequate. Please talk to them directly.

No matter how great a dream is if the right steps are not taken, it can only be a wish. The right time to start is now. You can wait till eternity and die with the dream. I would have waited till now and there won’t be anything like Potter’s House Academy.  See, there can never be a time  when everything will be convenient. There can never a time when everything will be alright. If you wait until when everything is alright before you start, you will never start.

It will not be easy; if it were easy everybody will do it. It will require courage, determination and faith to accomplish it. I encourage you to launch into it for the catch is great; stop waiting, for the time to act is now!

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Potter’s House Academy is at Old St Paul’s Cathedral Odenigbo Road, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria.

You can keep in touch with the Director manager on: 0703 8185 705; ezennaemeka13@gmail.com or on facebook, Nnaemeka Maduabuchi Eze.

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Editor’s Note: Your questions, comments, corrections and commendations are welcome. Kindly, scroll down to see the comment box and drop yours. We will love to hear from you.

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Joseph Dinwoke

Chief Content Officer at Brojid World
Joseph 'Brojid' Dinwoke, Radio producer/OAP at Radio Nigeria Voice96.7FM, and publicist, is the curator of Brojid.com. At Brojid World, he creates contents and provides training, mentoring, coaching and inspiration for peak performance in your life and work through blog posts, podcasts, books and training. You can follow him on social media by clicking on any of these social media icons. To get his daily inspirational and insightful broadcast on WhatsApp, connect with him with: 0810 550 4664

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