November 9, 2015

Inspiration for the day

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Radhika Lee, Director, Nairobi International School, Kenya

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In the Apple World Conference at Genena in 2012, at the concluding session, Malayalee Radhika Lee spoke on her life and the starting of the first e-school in Africa.  With applause and tears the audience received her account.

Though she had a happy student life as the daughter of a sea-food exporter, the collapse of the family business made her accept the offer to teach in a Kenyan school.

The empty-handed teacher who landed in African soil had to change schools and face discriminations and take care of her safety.  This struggle had a respite when she got a job in an international school where she worked for 15 years.

Here she picked up the A to Z of running a school.  With each passing day, her desire to start a school of her own grew in intensity.

In the meanwhile, she got married to a Malayali, Muraleedharan, and had a son.  But after 21 years, the marriage was rocked by serious incompatibility issue that led to divorce.  She and her son had to face life again.

In order to surmount loneliness, became a workaholic.  Working on a 365 x 24 basis, she started her school three years.  But the path wasn’t easy.  After many unsuccessful forays for funds, she submitted a handwritten proposal to a venture-capital company in South Africa.  In normal course it should have been rejected.  But they sensed the dream behind the form and accepted it.

So in 2008, with 35 students, her school opened.  Here every student was given a laptop.  Homework, exams, marklist, leave record, everything was online.  The idea clicked.  Now the school with 3 campuses has 750 students from 44 countries and150 teachers.

She managed to repay the loan in 4 years, 2 years ahead of schedule.  But other challenges were waiting.  Her school stood on a prime location.  So there were covert efforts by the powerful to shoo her away.  But they all had to realize that here was a women who would not budge before challenges.  As the school rose to prominence, the opposition slowly died away.


Courtesy: Biju Raghavan (text), Ullerikkaran (photo), Grihalakshmi, August16-31, 2015

"A successful women is one who can build a strong foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her."