Edith Tanhira discusses how she combined her teaching qualification with an MBA to pursue her dream of opening her own childcare business.
Tell us a bit about your background
I have been a primary school teacher since 1996 in Zimbabwe before settling in the UK in 2001, where I taught as an Overseas Trained Teacher (OTT). I then enrolled on the Registered Teacher Programme Course plus QTS here at London Metropolitan University in 2006. I continued working as a primary school teacher until 2018 when I decided to start my own childcare business.
Being a single mum with two children I have experienced problems with arranging childcare while working, and decided to set-up a business where I can help other parents. So, in 2018, I decided to enroll on to the MBA programme at London Met and put my Ofsted registration on hold (which I later pursued in April 2019). I didn’t want to do both concurrently as they are both very demanding, time-consuming and required my full attention.
Thinking back before you started your MBA, did you ever think you’d be where you are now? if not why not?
Yes and no. At first, I was very optimistic; I was prepared to work hard and get a distinction. However, as the realities of being a full-time MBA student and opening a new business, as well as being a single parent to two children become apparent, the pressure began to take its toll. I remember going into hospital for some dizzy spells, but was instantly emailed to come back into the hospital the following day as I was found to be seriously anemic and needed a blood transfusion. I was not surprised as most of the time, I had no time to eat and drink properly as I was determined to finish and pass my course. So to those that will be taking the course – it’s going to be tough, but remain focused and determined and you will definitely get there. At the same time make sure you look after yourself, healthwise as well as mentally.
Do you feel that going to university sends other people in your family or friendship circle a positive message? Why?
Definitely yes! I have a friend who is 50 years old and has been debating whether to go to university for the past five years. Having shared my experience with her I encouraged her to enrol. She registered in July and got a place to start her course in September. I’m pleased for her and happy that I had an impact as a positive role model for her to emulate and get encouragement from.
Secondly, my five year old has also been inspired to go to universirty, because she wants to graduate just like me! She came along with me when I had to hand in my final project (she might've been inspired to go to uni more by the canteen food, rather than my qualification!). When I handed in the project she told me that she was very proud of me and gave me lots of kisses – she even wrote about it for her class and mentioned how she will be going to mum’s graduation. Bless her!
How would you describe the journey you’ve been on?
I would describe it as a rollercoaster ride. It had its ups (when things went well and I was ahead and on top of things) and downs (when work got on top of me and I felt like I was drowning in it), but the secret is to keep focused on your goal no matter what! Secondly, I had to make it, not for anyone else but for my own sake. I suppose it’s that sense of achievement that I mentioned before, that “yes, I’ve done it!” which obviously has a ripple effect on your children, family and friends. The other thing that kept me going was the thought of paying back the loan without a certificate!
What makes MBA an especially valuable degree?
The fact that it equips you with the necessary skills and knowledge to enable you to take advantage of various opportunities in different leadership areas and different career routes in the business sector (or any other area depending on your passion) from being a manager or consultant to starting your own business as I have done. I think with the different modules from accounts and finance, effective leadership, people and organisational skills, innovation, marketing and branding, presentation and research skills, etc, one has a wide range to choose a sector of one's interest.
Do you feel that you’ve changed as a person through your university experience? If so how?
Definitely, there are a lot of things that when I started I thought I could not do, but the purpose of the course is to push and take you out of your comfort zone and place you in that uncomfortable situation where you are forced to reinvent yourself. It helps to break you in order to make you and bring out the best in you that you didn't think existed.
There were challenges, but I did not allow those challenges to bring me down. I had to rise above them, especially when I had to change my first dissertation topic to a different topic. I was supposed to be starting on my final project, hence, had to do both the proposal and final project concurrently, which meant having to work twice as hard. My resilience and ability to work under pressure was put to test, and I persevered. When I finished my project, I was impressed and pleased with myself – the marks I got were an added perk as they proved to me that hard work pays off. It took me from trying to rely on other people to being an independent, creative and critical thinking person.
My supervisor was there for support and encouragement, pointing me in the right direction when needed. She would say, “it's your project, you are the expert of what you are writing”, which forced me to go and dig deeper for more information – and boy oh boy was I the expert by the end of my research! For that, I would like to particularly thank Dr. Hazel, even in pursuing my childcare business it was indirectly because of her effective leadership module. It was during our portfolio project when she mentioned having something or a passion that you have abandoned, that l decided to pursue my registration with Ofsted and as part of my portfolio did a website for the business (which is currently running). So although I have always had entrepreneurial ideas, being at university and undertaking this course pushed me towards my goal.
What’s next in your journey? What’s your ambition for the future?
I would like to build my business into a successful inter-regional childcare-providing company or nursery schools, maybe work in conjunction with universities, starting with none other than my own supportive London Met.