(75): On the Proliferation of English Learning Centres in Kano

Muhsin Ibrahim

The trending entrepreneurial business in Kano used to be the so-called Computer Learning Centres a few years back. There is, nonetheless, a remarkable shift today to the so-called English Academy, English Learning Centre or other variant names. I am not against the idea entirely, but I am not happy with the vogue for some solid reasons.

If you can remember, at the noontime of computer centres in the state, many a time a student would obtain a certificate, a diploma or even an advanced diploma in the computer without knowing or knowing very little on how to use as simple as the Microsoft Word, Excel and other elementary computer applications. The business was hijacked and stalled by quacks. 

The quacks plunged and polluted computer learning centres to make one thing: quick money. In no time, many people realised that they were indirectly primarily duped. They stopped their patronage. Nowadays, several people are self-taught computer experts. Computer Centre business is significantly dead and buried.

The English centre business, too, faces a similar existential threat. I am neither an owner nor a teacher at any such centres. But I have been actively involved in learning and teaching the language for approximately a decade. That's why most if not all, proprietors of the earliest centres around Kano are my teachers, relatives, friends or students. That is why I have been, for long, following what is going on concerning the centres. It is a commonplace that their number is rapidly increasing – typical way Kano people do business, as I will explain later. 

There have been several adverts on the radio, while pages on Facebook of many others sprout daily. I have been invited to “like” or “follow” many such pages. They offer the quickest and easiest way to learn English. However, the language they describe their pages in is usually fatally wrong. The grammar is suffocated, sometimes even murdered. What can they teach their mostly hungry, purpose or even necessity-driven students? Some students are married women, successful or struggling businessmen, fresh graduates in the Nigerian saturated labour markets, etc.

Doubtless, it's perfect for graduates (not only of B.A or B.A (Ed.) English or the like but all) to think outside of the box. Establishing English learning centres is one such way, for one doesn't have to always wait for a government job - where are the jobs? Yet, one should be very honest with oneself. You know it better if you can teach English and/or literature. Your understanding of the subject is enough to tell you, "Yes, I can do it”. It is, again, a trust vested in you - for people pay you for the services you cannot deliver.

There are, of course, many excellent and outstanding ones among them. Some of these are owned by renowned, knowledgeable, experienced English teachers (and lecturers). I recommend anyone register with them to polish his/her English communication skills and much more. But there are others I will advise everyone to run away from. Yes.

A regulatory body should look into this before it gets out of hand. Or, the private English learning centre owners should form an association to monitor what their counterparts are doing. To avoid anyone chastising or even rubbishing them, they can (and should) keep an eye on the activities going on there via formal or informal visitations or the like. But really, something ought to be done, and now.

K'wan Salwa (Quail's Egg) Business in Kano
Kwan Salwa was just the bomb in the town some years ago. Everywhere you go, you would see signboards, walls, etc., adorned with the poor bird's portraits and the address of the ‘farm’ you could get it or its egg. So many people soon became agriculturalists; others became experts on bird farming. For almost all kinds of illnesses, a patient (sometimes even a dying person) would be recommended to eat kwan salwa or eat its meat. It is just, literally speaking, incredible. The egg was what’s (in)famously called “komai da ruwanka”, a kind of concoction that is said to cure all illnesses in Hausa land.

I have minimal knowledge of business, theoretically and practically. I, however, once owned a kiosk in our quarter. That, too, was not a success worth celebrating. But one thing I know for sure is that Kano people are often eager to populate a business as much as they ‘see’ or think it's profitable without giving it much thought. There’s always a risk in any business, no doubt about that, but it is always good for one to carry out feasibility studies and weigh the risk involved. The risk is not always worth taking.

In a nutshell, I am afraid to say that this is just it: like the quail's eggs, like computer centres, like English learning centres...until you do not take it (i.e. the English learning centres) for a real pecuniary gain. The value of knowledge surpasses using it for economic benefit. I believe that is why according to the Nigerian educational system, everyone could own a school. Still, every school must meet a certain standard, at least ideally, before it is allowed to operate. It must have qualified teachers, instructional materials and space, among other things. The same or similar guidelines ought to be enforced on the English learning centres in Kano and beyond, as I was reliably told that the business is proliferating elsewhere too.

Mine is not cheap nitpicking. It is a kind of “gyara kayan ka…” that is a word of caution to you, the centres' proprietors, to take good care of your places of business, which does not translate to asking you to share the goodies/profits with me.


  1. I noticed the proliferation of the English learning centers in Kano. I asked a lot of questions on why people are opening these centers in almost every parts of Kano city. I have not received any reasonable or convincing answer to my questions. Alhamdulillah, I am now satisfied with all the issues you have raised in this piece. You have answered the questions that i have been looking for answers to.

    There is nothing bad in opening an English learning center so long as the owner has the wherewithal to build, equip the center and also have the knowledge and capacity to teach the language. The truth is: we need such centers in Kano and other states in the north. It is mandatory for syudents in Nigeria to learn English because it is the language of instruction in our schools and the official language in the country.

    Moreover, I realise that people all over the world are busy learning English. It is the defacto lingua franca of the world. Unfortunately, it is a language which is giving problem to pupils and students, at all levels, in our schools.

    Thank you so much for calling our attention to this nagging problem which is trying to consume us.


    Your brother in Islam
    Saleh Ibrahim Bature


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