Zhakenova was the head of the department of English Philology at Mukhtar Auezov South Kazakhstan State University in the mid-1990s. While trying to establish cooperation with higher institutions and schools, she noticed there were not many English learning resources available in Shymkent. The situation was also worsened by a lack of textbooks and good methodological know-how.
So Zhakenova opened a training centre and held free workshops for school teachers and university faculty to teach them modern teaching methods. She then initiated professional Oxford and Cambridge English courses. The people were not only able to study colloquial speech, but also the most sophisticated aspects of the English language, which prepares them for international language proficiency exams.
“Any activity, business or occupation must be fueled by motivation; learning a foreign language is no exception, as it is not an easy task. In any case, knowledge of at least one foreign language does a great deal for the life of any person. It broadens their perspectives and enhances self-esteem, because at every step, there is a new challenge to be faced,” said Zhakenova.
Annually, dozens of foreign language courses open in Shymkent. Most of them fail and close within months. However, the popularity of Zhakenova’s Inter Press international language centre is growing. At any time now, there are more than one hundred classes doing studies at Inter Press groups, each consisting of ten students.
An emphasis on professionalism is what makes the company successful. A graduate of Almaty Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages, Zhakenova could have become a professional diplomat. She even worked at Kazakhstan’s embassy in India. That was during a time when many foreign language teachers left the field for the diplomatic corps. She returned to teaching, sharpened her professional skills and took one-year internships in England and the United States.
In 2006, an independent expert council on teaching English called Inter Press one of the best English language programmes in Kazakhstan. The programme is affordable for average income families, and low income students are not charged tuition. Every year, about one hundred such children complete courses at Inter Press.
Zhakenova is a mother of four sons and knows firsthand how much decent education costs. She believes that business cannot be based only on a desire to maximise profit and that business must not forget charity. She also says women should not be afraid to seek success.
“Women can be as equally successful as men. We can manage a team, establish business relationships and solve problems. We should not be afraid of starting our own businesses. Doing it with enthusiasm and optimism is key,” the self-made businesswoman said.