I’ve done my share of ranting about Nigerian education. I’ve even tried to take it further and do something about it. Well today I was at the Tech-In Education meetup, and I came away with two things. The first is that there are far more people concerned about Nigeria’s ailing educational sector than I knew. The second, and far more important, is that there are people who want to and can do something about it. Which is exactly what the meetup was about in the first place, doing something. Now for some boring reporting, to give you an idea of what the gathering of geeks was about.
Hosted by Nigeria’s first open living lab and social innovation center, Co-Creation Hub, the Tech-In Education Meetup’s purpose was to initiate discussions amongst teachers, parents, technologists and educationists to identify potential roles for technology in driving positive change for the sector, especially during the formative years of children’s education. According to the organisers, the outcomes of the meetup will have direct bearing on the call for ideas along the streams of possible areas where interventions are identified, leading up to the open living lab (Tech In Education) scheduled for February 2012. Tech-In Education is the second event in the Tech-IN Series, an event aimed at harnessing the power of technology for economic development in Nigeria.
It certainly wasn’t a large gathering, but I think that a lot of interests were represented, we had techies, teachers, business people, consultants, etc in the building, with Bunmi Lawson, (MD/CEO, ACCION Microfinance Bank Limited – Nigeria) as moderator. Everyone got an opportunity to take a stab at what they thought the issues were and smaller focus groups, formed along specific interest categories, undertook separate brainstorming sessions to proffer possible solutions via technology. The brainstorm was a most stimulating experience, never has the power of crowd-sourced ideas been this apparent to me. And I’m certain that the ideas that came out of that session will go a long way in defining the context for a more robust interaction come February next year when the actual hackathon will be convened.
I was also inspired by the ongoing efforts of some of the participants who are already bringing change to the space. Subomi Plumptre shared with us, how they’re getting Nigeria’s best graduates to volunteer their time to teach in primary and secondary schools. Gbenga Cadmus showed us how gamifying education (in this case with board games) can transform learning from a boring experience to one which the participant never wants to get up from. Game developer, Ailende Truston, announced his almost-market-ready children’s educational game, and Kehinde Ajewole let us in on his company’s just completed School Management System software that will be rolled out shortly. Good stuff all round, and their achievements go to reinforce the opinion that social innovation and tangible development can be crowd-sourced and occur independent of government.
Listening to the issues that were brought forward by the participants, it was obvious that wahala dey*. Nigeria’s future hangs in the balance, and precariously so given the kind of learning that the young generation is receiving. But then, it’s hard to give in to total despondence when you’re surrounded by enlightened and motivated people who don’t want to just talk but are actually going to do something about the situation. It is true, I’m of the opinion that the issues surrounding our educational morass cannot be wholly subsumed in a technological solution. However, I do not doubt that technology in the hands of the discerning will expedite the solutions. And so I look forward to February’s Tech-In event and the interactions that build up to it. I’m glad I attended the meetup, again I feel the fire of optimism ignited on my inside. The hope that with the right approach, people and resources, together we can fix learning.
UPDATE: The Tech-In event has been fixed for the 17th-19th February, and you can apply to participate.
*Wahala dey – [pidgin] there is trouble.