Like a lot of states in the country, Akwa Ibom is plagued with the same poor standard of education that abounds nationwide. With free education schemes placing more emphasis on the quantity of children educated rather than on the quality of education, and the recent political climate that has fostered many ‘overnight’ millionaires, it is not surprising to see why this sector has fallen and continues to fall. It is particularly worse down south, where the ratio of government to privately owned schools is low and the ‘quality’ few private schools that exist charge exorbitantly high fees. The present effects of these, is an overall drab, unskilled, tech-illiterate and barely employable workforce of young people, myopically convinced that the forces are against them.Enter technology, the great equaliser.
TECH101 is a four-week intensive training on web development, graphics design, digital marketing and programming organised by The Roothub specifically targeting young school leavers, undergraduates and young unemployed persons among many others. The idea is to equip this demographic with a ‘starter pack’ of skills that are relevant not only in today’s employment market but are also self sufficient and can further foster independence instead of an over reliance on governments and hand me downs. To create a foundation from which they can build on and educate themselves.
This programme, priced at just five thousand naira is not economically sustainable at a glance, but it is the force behind it and the momentum it has gathered in a brief time that has caught my attention. The maiden edition of this almost-charitable programme organised by The Roothub, a business accelerator and co-working space operating in the state since 2014 is however built on a slightly different structure.
Firstly, while other training programmes push out their students to survive in the real world upon completion of their programmes, this particular programme encourages the students to stick around and teach others the same things they were taught while remaining in an environment that encourages them to take responsibility for furthering their education in their preferred skill. It can be likened to a teach-the-trainers, train-the teachers or teach-to-learn, learn-to-teach sort of exercise where both parties are better off in the long run and the cycle of learning never stops. A way of keeping the trainees busy by working as freelancers and ensuring that they continue to hone their skills long after the training period. The Roothub, staying true to its mission of creating opportunities for young persons, engaging them and deploying ideas, is a community that provides a conducive environment for young persons to bring their ideas to life, be inspired and network to develop their immediate environment. Since inception it has trained over a thousand individuals on skills ranging from basic computer appreciation to graphics and web development, project management and many other IT related skills. Tech101 is a programme meant to advocate the use of technology, increase the number of persons with skills that can enable them solve problems for companies, earn money or start their own enterprise.
Recently, this initiative caught the attention of ALERT NIGERIA, an NGO. It has undertaken to fund the scholarship of 25 individuals in this programme. This alone is not surprising as ALERT Nigeria is already on a mission to increase entrepreneurship and leadership among locals in the state and TECH 101 is only a vehicle they have hitched a ride on to achieve some of their goals. But the ALERT NIGERIA’s scholarship gets even better, upon completion of TECH 101, participants will vie for a spot in ALERT Nigeria based on their performance in TECH 101. The spot which will be an internship with ALERT Nigeria where they can ‘learn on the job’ and possibly earn a stipend.
Also worthy to note is the fact that this is not the first time ALERT Nigeria is sticking it’s neck out for good. Currently it is running an indigenous essay competition that promises to proffer solutions to problems in local communities through mentorship, trainings and subsequently funding. With prizes to be won worth about 1million naira in the 31 local government areas of the state. A typical case of ‘putting-your-money-where-your-mouth-is’. What ALERT Nigeria is doing with these scholarships is laudable, and private companies that are constantly searching for such talent can key into this structure. Find young enthusiastic individuals eager to learn the skills they need and sponsor them to programmes like this, then place them in their organisations temporarily and under the right conditions, with time, watch them grow, flourish and fill a gap! Overall, organisers of TECH 101 (currently running only in Uyo) have plans to flag it off in the remaining senatorial zones (Ikot Ekpene and Eket). The plan is to make a sizeable dent on the tech-illiteracy rate in the state cutting it down by more than half while simultaneously improving the level of human capital in the state.