As an undergraduate, Olaoluwa Balogun established the ACI Computer Education in 2011, an Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) based, non-profit organization that provides technology education for young Nigerians. Now an alumnus of OAU, Balogun launched Project 10,000 Kids a few months ago, with the aim of teaching Nigerian schoolchildren to build robots.
With the ACI, Mr. Balogun hopes to push transformation within the Nigerian education sector by empowering young people to build useful technology, moulding them into tech enthusiasts and sound computer programmers in a few short years. Cramming or memorizing academic material and passing exams is the norm in the country’s education system today and it is not good enough as innovators and problem-solvers are rarely ever birthed that way.
The intention of the ACI is to champion the beginning of a shift in the way the country approaches teaching and education. “We want to expose our young students to real-world engineering challenges through hands-on, LEGO-based robotics projects. We want Nigerian kids to begin to think creatively and innovate like their international counterparts.”
An estimated 10 million of 30 million primary school-aged children in Nigeria are out of school. Less than one-third of the percentage of primary school students will attend junior secondary school and only a few will proceed to senior secondary school.
In an interview with Innovation Village, Balogun said the major criterion for a great future for the country is sound education for its young people, as over 60 percent of the estimated 170 million Nigerians are under the age of 30. For this reason, he sees Nigeria’s huge youthful population as a fantastic opportunity to impact the nation positively and start the change he so desperately wants to see in the Nigerian education sector. Thanks to ACI’s FirstStep BootCamp, over 2,000 undergraduates at OAU and the University of Ibadan have been trained in robotics, software development, graphics and animation in the last few years.
The Project 10,000 Kids initiative is more about promoting computational thinking than it is about equipping the next generation to work as robotics engineers. “Computational thinking combines mathematics, logic and algorithms and teaches children a new way to think about the world; it is how software engineers solve problems.”
To ensure continuity, ACI has begun a robotics club in different schools and will encourage friendly competitions among them on a termly basis and the first of these would be next month.
Project 10,000 Kids has a target to reach at least 50 students in about 200 secondary schools across Nigeria. The organization will also train 100 children at two orphanages in Lagos and 50 children at the Kids and Teens Resource Centre, Akure. Also, about 80 girls at the Women’s Technology Empowerment Center (W-TEC) will be beneficiaries of this training.