At tender age of 23 when most young people are still collecting stipends from their parents to go to higher institutions of learning, Gossy Ukanwoke has founded Beni America University – an online focused university. He spoke with Seye Joseph on the significance of the university to the youths and national development, and what it takes to run it.
How are you going to describe what you are doing, giving online education to people?
The work has been on the premise that African youths need to learn and the first place to start is by giving them the access to learning. With that, we can get to the quality of what they are learning and in relevance of what they are learning, the quality of the teachers and content of what they are learning and in relevance how does what they are learning does apply in the job market if they want to start businesses. If they are to learn programming language, is it something that is being used in the market today or something that is not relevant again?
How has it been running education online in terms of participation?
There are three classes that are involve for now, one is the adult learners for the professional, we have our MBA online from Ahmadu Bello University on edutech, our students don’t have problem with it, they understand it because they are the one paying for it. we also have nursing program at OAU on edutech platform, the program is for nurses who already have their nursing certificates, they are practicing and registered nurses. They are also adult learners who want to get Bachelor Degree in nursing, they are paying for it themselves, they are also adult learners, and they understand it.
We also have program for undergraduates who just finish writing JAMB and want to learn but there are no space for them, their parent pay for this. The acceptance has not completely happen in that space because the parents pay for that that is why we are building physical campus at Beni American University where students can come and learn and also have the option of learning online if they chose to. Most parents don’t understand what the concept of online learning for now because that is not what they were used to. We are trying to do a lot of advocacy around that to speak with them to drive that awareness and acceptance.
Designing Curriculum for Learning
At Beni America University, We have curriculum developers based on the standard from government so there is benchmark for minimum academic standard. On the edutech side, it is exactly the curriculums that are taught in class by the same lecturers but just online. We only add few soft skills to it. We add Microsoft word, programming and all sorts From the BAU side. A lot of researches are being done with industry to build programs that are relevant.
How do you deal with issue of Identity in running online university?
We have many concerns around, concern if the same students that does the examination, how we ensure that students don’t get people to write exam for them. These concerns are genuine but innovation and technology address these concerns. In the case of Ahmadu Bello University, the examination happened at physical centers around the country. Its physical exams but it is CBT, they come to physical center, get accredited, confirm the person that has come to write the same examination. For OAU’s case, we have them to go to OAU campus to take the examination so we have to take these actual steps because of the system of where we are from. On the policy side, there is need to review policies. But for genuine concern from the policy side, technology has to address the concerns.
Future of education with technology
The world is changing; we are talking about Artificial Intelligence, nano technology, digital technology, digital payment and all sorts. That’s what is going to happen, we need people who are going to manage these industries and be productive in the industries. Because relevant is the key thing, what do we think the future is going to look like and what education should do to prepare the students for the future.
How would you advice the government to provide best education for the people?
Continuous innovation continuous review of policy and curriculum, it is not a project that has an end, it is continuous projects. The world changes and education has to predict that change.
To what extent do you think incessant strikes in Nigerian will affect education system?
It’s a sad thing. I remember I was somewhere to speak two years ago and students were on strike at that time. If you start something and you stop, there is no way you will such energy you start with in the first place. You can’t keep starting things and be stopping, it will affect quality of education and it will affect the quality of life of the students.
Funding for BAU
It’s a work in progress, funding an institution is continuous. I am sure that if you listen to news every day, you see universities getting grants and aid to support education. Every source that is genuine that align with your vision is viable, if it is from donations, support from friends and organisations can support the education. Good education is not cheap, good teachers are expensive, good equipment are expensive. If you want to have a lab for hundred students, it is not cheap. As a matter of fact, if you have the fund here now, I will collect it from you.
How do you measures the qualities of education you have given to students in terms of results?
The good thing is that we do assessment when students are coming in and when they are graduating. It is easy to see the difference. For our professional education program as an example, we have over 8, 000 students that has gone through the systems for the professional education; a lot of them are getting promotion and they have started businesses. They attest to quality of what they are learning. I remember a student who said that this is the first time he will learn entrepreneurship and he enjoyed it.
Before now, we did not have video courses but now we have video courses that get students engage and to measure feedback.