Happy New Year!!!

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The journey to becoming a Certified Chartered Accountant

My childhood answer up till I turned 16 whenever I am asked the famous Nigerian adult question – ” what do you want to become in the future?” by default was “Chartered Accountant like my dad”.

You see I was born by two smart people, one was an excellent and compassionate Educator, the other a meticulous Chartered Accountant. Though they lived relatively short lives and I spent an even shorter time with them, 7 and 14 years respectively, they undoubtedly made a mark on who I am becoming.

I must have been one of those daddy girls because I honestly don’t know why I was adamant on being a Chartered Accountant like my dad even when in secondary school, my teachers recommended me to join the science class I stood my ground and maintained the commercial student lane.

You see I was very good in all the subjects if I may say so myself and could easily have fit into any classification well (arts, commercial or science) but my childhood obsession had a stronger hold on me. However, my career trajectory took a different turn when I graduated from secondary school with 9 A1s and no University admission because University of Lagos thought I wasn’t good enough to study Accounting (Jamb cutoff woes).

It was at this point I was advised by an uncle to consider a change in course to Economics, he said I could still become an accountant by taking the professional exams but with an economics degree I could work in many fields. I actually didn’t really like Economics in secondary school but since I had gotten the opportunity to write Cambridge A’levels instead of simply writing JAMB UTME again (I am forever grateful to God for blessing me with a family like mine), I decided to give Economics a shot.

Highlights of 2017… peeping into 2018 horizon

The year started with a wave of uncertainty and questions, am I sure I am in the right path, is this passion for Nigeria and Education worth it? So many questions on my mind as 2017 was approaching and as the year started I was restless. 

A retreat was necessary, so I took a few days off to pray, reflect and restrategise. I won’t say magic happened after the few days retreat, especially concerning the topmost question that was bothering my mind (how will this work be sustainable?, In other people’s words, how will I keep body and soul together, while doing what I truly love and enjoy?)

But as I look back over this year, though not all the answers have unfolded, the year end is approaching with stronger determination due to events and people that unfolded and are still unfolding this year. These events and people have taught me to keep hope alive and work even harder. 

This post shares some of the  highlights of how a seemingly unclear path has evolved into a bright path that shines brighter daily. It’s been a year of leaving the comfort zone, overcoming disappointments, developing new skills, building stronger and more loving relationships, letting go and patiently watching as God’s plans for my life unfold. It’s been a year of trusting, “abasing and abounding”, a year of tears and laughter. 

Mandela Washington Fellowship Practicum at Youth Initiative for Sustainable Human Development in Africa

This was how my year started. I desired to gain more exposure in the development world to ascertain if truly switching career paths to development with a focus on Education was for me. I spent three months at YISHDA in Abuja and the highlights of those three months are my work with librarians (facilitating peer learning meetings), travelling to Northern Nigeria (Bauchi and Zamfara), working with a team of young vibrant professionals who love their work, living with friends and discovering the importance of having difficult conversations to preserve friendships and working with the students in Nassarawa. As I concluded my practicum, I didn’t know for certain how the rest of 2017 would turn out but I had received a deep conviction that I had found the kind of work I enjoy and wouldn’t mind spending my life to it.

Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance, the discovery of a peer mentor and lovely hotel stays

February 2017 brought the glad tidings that I had been accepted into the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance after 4 interviews. I almost didn’t attend the induction in the US when I found out the scary cost of air ticket and hotel accommodation (I had planned spending a few extra days). But then family and work came through for me (I thank God for giving me a great support system in my family). The exposure of the alliance and the recommendation to be a part of the Oxford Africa Society Conference are top on the list of my 2017 gratitude. I met my first peer mentor, a wonderful Egyptian lady who in the space of 3 years has turned an education project into a full blown non profit with national impact and international recognition. Meeting Christine and her willingness to help and push me was further reinforcement to continue on this lone path. 2017 also brought me lovely hotels that strengthened my resolve to work hard and smart so that such experiences won’t be one off.

Carving a Niche

One of the key gifts that 2017 brought me was exposure to two concepts that have become a central theme for the work we do at Steering for Greatness Foundation. I have carried a dream in my heart to revamp Nigeria’s educational system for so long but the more I looked at the problem, the more I realised I needed to distinguish myself. I stumbled on NuVu during my visit to the US earlier this year and the dream came alive. I suddenly saw that what I had seen with my mind’s eye was possible and I only needed to work at developing that niche. Many have suggested that I take up a job as a lecturer if I wanted to work in Education but that’s missing the point. Deep within me, I knew I wanted to create something great, different and full of impact.

Transitioning out of our Business

In 2015, I had helped start a business. It was dynamic, solving a problem and challenging in a good way. However, as the year unfolded, I realised I couldn’t raise two babies simultaneously. If I wanted both of them to take off and soar, I needed to let go of one till I had developed capacity to run multiple businesses. After much inner struggle, I transitioned out of running the for profit company and devoted that time to building capacity for the social enterprise in Education.

Boot campsamps, Educators’ capacity development workshop and importance of strong social capital

When I wrote down my goal for 2017 and included “to run two boot camps for teenagers”, I honestly didn’t know how we were going to go about it, especially running one as fully residential. This year taught me the importance of faith and a strong social capital. By social capital, I mean a strong network of people who can readily help you achieve your goals. With barely two months to prepare for the first fully residential boot camp for teenagers, I was overjoyed with the feedback and impact that camp had. In December, after several setbacks we also launched in Lagos and ran out three day camp. It’s a blessing seeing one’s dreams become reality and watching others being inspired by it.

Indeed a lot happened in 2017, the little above only scratched the surface. My heart is full of gratitude and joyful expectation of what the future holds. 

I hope reading through my 2017 experience, you gleaned a few things. My key takeaway from the year is to trust God, work, pray, follow through on my dreams, find sustainability to my ideas. 

Wishing you a beautiful 2018!

Hope despite the gloom

Yesterday was a gloomy day.

Even the weather in Boston (where I’m attending an innovation camp for educators – at NuVu) was wet and dreary.

Symbolic of how the day ended in my beloved Nigeria.

After Hallelujah challenge (praise session hosted by Nathaniel Bassey on Instagram, please join at midnight if you can) last night I knew again we are messengers of hope and must only always spread hope. As I woke up this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to realise I had a good dream overnight – a dream about someone sending me good news on LinkedIn, however, on seeing a few WhatsApp stories I was reminded of yesterday’s gloom and almost forgot the good dream, I ranted a bit but as I stepped out for the day I saw the sun!

Wow! It was another symbol and reminder of hope. I decided not to use the subway for my trip where I change to another line but to walk. There was a message I needed to get by being out of the tunnel during my journey.

This was what came to mind: “That which the enemy meant for evil will always be turned around for good.” I sang that Michael Smith’s song and recorded myself a bit (we make the enemy mad by singing). You see it’s a few days to my birthday and this week has been both amazing (per the training I’m attending) and sad (battled slight illness and all the  bad news floating about, my heart and prayers are with all those who have been affected by these tragedies. I pray God comforts you all and give you strength to face the day again) but the sun reminded me of God’s faithfulness.

He has kept me (us) here for a reason and purpose, as long as I (we) have breath in me (us), I (we) must use my (our) life (lives) to glorify God and spread His love to all humanity.

I stepped into the sun and took these pictures to cheer everyone up.

It was really lovely getting off the train after taking these pictures hearing someone sing and play this song from The Sound of Music with the guitar at the train station (…I simply remember my favourite things and I don’t feel so sad).

And then I sang this song all the way to school:

“God is the strength of my life, I will not fear, I will not fear”. (please check my instagram, I couldn’t upload here)

Then guess what, on getting to class, one of my awesome colleagues (Tony McCaffrey) at the Innovation camp left a book (authored by him) for me on my laptop, indeed I smiled. A book that reminded me of why I’m here and the bigger picture of playing my part to transform education (maybe if that tanker driver had access to quality empathetic education, yesterday’s accident might have been avoided).

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Then I go lunch with these ladies (pictured below) equally passionate about disrupting education and they ask for my story and Angela (at the extreme) says to me afterwards “it’s your calling you must not stop working, don’t let anyone discourage you, it will all add up in the end”.

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I left lunch rekindled, I may have had my moments of doubt and fear but this trip to NuVu has been an answer to prayer, not just mine but for many others who are tired of the system. It’s the birth of partnerships and cross border collaborations that would radically transform education for many young people across my nation and continent.

I am therefore asking you to keep hope alive with me despite all the gloom and remember to do and say only the right things about Nigeria and your situation (it is hard, I know, trust me but please try).

P.S. please share with me some of your favourite things as instructed by the song. My favourite thing is singing or listening to uplifting music, I did some of that this morning though it took a while to be able to actually sing, the heaviness was too much. Also I have a couple of ideas about what we can do about the tragedies.

  1. A heartfelt open letter to the government both state and federal level published in the papers and online
  2. There’s an ongoing petition, let’s all sign it, here’s the link
  3. Get your PVC and ask your candidates very hard questions so you do not vote based on sensation
  4. Continuous prayers asking for directions on what you can do to make the country better and when you get the answer, please do it. The upcoming generation are counting on all of us.

I forgot to add that the momentum app on my laptop today had this quote for me:
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.- Mark Twain”
I hope this post cheered you up a bit then I will be cheered up too.

P.S. again (lol) – My organisation has an innovation camp for teenagers in August, if you would like to know how you can support or be a part, kindly reach out to us.

20 years later! Tribute to my mother!

My mother!
To say I miss you would be an understatement because there are innumerable things that I miss about you.

To realise I have only 6 years plus worth of memories and the beautiful testimonies of others to keep in my heart makes the “missing” even stronger.

Yet in your wonderful loving motherly fashion, you ensured my brothers and I were cared for.

I am sure as part of the great cloud of witnesses, you are proud of your wonderful siblings, few friends and dear mother who held on dearly to your last instructions and have cared for us as their own till date.

Growing up as a girl and watching other girls’ relationships with their mothers, made my heart ache sometimes while other times it made me remember I had it very good being brought to life by an Amazon like you.

20 years later, mum, your legacy lives on. I have found myself doing things in the education space, willing to help others and when I pause to ponder why God would send me in that direction, I become truly grateful to be chosen to carry on your legacy and to be graced to do it even bigger.

There is so much for me to share but I want to use this medium to thank God for the journey and all the people He sent to come alongside us on this journey.

Dear mother,
Though life may have cut our time together very quickly, it could never touch your memory in our hearts. You remain our guardian angel, my super woman.

Happy mother’s day!

Cracking the Code – Celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Today 11th February is set aside to celebrate some special women and girls. They are women and girls who have chosen to work in a male-dominated field – Science and Technology. They are a special breed because statistics show that though we have achieved gender parity in education enrollment to an extent, male students are the majority of those enrolled in engineering, manufacturing and construction and information and communication technology studies, and to a lesser extent in other disciplines.  Female students are the majority in education, arts, health, welfare, humanities, social sciences, journalism, business and law fields. Within the female student population in higher education globally, only around 30% choose STEM related fields of study (Figure 5). Differences are observed by disciplines. Female students’ enrolment is particularly low in ICT (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and engineering, manufacturing and construction (8%); the highest is in health and welfare (15%) studies. (UNESCO Report – Cracking the Code 2016)

As opposed to popular belief, that men are better suited for science, history shows that there are a lot of women who have blazed the trail in science and technology. This post celebrates some of these women and shares a perspective on why many girls should be encouraged to join the STEM wagon especially if they are passionate about it. I will also share a personal experience that has stirred up my passion to support young girls and women in science even though I am not one. The gender equality debate has been ongoing for a while now and though that is not the purpose of this post, it is important to share why we need to focus on getting more girls into science.

Ensuring girls and women have equal access to STEM education and ultimately STEM careers is an imperative from the human rights, scientific, and development perspectives. From a human rights perspective, all people are equal and should have equal opportunities, including to study and work in the field of their choice. From a scientific perspective, the inclusion of women promotes scientific excellence and boosts the quality of STEM outcomes, as diverse perspectives aggregate creativity, reduce potential biases, and promote more robust knowledge and solutions.  Women have already demonstrated their abilities in STEM fields and some of these women are celebrated below:

Nagwa Abdel Meguid – Dr. Nagwa is a notable geneticist who has identified several genetic mutations that cause common syndromes such as the fragile X syndrome and Autism. In 2002, she won the L’Oreal UNESCO Award for Women in Science for Africa and the Middle East. Since then, she has set up clinics for children with special needs, as well as dealing with early intervention. She is also a member of several groups such as the Gender Research in Africa into Information Communication Technologies for Empowerment (GRACE), as well as Autism-Open Access, to name a few.

Dr Nagwa

Mae Jemison – “a physician, engineer, AND astronaut who was the first black woman to travel to space. When they tell you shoot for the stars, look to Mae Jemison, because it wasn’t enough for her to be a physician and problem-solving genius — she literally went ALL THE WAY TO SPACE, too. However, she only took one trip because she felt she had more to contribute to the people on earth. Let that sink in for a second: she left NASA and her career as an astronaut because she wanted to give back more to us. Since leaving NASA, she’s organized international science camps, taught at Dartmouth, and started a number of organizations including the Jemison Foundation, a group that promotes science literacy and education.”

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Katherine Johnson – I watched hidden figures and I felt I and many other girls around the world have been shortchanged by not having Katherine’s story told much earlier. I may have ended up a scientist, as I shared with a friend during the week, our career choices are sometimes influenced by our exposure. Maybe if I was exposed to the interesting world of technology and the stories of trail blazers like Katherine, maybe just maybe I would have pursued a career along that path.

Katherine is a physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectories for many NASA missions and was instrumental in launching the first American into space. Not only did she send a man to a moon (with numbers!), she also did the calculations for Project Apollo’s Lunar Landing, and was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Farida Bedwei – Bringing it closer home, I sat in a room in May 2017 and heard Farida share her super inspiring story. Her story is truly inspiring because she did not allow Cerebral Palsy prevent her from pursuing a career in science. Farida is the co-founder and chief technical officer of software company Logiciel, she is considered one of the most powerful women in financial technology on the continent — in 2013. She is a computer scientist who developed a cloud software platform that is being used by 130 micro-finance companies nationwide.

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Mojisola Ojebode-Karigidi Mojisola is a friend who is both a biochemist and an entrepreneur. Her love for science is so contagious and she is using that knowledge to help farmers and her local community improve crop yields and their environmental impact. She is a celebrated scientist and an ASPEN Fellow. She shares with us her story on why she loves science – “Growing up I have always loved anything to do with science. I used to wonder how a chalk like material could cure ailments. I also enjoyed integrated science back then in junior high school and did excellently well in it. So, I figured that doing science later at the senior level would be very enjoyable too. And it indeed was. I was in my comfort zone especially with chemistry, physics and Biology.

Because I enjoyed these subjects and the others, I put in my best to do well in them. Little wonder why studying Biochemistry again for my second degree didn’t feel out of place. In fact, a PhD in the same course is one of my short term academic goals. Growing from being a girl in science to a woman in science has also helped me to design research works to solve immediate problems in my community especially those of farmers and food crop traders. Gaining additional knowledge in this field has helped to improve my skills and strengthened my resolve to contribute to development. Science is indeed the tool to global prosperity”.

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Khadijat Olorunlambe I also caught up with one of the most resilient young women in science that I know to share her story with us. This post celebrates Khadijat Olorunlambe a biomedical mechanical engineer. She is currently pursuing her PhD in the same field and here’s her interesting journey into science –

“From a young age, I developed leg deformities called ‘k leg’ and ‘bow leg’ in layman terms. My experiences of having this treated led to my initial interest in Science. I was fascinated by how the bones worked and wanted to understand what made my legs different from others.

When it was time to go to university, my interest in medicine never wavered but I had developed a natural affinity for maths and Physics. Through sheer luck, I attended a taster session where I learnt about Biomedical Engineering, combining engineering and medicine. This was the perfect course for me as it allowed me to combine my interest in medicine with my love for maths and physics.

The journey hasn’t been an easy one but it’s been very rewarding. I have had quite a few ups and downs but, I would not change anything because those experiences made me who I am today. One thing I have learnt is that without hard work, you cannot excel and it is important to stay patient and resilient especially when things aren’t going your way. My goal for after university was to get a PhD but after graduation, I had some personal setbacks. Although it wasn’t easy, I stayed positive and never gave up on my dreams. My perseverance paid off as I just started my PhD in Mechanical Engineering with specialisation in the biomedical field.”

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Our organization, Steering for Greatness Foundation is very keen on introducing teenagers and their teachers to innovation, technology and science as part of our strategy in preparing them for the future. In our first residential camp in 2017, we had the teens sign up for skill classes and it was very shocking to find out that none of the girls (18 of them in total) was in the least interested in coding class. Although, when we hosted the same camp in Lagos, later in the year, we had a better representation of girls with two of them in particular very passionate about robotics and STEM, it resonated within us to devote more time and effort in exposing these young ladies to Science and make interacting with science fun for them.

All in all, as we celebrate this day, we hope that if you are a teen girl reading this, you would be motivated to consider rediscovering science and if you are a male reading this, you would join in advocating for more girls in science. As the UNESCO report says, if we want to make more giant strides in science especially on the African continent, we have to “draw on the widest pool of talent to promote excellence and leaving out women (or girls) is a loss for all”.

Sources

https://www.buzzfeed.com/anjalipatel/she-blinded-me-with-science?utm_term=.ojr0DXanJE#.olAjWQmN6E (accessed February 8, 2018)

 

http://ayibamagazine.com/five-african-female-scientists-you-should-definitely-know-about/ (accessed February 8, 2018)

 

https://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/13/africa/farida-bedwei-ghanaian-software-genius/index.html (accessed February 8, 2018)

 

Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002534/253479E.pdf

 

Highlights of 2017…peeping into 2018 horizon

The year started with a wave of uncertainty and questions, am I sure I am in the right path, is this passion for Nigeria and Education worth it? So many questions on my mind as 2017 was approaching and as the year started I was restless.
A retreat was necessary, so I took a few days off to pray, reflect and restrategise. I won’t say magic happened after the few days retreat, especially concerning the topmost question that was bothering my mind (how will this work be sustainable?, In other people’s words, how will I keep body and soul together, while doing what I truly love and enjoy?)
But as I look back over this year, though not all the answers have unfolded, the year end is approaching with stronger determination due to events and people that unfolded and are still unfolding this year. These events and people have taught me to keep hope alive and work even harder.
This post shares some of the highlights of how a seemingly unclear path has evolved into a bright path that shines brighter daily. It’s been a year of leaving the comfort zone, overcoming disappointments, developing new skills, building stronger and more loving relationships, letting go and patiently watching as God’s plans for my life unfold. It’s been a year of trusting, “abasing and abounding”, a year of tears and laughter.
Mandela Washington Fellowship Practicum at Youth Initiative for Sustainable Human Development in Africa (YISHDA)
This was how my year started. I desired to gain more exposure in the development world to ascertain if truly switching career paths to development with a focus on Education was for me. I spent three months at YISHDA in Abuja and the highlights of those three months are my work with librarians (facilitating peer learning meetings), travelling to Northern Nigeria (Bauchi and Zamfara), working with a team of young vibrant professionals who love their work, living with friends and discovering the importance of having difficult conversations to preserve friendships and working with the students in Nassarawa. As I concluded my practicum, I didn’t know for certain how the rest of 2017 would turn out but I had received a deep conviction that I had found the kind of work I enjoy and wouldn’t mind spending my life on it.
Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance, the discovery of a peer mentor and lovely hotel stays
February 2017 brought the glad tidings that I had been accepted into the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance after 4 interviews. I almost didn’t attend the induction in the US when I found out the scary cost of air ticket and hotel accommodation (I had planned spending a few extra days). But then family and work came through for me (I thank God for giving me a great support system in my family). The exposure of the alliance and the recommendation to be a part of the Oxford Africa Society Conference are top on the list of my 2017 gratitude. I met my first peer mentor, a wonderful Egyptian lady (let’s call her Ms. C) who in the space of 3 years has turned an education project into a full blown non profit with national impact and international recognition. Meeting Ms. C and her willingness to help and push me was further reinforcement to continue on this lone path. 2017 also brought me lovely hotels that strengthened my resolve to work hard and smart so that such experiences won’t be one off.
Carving a Niche
One of the key gifts that 2017 brought me was exposure to two concepts that have become a central theme for the work we do at Steering for Greatness Foundation. I have carried a dream in my heart to revamp Nigeria’s educational system for so long but the more I looked at the problem, the more I realised I needed to distinguish myself. I stumbled on NuVu during my visit to the US earlier this year and the dream came alive. I suddenly saw that what I had seen with my mind’s eye was possible and I only needed to work at developing that niche. Many have suggested that I take up a job as a lecturer if I wanted to work in Education but that’s missing the point. Deep within me, I knew I wanted to create something great, different and full of impact.
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Transitioning out of our Business
In 2015, I had helped start a business. It was dynamic, solving a problem and challenging in a good way. However, as the year unfolded, I realised I couldn’t raise two babies simultaneously. If I wanted both of them to take off and soar, I needed to let go of one till I had developed capacity to run multiple businesses. After much inner struggle, I transitioned out of running the for profit company and devoted that time to building capacity for the social enterprise in Education.
Boot camps, Educators’ capacity development workshop and importance of strong social capital
When I wrote down my goal for 2017 and included “to run two boot camps for teenagers”, I honestly didn’t know how we were going to go about it, especially running one as fully residential. This year taught me the importance of faith and a strong social capital. By social capital, I mean a strong network of people who can readily help you achieve your goals. With barely two months to prepare for the first fully residential boot camp for teenagers, I was overjoyed with the feedback and impact that camp had. In December, after several setbacks we also launched in Lagos and ran out three day camp. It’s a blessing seeing one’s dreams become reality and watching others being inspired by it.
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Indeed a lot happened in 2017, the little above only scratched the surface. My heart is full of gratitude and joyful expectation of what the future holds.
I hope reading through my 2017 experience, you gleaned a few things. My key takeaway from the year is to trust God, work, pray, follow through on my dreams, find sustainability for my ideas and work.
Wishing you a beautiful 2018!

57 years gone…but the story is about to change…if only…

October 1st 1960 the story officially began,

Oh happy day, the unlikely marriage of three regions now free from the grip of the colonial masters,

Or was that a dance too early, 

Tafawa Balewa took the helm of affairs alongside Nnamdi Azikiwe.

All was well until the first military coup sabotaged the government, then a rapid succession of governments began,

From military to military with a couple of democratic spells. 

In the process, that once hopeful new baby born, started to grow but with some major deformities, especially in its character.

Corruption, nepotism, terrorism, weak institutions, etc. 

Was the crude oil (black gold) causing more evil than prosperity that it was expected to bring? 

Or was there something inherently wrong with the way the baby was formed in 1914 by Lord Lugard?

But it’s not all gloom and doom with this grown “baby”, it has happy days and reports. 

Image credit: Sharemyfame through Google

Since May 29, 1999, it has run a democratic government. The people can air their views though time and time again there’s that temptation to squash their voices;

But the people that form the nation have to always remember they are the majority and they can’t afford to sell their destinies on a platter of cooked rice and other stomach infrastructure. 

What do I see when I think of this “baby” at 57? I see a nation so so blessed, I am grateful to be born in it. I see the boundless potentials yet untapped and my mind thinks of what can be done.

I see a nation with a choice, a choice to remain together and win together or to fall apart and become many insignificant parts.

I see a people that are much stronger than they think but that need to redefine their value system.  I have met countless Nigerians whose lives inspire me and give me hope. These people make me to continue to believe in and work towards the greatness of Nigeria from my own little corner.

Oops I forgot to tell you that I was referring to was Nigeria. The Greenland. The land of promise. The land of hope. 

On this 57th Independence day celebration, I salute her and reaffirm my faith in her. 

Happy Independence Day Nigeria!!!

Photo credit: Google

Solving the African Education Jigsaw Part 1

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Participants at #LETBootCamp1 thinking through what and why they spend on in the Financial Literacy Class

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Knowledge is defined as “facts, information and skills acquired through experience or education, the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject”. While it says that information is facts provided or learned about something or someone. To gain better understanding, I checked out synonyms of both words. Words synonymous to information are – details, particulars, facts, figures etc. while those for knowledge are – understanding, comprehension, grasp, grip, command, mastery, etc.

It can be inferred from both definitions that information is a building block for knowledge. Information is just a foundation, it is knowledge that connotes mastery or grasp of a subject matter. Using an analogy, as a student, I received information from my textbooks, teachers, etc about Biology – the study of living organisms but honestly, I can’t boast of knowing biology given that I don’t have a grasp of how for example an amoeba functions the way it does or why the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. I most likely have to refer to my notes before I can share anything on that subject.

In this information age, where information is at everyone’s finger tips and we are constantly being bombarded by information, it is pertinent to then ask what is the usefulness of schools/education. What exactly does going to school give us? We are in an era where education should provide us with more than information. Yes we gain literacy and numeracy skills and learn other subjects – these should only be the basic but not the sole focal areas of schooling.

Education (I will be using it interchangeably with schooling in this article) should give knowledge and even take it further than knowledge. It should equip with other skills that are required to thrive in the 21st century. Top on the list of the additional skills is Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking does not happen by listening to long lectures or classes, or reading big books.  It is “the ability to analyse, connect unrelated areas, and apply technical information to complex problems” says Ms. Shahida Saleem, Team Lead, Pakistan Education Innovation Fund. Critical thinking is the ability to stop and ask why. After the first response, we still ask a further why. It is the ability to challenge the status quo till a better discovery or solution is found.

For example, we shouldn’t just teach 1+1 = 2 and expect students to take it hook, line and sinker. We need to encourage them to ask why, we need to help them analyse the reasoning, question the origin till they reach their own “aha” Eureka moment. Is 1+1 = 2 because someone just felt like it or because we place objects besides each other and they “increase”? In the course of asking why, they may discover that it is based on something called “Peano axioms” which works on succession theory (that would be information) or they discover that it is based on the principle of value/quantity definitiveness (this might be more tailored to secondary/higher education students as an example but critical thinking can be developed in multiple ways).

To avoid getting bogged down by debate of proofs, critical thinking is more keen on what the discovery is used for, it is not knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Most times it is easy to take things as they are but we can never have a true or relevant lasting change if we don’t stop to ask why and think through the why. It can be daunting or unpleasant but school should reinforce in students the courage to ask, to think and to discover.

Bringing this closer home, growing up as a teenager, I would ponder on why there were not many “familiar” faces as inventors (the Einsteins, Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, et al) that I read about. Was it a western thing only to invent or was it a case of these individuals been given room to fail and opportunity to keep trying? Does our quest for “don’t be seen as a failure” limit us from discovering “endless possibilities” that have the potential to transform lives and communities or are we just plain lazy (mentally lazy in most cases)?

I admit that I have been mentally lazy at one point or the other. But mental laziness never produces successful people.

Back to educational system, it is clear that it owes us (speaking from a Nigerian and African perspective) this critical thinking skill amongst others which we would proceed to explore in subsequent articles. At the end of it all, we need to fix this education jigsaw because the true wealth of a nation lies in the quality of its human capital. In conclusion for this part of the jigsaw, I would say the education system has to be disrupted to ensure that students learn not only to read and write but to read, write and THINK!

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What are your thoughts on the above? I look forward to reading your comments.

Thank you!

I want to walk in your shoes…my thoughts on EMPATHY!

empathy blog

 

How can we develop videos that would help people develop empathy? This is the question that popped up in my mind after watching this video.  A quote in the video I just watched caught my attention: “It doesn’t matter what race we are, people would respect you for overcoming adversity”.

I believe teaching empathy comes from how the story is told. The same story in the video above could have been shared in an informational way that would not steer any empathy whatsoever. Most times we watch videos or read stories in our local context (now speaking as a Nigerian) but from observation of the comments on such videos, I realise that some/most people at best are only sympathetic while some just find away to deride or find faults.

Thinking back to the beginning of the year, I realise that the subject “Empathy” has been tugging at my heart. I was sharing with the teenagers at our last boot camp in August the need to be empathetic as leaders, I believe empathy is a missing component of the Nigerian society and it explains why things are this way. I have been asking myself, “how can I be more empathetic?” I think most of our societal and economic problems would be solved if we all became empathetic.

Empathy & Sympathy Quote

Last month out of curiosity, I did an analysis of this blog. I haven’t been a consistent blogger but out of curiosity, I realised that at least in a week, I always had at least 3 days of someone in some corner of the globe reading my blog. I wanted to find out what they were reading and who they were. I discovered that the posts that had the highest views were written in 2014 and 2015 and they were on VALUES – showing care and respect, displaying integrity and honour, etc. The other interesting fact about those blog posts is that the readers are mostly non-Nigerians (or should I say not resident in Nigeria since I can’t be sure), searching Google for the word Values, care, respect, etc and thankfully Google is kind enough to send them to read my thoughts on the subject. What’s the point of the above you may ask, I deduced that there is a part of us as humans seeking to receive care, respect, etc hence why people are asking about values.

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The video above made me think of the possibility of developing local content to build and teach empathy in our children and youth. Real people, real stories but told from the dimension of empathy. I am not a fan of the cultural belief that deriding others or making fun of them would toughen them, in my brief years on earth, I have come to learn there is a better way.

Empathy is not about making excuses for people’s weaknesses, rather it is about walking with them in their shoes/or an attempt to, in order to discover with them ways to overcome those weaknesses. If anything else, this is one value that I am actively seeking to imbibe. Again I say to you – I want to walk in your shoes and empathise with you!

 

P.S. If you are interested in exploring with me the idea of building local content to teach empathy, let’s talk. Please send an email to info@steertogreatness.org or message me on social media.

Also if you haven’t read my blog posts on values or you need a good reminder (*winks*), here are the links – one, two, three.

Thank you so much for reading and I look forward to your thoughts on the blog!