Titi Adewusi is an edu-tech entrepreneur with over 18 years collective experience. She is a co-founder of
9ijakids, an edu-tech start-up that develops educational games and programmes for children with the aim of enhancing learning. In this interview, she talks about the importance of technology to children’s education and how games can be used to drive the effects of learning more interesting. Omolabake Fasogbon brings the excerpts
Can you identify some of the challenges facing children’s education in the country?
I will like to say that the major challenge is quality teacher. There is the dearth of quality teachers in our primary schools and I think it is important that government addresses this as a matter of urgency because this is the foundation, which matters most in a child’s life. The reality is that you cannot give what you don’t have; we need quality teachers to breed quality children. As far as government is trying to improve quality teachers, they still need to invest more in them through trainings and incentives. They must also ensure that the right teacher takes the right subject and there should be a policy to back this up, you can’t be poor in mathematics, yet you take pupils mathematics, automatically, the pupils will be poor in mathematics. Another thing is the proliferation of schools and most of these schools are not up to standard. Funding is another hiccup endangering children’s education in the country.
How then do you think government can improve performance in Children’s education?
Collaborations! That is where the solution lies. The government alone cannot do it; they need to forge quality partnerships that will take the sector to its promise land. I make bold to say that projects that have embraced private participation are the ones that get to see explosion. Government must also strive to develop policies that are non-negotiable. It might interest you to know that there are schools in Nigeria that do only British curriculum and nothing about Nigeria, I mean it’s surprising.
The reason people send their children to another country is that apart from what they feel they will learn, they should also learn a bit of such country’s culture, but some schools in the country will tell you they don’t do anything on Nigeria, yet government allowed it. Nigerians in that school will grow up with what they think is superiority complex but in actual fact, it is inferiority complex. So in actual fact they are telling me I should not be proud of who I am. Government needs to push national pride and values starting from the children; they need to tighten reins in pushing policies that are non-negotiable such that generations to come will see Nigeria as a superior country that should not be looked down on. Above all, government should invest in technology to make learning easier and interesting for the children. Technology we all know is the future and everybody is presently going that direction, Nigerian kids should not be left behind as well.
A lot of people have condemned children’s exposure to technology as a result of its negative impact on them. What is your take on this?
I will say technology itself is not a problem, but the kind of contents being fed into it. The truth is that some people are using it well, while some people use it otherwise. The question is what kind of contents are the children exposed to? You see, there are a lot of contents online but we can help the children by exposing them to content that will boost their intellect and enhance their educational output. Technology is something that opens a whole new world to one. I mean there are a lot of apps and collaborations online that can be used to teach children, yet in a very fun way. As parents and teachers, we should direct kids to use technological tools to create and learn, not just for consuming and going on social media. This would also make Nigerian kids to have the same quality of education with their counterparts all over the world. This is one of the reasons we have come up with 9ijakids initiative to enhance and make learning fun for children.
Can you explain the initiative better?
9ijaKids was established by three sisters and basically, what it does is to develop educational games for children to enhance learning and make it fun. What we did was to take the concept of wanting to teach the children something and saying we can do it with technology, and so we take teaching, fun and technology and put them together, that’s how we came up with educational game. I believe that the best way to learn something and still remember very well years after is to play a game on it. If you make something fun, you are more likely to remember it. So, we take the curriculum and turn it into a game to aid learning, but we don’t do only academics such as Maths, English Language and Science, we also do things on Nigeria because we are a proudly Nigerian company pushing for Nigeria, and there are also games on values, etc. Right now, 9ijakids is for pupils in primary schools and we have contents for as low as three- year-old kids in nursery class all the way to age 11.
What inspired the initiative?
You see, I discovered that a lot of Nigerian kids don’t really know much about Nigeria, I use my son as an example, I realised that my son was not learning enough about Nigeria because he goes to school where they do a bit of Nigerian curriculum, they were learning more about Queen Elizabeth and all that, and I felt like people need to know more about Nigeria because that is what helps the national pride. So I decided to come out with a puzzle and thought of doing a puzzle book, but then, my sisters and I reasoned that children don’t really fancy reading on a book like they do on iPad and other devices. So we came up with the concept of devising a game, same concept but now more technology driven. I tell you the feedback has been awesome, I can tell you the children are actually demanding for more as they now have increased zeal for learning.
Do you think this initiative will work in Nigeria, considering the huge cost of internet accessibility in the country?
I really don’t think this would affect the acceptance level, you know why? Even when I look at it that internet accessibility might be a drawback, I was surprised to still find out that when compared to other African countries, Nigeria actually still has the highest level of internet penetration. Yes, device and internet penetration is relatively low but we cannot say because of that we won’t move forward. It is just like saying that a lot of people don’t have cars and as such, we should continue with bicycle. No, it is not possible. When sim cards and mobile phones came, they were for the big boys and now, virtually everyone has one and even more. Everybody doesn’t have technology but I believe that the more people see value in it, the more they embrace it and the more people start embracing it, the cost keeps coming down and that is our hope. The more we prepare for it, the more we have the content because technology is just technology; there is need for content to enrich it. So, we are working with the content and we are hoping that other factors are working to help it to be readily available for everybody.
What about pupils that are not tech savvy?
I don’t think being savvy or not is an issue because I play the game with public school pupils who don’t have access to technology and they did quite well. My initial reservation was that they are not tech savvy, but no, I got it wrong, it may surprise you that a child of two-three years who cannot read will somehow be able to navigate through your phone to where there are pictures, games and more. Once you give them the instruction, they catch up so quick and I think it is because there is a lot of technology known and unknown to us around them, so it does not matter if you are technology savvy or not, however, you need to have a device because it is technologically enabled. Apart from that, using and playing the game is like any other thing.
Right now, we have almost 200 games on the platform.
We have various games in different classes. For instance on Nigeria, we have a game that is on destination Lagos, this is trying to introduce children to various places in Lagos, there is also the citizenship game to see whether you are a citizen indeed, we have something on democracy which is about election, voting and more. We also have on various famous people in Nigeria, we have on past presidents, and we have on values such as honesty, tenacity, sportsmanship and patience, among others. We also have on financial literacy, savings, earning money and entrepreneurship, we have on academics including Math, English, Science, Music, Yoruba, it is a whole collection of a lot of things. It is like a football game, such that if you get a question right, you get a point. We have quite a lot of games and we are still bringing more on board.
What are some of the challenges you encountered in bringing the initiative on board?
Accessibility to internet is one of the challenges we envisaged, but as time went on, we realised that it won’t stop its acceptance. Another thing is for the children to be able to access device to play the game. A major problem is also trying to make people to accept and embrace the idea. Because it is something new, people find it hard to believe that Nigerians can develop games for children, since they are used to getting it from outside the country. Also, Nigerian contents are not easily available online and these are the information we work with.