Chioma Omolaye (Nee Onwukike) Founder, TechEduHub Discusses the need for Stem Education in Nigeria

The following is the transcript of the Interview with Mrs. Chioma Omolaye (Nee Onwukike) Founder, TechEduHub, located in Magodo Shangisha, Lagos, Nigeria.

Welcome Again to Another Episode of Entrepreneurs in Africa.

Today we have in the Studio a Special person…her name is Mrs. O-ma-le-ye..

I’m I right? [Chioma Omolaye] Omol-aye
Thats’ emmm..”Omolaye”. She is actually the founder of a Startup Company in Lagos.

And emm…she is going to give us a very, very brief of what she does and what her

company does and emm…how its impacting generation today and in the future

Thank you very much Tobi for having me on your wonderful channel..My name is Chioma

Omolaye. I’m the founder of TechEduHub as he has rightly said. TechEduHub was established in 2019.

This was after I found out that there is still a huge gap in Technology Education in

Nigeria..okay there are still lots of vaccumms in the Job Market. Vacancies yet unfilled in

the Tech ..World. I believe that ehmm ..establishing such company would help me

bridge the gap…and would assist the nation to bridge that gap.

I’m a machine learning engineer, I’m also into multi-processing automation..right now, I am

an educator, my heart goes out to the young ones as early as five years so they can be

exposed to things that I wasn’t exposed to.

So there’s no need for to just ..ohh I know these things now, let me fly abroad, let me

work with this company, let me work for that company. Constantly I was reminded,

who is going to expose these young ones…and I am so happy that since we

started, there has also b lots of people like me who have also started.. cos you know..

you can’t ..two hundred million people..and a lot of young ones as population we can’t as a company fill the entire gap.

So, I;m happy that companies like myself are coming up to train the young ones in tech.

Thank you.

So you spoke about the challenges like em the Labour market in Nigeria, we are talking

about a population of over two hundred million people. What exactly or how have we

been able to address this problem? Specifically what problems have you been

able to address with your company?

Okay..ehm first of all its our objective to produce locally, and globally relevant ehm we have done a lot of awareness.we’ve come up with a lot of

courses, we’ve had a lot of teachers in the time past who know these things.

I have also had friends and colleagues in the industry who have mentored in the past and

are currently teaching as part time at TechEduHub. Okay, we’ve worked with

corpers, we’ve also worked with pupils, we also have train the trainers programme for

schools, anybody or educator that would like to take on these courses or tech related courses.

System related courses or tech related courses, like artificial intelligence, machine

learning, data mining. We’ve done a lot of collaboration, because you know, no man is

an island, we have done a lot of collaboration with fellow hubs and the rest..

Like the one of Standford the one you did with them…ohh yes, yes, I remember our

meeting point. Women in Data Science is a Standford University initiative so.. Standford

is in the US I guess. Yes, Standford is in the US. Data Science is the in-thing, its the new

oil everyone..and you need Big data for Technology to run. Its something I wish

everyone will be exposed to…

So the next question is you mentioned something regarding Stem..Science

Technology Engineering and Mathematics. What do you think is the future of Stem in

Nigeria? Because, Currently Nigeria is currently faced with many challenges and ehhm ..ahh.

Do you think that it is shortage of manpower in Stem that is the problem in Nigeria or do

you think more needs to be done, what do you think education sector in Nigeria needs
as far as Stem is concerned?

Cos, ahh..for me, I believe ahh we don’t …I don’t think the problem is with manpower,

there is manpower ..tbut I think the problem is more of ahhh.. I’m thinking of (application)

or applying these (given opportunity) to these stem graduates to solve Nigeria’s

problems like in the US- United States, we have a lot of stem graduates who are given

grants to invent for instance is a product of stem there were two guys who

were doing PHD and they came wasn’t Android, it was GOOGLE, there were

in University writing project for their thesis in one of their Universities..when they made

their final defense, people took it up from these scientific convention and it became

what it is is what it is today. We have Google maps, images, google this

google that. So, what I am trying to now say is that what do you think Nigeria

can we apply stem to solve some of Nigeria’s biggest problems?

Thank you so much for that question..ehmm stem (Science, Technology, Engineering and

Mathematics) is a mindset and it is a movement, we’ve gone through generations

upon generations but yet as a Nation we are not design thinkers we are not innovators,

we are not critical thinkers, we are not problem solvers..okay, so then that means

there is something wrong with the way we are taught and it needs to be re-engineered.

STEM is a blend of two or more of those alphabets that is Science and Technology,

Engineering and Mathematics to deepen a child’s understanding in a particular subject you can have a child code a Math problem..write code using Mathematics..I

mean solving a particular Mathematics problem..

ok so I mean the problem still remains that some of the educators, stakeholders don’t

know that they are supposed to be applying these things now, they are in another

generation and are struggling to fit in and to accept the fact that you need to approach

education in a stem way, so that is one challenge.

Another challenge we have is that ehmm as an educator not everyone who has studied

stem likes to we have really had a shortage in manpower for those who are

willing to teach Stem to the younger no one has an interest, there is nobody really

right now that is stem compliant that is looking for a job I must tell you, If you are a

Stem person or science person looking for a job, please let me know..if you are such know, the opportunities are huge.

if you have not added one or two skills just a little one or two skills, maybe you’ve not

added one or two skills to what you have learnt and of course for those who have

studied computer engineering and computer science, some of those courses, it wasn’t the

holistic thing that was taught..that’s why its a University you needed to pass through but

you need to look inwards, look globally, look at this job market what are the skills they

want? Maybe they want a Javascript Developer, they ant someone that can use this

technology, they want someone that can use that it is very important to

those extra step skills that you need an extra certification for for you to fit into the job I have highlighted two problems now..

I have highlighted the fact that the stakeholders (let me not use the word

selfish) they need to start drumming these things as a matter of policy because as a

nation if we are not makers or innovators, then we would just remain consumers and

our currency keeps getting bad and nothing is working..for how long should we be called a

developing nation (country).. and its also our way out of poverty.So just imagine that I

have a tech or you have a tech skill.. you can actually sit at the comfort of your home and take on remote jobs.

Haven’t you heard of up-work, Glass-door..or what is it called..job vacancy boards to

actually advertise remote jo bs okay..there could be companies in the US that needs

your service and that’s a goof thing about tech. You do not have to be present in a

physical location to start working on something.. everything now is online, virtual

ehmmm no thanks to Covid..yes the fact that the lock-down happened and everyone saw

that virtual is the next phase especially in Nigeria that the virtual is the next phase

especially in Nigeria those abroad have seen it way, way before but it really hit us in 2020

that everything would have to be tech. Look at ehm the DD of WTO Ngozi Okonji Iweala

her son was able to use a robot (its in the news)as a Medical Doctor to perform a surgery.

So It takes someone with a stem mindset. When are we going to get that as a nation?

When can we use stem to approach even good road problems, to approach ehm

robbery issues, to approach education issues, so I think its high time we come across

those challenges and you know brace up…

One of those things you said that picks my fancy and attention is the absence of critical

thinking. Stem on its own, I think should be the solution to most problems in developing

countries, Africa and Nigeria in particular cannot remain as a developing country much longer.

Like there is a statistics that is going on on the internet right now saying that more than

half of the population of Nigeria is under 24 [years]. So we have a huge workforce and we

have a problem as well and the greatest resource everybody has been talking about,

in Canada, United States and Uk is that they need to make use of these workforce to solve

Nigeria’s problem. So because there’s no more time.

If critical thinking from STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) if it is not

applied on time, for instance [what you rightly mentioned] the devaluation of

Nigeria’s Naira …there has been many policies since 1960 as regards this issue that

has evaded several successive governments and its almost tearing us apart.

I think what you said there is very, very important the presence of critical thinking

cos that’s what STEM does…and should our Government take this thing seriously, the

STEM Education and its application of know, you can easily forecast

through machine learning [like what you have rightly said].

Machine learning..There was one paper I wrote some years back I used Support Vector

Model [one of those models in Machine Learning] to predict what the naira will be in

2020.. and could you believe that surprisingly people were calling me and said Tobi you

wrote this thing and its already happening…because that particular paper

showed that in January of 2020 naira would drop to 500 naira to a dollar.. and its exactly
what happened.

In February, there was an announcement that the Central Bank of Nigeria said the

Naira was going to be devalued and ever since then the Naira has been struggling. The

problem is not with the current dispensation of government but I think the absence of

STEM Education and critical thinking is one of the biggest problems Nigeria has.

I can tell you..I mean just by arresting this problem now..and I enjoin everyone that is

like me, please do not relent we won’t have a lack of critical thinkers again in government,

we won’t have alack of critical thinkers in our economy. Okay, that’s why @ At TechEduHub,

we are really, really catching them young, we are really really catching them young.

Okay, what are the challenges you’ve faced in TechHub..after your inception.

I believe working in Nigeria brings issues like Nepa, there is no light, and all that. I recently

told you about acquiring a solar panel for my office in Lagos. The Solar Panel for me, it

solved the power issue completely..for you, what challenges have you faced including the

power outages and all that? How have you been able to solve or surmount these challenges?

Okay, thank you so much. at first I had acceptance issues, ok, you go from school to

schools, talk to Parents, from Parent to Parent its still the same thing..what is this thing

you’re talking about? Its not yet in our Nigerian curriculum. Are you sure it is relevant to my child?

But If it is relevant to my child..I thought the school should be championing it? Do you

understand that mindset? Exactly. If its not Math, if its not English, if its not Agric, if its

not..and all that, which one again is coding, which one again is game development?

Which one again is AI Artificial Intelligence? Which one again is automation? What are

you talking about? You know.. still continuing in that challenge, some of them Oh..

I think its my Son that knows how to…he likes to build things..ok let him learn the

technology.. but my daughter she doses not like to build things..ok for those that finally get

convinced, you know they also tend to you know.. take away the girl child…but

increasingly as we educate..because we are not tired of continuously educating and creating awareness.

This will not be the narrative in five years’ time, this would not be the narrative in ten

years time. So I am happy, we are happy for your platform to continuously talk about these

things,so that people will learn. Ok, so, that’s why L had acceptance issues and of

cos,breaking even was really so hard, as a company and Entrepreneur in this whole tech education stem space.

You know, because you want and because of the passion that you want people to accept

these things we collect very little amounts , we collect very small amounts, so that

people would need to see the importance of this STEM education and so by the time we

finish collecting, pay staff, pay this there’s almost nothing.

Another challenge we have is that the hardware that we use some of them…most of

them are not produced by us especially the robots, or when we are teaching automation..

so the devaluation of the naira is constantly cutting us..but we are not relenting because

we need these kits [hardware kits] for out children to learn….and Then in future, they

would then produce the hardware that, you know, can be used for continuous

Education…but right now, we are not producing anything you know, the

components for the robots we are really not.

The highest we have done actually as a company is the chassis that is the

architecture with local cartons or cardboard you know or locally sourced..but the real

[core] components are not readily availed…so we need to constantly import these items

that’s where all the money is going into and the constant devaluation of the naira like you

said is really not helping matters because today its this amount tomorrow is its even

higher..and then you are looking internally at what you charge and and ..what to charge

those patrons close..are you ever going to break even? But you know, the struggle

continues and the passion is still there, and that’s all that matters.

Wow, wow, wow, wow, I’m so inspired, by those, I mean what you’ve gone through as

pour the challenges. For the fact that you didn’t stop there. You forged ahead, and of cos

today you are a success story, there is still more to come.

I am so sorry, I want to use this opportunity to thank brands that have also supported this

movement, ok, for example, since 2019 we have been having the Cadbury Bournvita

Tech Boot Camp, Cadbury bournvita is actually one of the brands that keyed straight

on into this technology I wanna thank them.. and we are also looking forward

to more brands supporting children. There are Parents and Schools that can’t afford

these things and they need it.

Okay, we hope that these stakeholders and brands, you know would continue to sponsor

our efforts to teach stem in schools, and to children.

Yea, I hope they would do that because what you are doing is very inspirational and is

very, very good.Thank you. So, what or before we come to finalize and we come to

conclusion, I want you to tell us, how did you come by the name TechHub? Was it in the

University, or what did you read that inspired you into that?

Ok, maybe this story might inspire someone, I have B.Sc. Marketing, not B.Sc. Computer

and not computer engineering, B.Eng, nothing right, I have B.Sc. In Marketing. I love data

and I began to hear about Big Data and you need Big data technology to crunch in data

okay?. Like you mentioned analysis you did, you did that because you had data and

update data with it in the analysis..yea,the Nigerian Naira showing trends and all you had when I began to see that this big data technology ..and the whole

thing drew me into coding and all that..and I got some certifications wold have afforded

me to start working with some big companies and global companies but I had

to sit back..why not establish your own company that would help you to mentor these children.

I tried to see actually if I could collaborate with some people, but I saw that nobody

really had the same passion I had.. ok, and then in coming up with the name. I had to

register that with CAC, Tech had to be there right..Education had to be we joined

it..with a lot of searching..I think when we went to CAC we did a lot of name change

before the name got approved..finally it was TeduEduHub and I was happy with it.

So what advise do you have for young graduates that are out there. That are coming fresh from Nigerian Universities, cos a whole

lot of people keep talking about going to Canada, and some of these countries..its not as if going for green card or changing your

citizenship or second citizenship is bad or not good,its good, but for those who decide to

remain in Nigeria, what advise do you have for them? Cos of where you started from, cos

you were not even a Stem graduate, you read marketing, you made this success

yourself and your organization so what advise do you have for youngsters, fresh

graduates who are just coming out from Nigerian Universities and entering the

Labour Market? What tips can you give to them to succeed in Nigeria?

Thank you again for that question. Like I used to tell some set of coorpers, when I talk to

Lagos State Youth Corpers. I taught them all thanks to the state coordinator (Mr. Edwin
Mequa) who gave us the opportunity to

teach. So I discovered that a lot of them are in business, some also want to pursue

career, and the same thing for you watching me, maybe you have your own business or

you want to pursue a career. The thing there is that even in your career, you need to leverage on technology.

If when you are selling Akara, Paper, Pencil, what will help you is leveraging on Technology

to boost your sales.Would you want to keep working under the sun from door to door, to

door, to door? The traditional approach, the traditional method of selling. So there is a

digital method for selling and that’s tech.As an artist, as a musician, as an actor, please I

don’t know, please help me, is there some kind of business you want to do now? Even if

you are fixing light for people, installation of whatever, even if you are a carpenter and

you are not leveraging technology, your not
digitally canvassing with your client base or

customers or following up with them in a techie way, your drawing us back as a nation,

so please leverage on technology even if you want to be ..not everyone would be behind

the system coding [algorithms] …you brother you know now…

What I don’t understand is that as a business why you cannot leverage on technology for

your data for your business, and the other set are those that would love to pursue the

white collar job, you know.. maybe they find themselves in marketing or whichever

department. Do you even know that you need Technology..have you heard of robotic

motion automation, please google it, please google it, so we need to see that very soon, if

its not a hardware robot, its going to be a software robot that will replace you.

So why not be the smart person to take on these jobs, so when that era comes in your

organization you would be able to surmount and have the skills.

On that note I would love to say a very big thank you to our special guest today I’m

going to leave her address in the description below, make sure you contact her for any
other thing you would love to do.