Talent is universal, opportunity is not. This clichéd saying holds true in Nigeria where internet penetration is low and barriers to access quality education for young are almost insurmountable.
Addressing Africa’s skills gap in the age of technology would require bold steps to be taken in the area of capacity building.
As part of efforts to address these issues and more, Coderina Education and Technology Foundation in collaboration with SAP and National Library of Nigeria (NLN), has launched INClusive STEAM Libraries Project aimed at evolving libraries across Nigeria to become venues for informal Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) centers to provide the youth with lifelong learning skills and competencies
According to the World Economic Forum, “The root of unemployment is not only a lack of jobs; a key underlying issue is also the inadequately educated workforce. And this challenge is likely to be amplified in the coming years due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by fast-paced technological progress combined with other socio-economic and demographic changes, which will further transform labor markets.” Hence the time to start addressing skills shortages is now. Education must be aligned to the pace of change and expanding skill needs of Industry 4.0 be it formal or informal.
The goal of the Inclusive STEAM Libraries project is to create an enabling environment for every young learner including and out-of-school and unemployed youth, or those looking to gain job-readiness skills where they can visit to gain practical hands-on, minds-on learning experience in coding, robotics, 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Web & App Development and other 4IR skills and competencies while also being provided with information, opportunity and choices to prepare them for the future of work or entrepreneurship.
Speaking during the project launch in Lagos on Saturday, November 13, 2021, Mrs. Obianuju Onuorah, Deputy Director/Head of Branch National Library of Nigeria, Lagos State, expressed delight over the project which will boost hands-on experience among student community in the library.
She said that although for ages library is known as a ‘silence zone’, however NLN is moving along with trends in the world hence the creation of digital sections.
Onuorah who described the initiative as ‘very good initiative’, further said, “I believe strongly that the students and staff will benefit from it. Initially, the Library is seen as a very quiet place; where you come and read. However, as the reading culture changes, the library has become an inter-disciplinary community. We have to move along with trends in the world. So, in the library now you have the digital section.
“Also, we have discovered that students do not appreciate long reading. They prefer the hands-on experience and that is why the National Library of Nigeria (NLN) has created the digital section where we catch them young. The only difference in the library is that the students are monitored to avoid abuses or misuse of the digital tools.
“So, I am very happy with this initiative because it will benefit our community, especially those that ‘do not like to read’, they will benefit more with the hands-on experience.
The Deputy Director noted that National Library of Nigeria is interested in promoting STEAM “because our mandate is to make sure the Nigerian society reads. So, how do we accomplish that? We organize readership promotion campaign through which we sensitize the general public, especially students and pupils on the need to read. We believe that when we catch them young they will grow with it”.
Titilayo Adewumi, Regional Sales Director – West Africa – SAP represented by Folusho Ade-Ogunrinde, Technology Head, SAP Africa, said the INClusive STEAM Libraries Project falls within the core vision of the company.
According to her, SAP’s reason for the partnerships is to uplift the host communities, amongst other reasons.
Adewumi said, “At the core of SAP vision is to improve people’s lives and to help the world run better. We do that through technology and partnership. The reason for the partnerships is to uplift the communities in which SAP is present”.
Highlighting how the INClusive STEAM Libraries Project will impact on the students, she said “I believe that this is the beginning for these children who probably haven’t experienced this sort of skills building opportunities; seeing LEGO education kit sets and seeing robots for the first time. I think that at this level it will impact their curiosity. A child is usually very curious; trying to find out more about a subject or an object particularly when it is colourfulcolorful. This is the first level to introduce these children to technology skills. The experience will be etchdged in their memory for a long time to come.
Regional Sales Director – West Africa – SAP further encouraged the participants, especially the girl-child, to take full advantage of the initiative.
“I think there is no limit with technology whether you are a man or woman. If there are no limits for the boys then there are no limits for you as a girl. So, whatever dreams you have never have doubts about them. Go for your dream; one step at a time”, she said.
On his part, the Chairman BOT, Coderina, Mr. Femi Niyi, described public libraries as good platform to connect school and out-of-school learning.
“Libraries are part of a STEM learning ecosystem that connects many communities with resources. A place where children and families can participate, engage in interactions and experiences that promote hands-on and minds-on learning and development. This would enable young learners and adults acquire a breadth of skills including cognitive, emotional, social, innovation and creativity”, he explained.
He emphasised that the Coderina’s partnership with the National Library of Nigeria is focused on evolving libraries across Nigeria to become venues for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) education and centers that would provide youths with lifelong learning skills and competencies.
Femi added that access to technology tools and Internet access is scant, “however, with support of organisations like SAP, we will provide access by equipping a section of the library with robotics kits, laptops, 3D printers and other learning tools, to ensure that libraries become more inclusive and cater for different learning styles be it visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic.”
“This approach will also help children develop their creativity skills, innovative skills interpersonal skills as well as problem solving skills which in turn helps them to become employable and prepares them