7:55 am - Tuesday October 17, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: NIGERIAN Born American, IDON AKOGUN, First to Create Sustained Education Program Linkages between Institution of Learning in Western World and AFRICA…Our initiative will ease the pains of African migrants planning to travel Abroad to acquire lasting education *Electronic Education Initiative “e-DON” was assembled and tirelessly structured to empower our youths NEVER to limit their education (www.e-don.org) * We utilize live interactive video connectivity (video conferencing) to connect students in developing nations with faculty in developed nations *The program targets Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education *PLUS How Nigerian National Universities Commission accepted, approved the project and officially introduced it into Nigerian University system BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU, FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF, UNITED STATES

BREAKING NEWS:
NIGERIAN Born American, IDON AKOGUN, First to Create Sustained Education Program Linkages between Institution of Learning in Western World and AFRICA…Our initiative will ease the pains of African migrants planning to travel Abroad to acquire lasting education
*Electronic Education Initiative “e-DON” was assembled and tirelessly structured to empower our youths NEVER to limit their education (www.e-don.org)
* We utilize live interactive video connectivity (video conferencing) to connect students in developing nations with faculty in developed nations
*The program targets Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education
*PLUS How Nigerian National Universities Commission accepted, approved the project and officially introduced it into Nigerian University system

 

IDON AKOGUN is a Nigerian born graduate from Lincoln University in United States. A highly intelligent Naturalized American, respected in the ICT/Multi-Media for his ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking in making life easy for humanity. He is the International Electronic Education Program Coordinator for The Electronic Education Initiative, the biological son of Rt. Hon. Tunde Akogun. His rare initiative has been applauded by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission. In this EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU, FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF, UNITED STATES, he bares his mind on this noble concept, how it helps Nigerians/African Youths to develop in academics and other sundry issues:

 

Q: Tell us about your Electronic Education Program that connects Africa and Western communities?

This initiative was a project conceived back in 2009 with the goal to create and sustain international linkages between institutions of learning in developed countries and developing nations. Though it was my brainchild the Electronic Education Initiative otherwise known as “e-DON” was assembled and tirelessly structured by a team of to name a few Dr. Gabrielle Malfatti, Prof Felix Edoho, Dr Ikbal Chowdhury and Ms Parisa Meysami. The vision is to empower our youth/our future global workforce by not limiting their education in any way or form to stay within a border or region and have the best variety in education be limited to those who can afford to travel abroad or those fortunate to be on foreign scholarships for only these select few to gain access to an international component to their education. The Initiative unlike other e-learning and distance learning programs utilizes live interactive video connectivity (video conferencing) to connect students in developing nations with faculty in developed nations. The program targets Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.

The Initiative saw a need of how so many young people across Africa were steadily migrating to western countries in search of quality education. The truth is there is no reason for countries across the African continent and the developing world to limit their student and faculty class to the borders of their community, this initiative has proven successfully that Nigeria and indeed Africa is ready to for the future not just to follow but take an innovative leading position.

As we can see the world is changing. Many countries are being cautious as to number of immigrant visas they issue out, the costs associated with travel, security and upkeep are not getting less expensive infact quite the opposite, with this in mind I felt we have to utilize and advance our thinking and use of Technology. ICT /Multi-media has impacted our world in every way from the way we work to the way we interact via social media therefore there is no reason our classrooms in Nigeria and across Africa shouldn’t progress in such direction. We cannot expect young people who make use smart phones and interact with technology every day in the world via Facebook and Google to now work and study in an environment mainly utilizing basic blackboards and chalk. Today the Electronic Education Initiative has successfully connected Universities in Nigeria with Universities in the United States where professors can teach Live from a classroom in the U.S to students in Africa. This form of technology and linkages may not be new to so many across the world but remember our target is to link communities and institutions that ordinarily do not have this network bringing an opportunity to students who have never gotten 1st hand learning experience from faculties and fellow students from across the border.

Q: How has this your noble initiative positively impacted on Nigeria, viz-a-viz global network with the Western world?

The program has showcased Nigeria as a pioneer in Tertiary Classroom Education and has proven many skeptics wrong that indeed regardless of various hindrances Nigeria is able to take education and the future of its youth seriously with a vision to impact not just the structures, but actual programs that can enhance teaching and learning with a goal of broadening each child’s mind to think and learn from outside the norm of society but internationally. Now students going to schools (Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria) can graduate with not just a degree but added certificates (non-degree) from foreign Universities across the world.

It has given Nigerian students, faculty and tertiary system an added advantage to enhancing the college degree. Giving the students an added advantage.
It will raise the Global academic rating of our Universities encouraging more foreign partnerships. It will boost International interest in Tertiary system.
It encourages linkages with our Nigerian experts and academics in Diaspora presently working in foreign institutions of learning. The list goes on…

Like I mentioned this will boost the global ranking of our Universities across the world as well as reduce the need of our students and parents wishing to send their young ones across the Atlantic. The program will save money in regards to scholarship programs as well as faculty exchanges. I would like to note that the Initiative is not aimed at eliminating physical travel or cultural linkages it is our plan to reach a majority of students who do not have the opportunity to hear first hand from faculty Abroad as well as business leaders, experts and academics in nations across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Now Nigerian students can interact, work and partner on programs with their peers all over the earth.

Q: What inspired you into this ingenious concept of rebranding Africa to the world?

Being originally from the African continent, the most populous nation of Nigeria to be exact, I felt it was time that I stood up and be part of the solution and not just join others in talking about our problems. The African continent accumulated so much in need and the western world sees the continent as one that continuously needs and needs more in terms of investment, aid, infrastructure, healthcare and so on. To be fair and completely honest Africa has come a long way and the success of Africa is not just for the Government but for all of us to put or heads, arms and legs to work for its betterment.

I have a passion for education and youth empowerment , I believe if you give a child all the skills to impact his/her world, he/she will not only turn his/her life around but in addition pick up their family and their community. This program enables students to compete on a global scale learning, working and partnering with others from schools in the United States and or the United Kingdom to name a few.

Q: What are some of the successes you have attained through this idea of networking West Africa to the International community using digital education?

I can assuredly tell you it is being able to see and hear first hand the appreciation from the students who attended and completed the virtual classes hearing then highlight how it was so unique for them, how it helped broadened their minds and how the program gave them an international component to learning of which enhanced their grasp of the subject matter. Otherwise the successes are many, it’s given the Western world an opportunity to see first hand into the brilliance of our student class. I am aware that Universities abroad have and are considering further partnerships with schools on the continent ranging from physical exchanges to grant partnerships, it’s cost effective saving countries so much money that could have been spent on scholarships and tuition as well as associated costs on housing/accommodation and upkeep, fear for security for 1st time travellers. The program has showcased African faculty as innovative and brilliant and this in turn has gotten some of the Universities the initiative partners with requesting for some lectures/courses from schools and specific faculty in the continent.

Q: How can Africans who have never traveled Abroad learn or improve their education qualities on same balance with other students in colleges Overseas by your concept?

A major benefit to gaining an education in many Western countries is having a diverse faculty and student population one that is not commonly present in a lot of African schools. An example I can state here is in Nigeria where for instance in southern schools a faculty and student population can be predominantly from that region while Abroad faculty and students can be from all over the world in one class. This program improves or rather enhances education by bringing an international component to classroom learning utilizing Multimedia. Now students who have never left their country do not need to even but a ticket the Electronic Education Program has worked to not only take your classroom to the world but to bring the world to your classrooms.

Q: Can you take us through some challenges you had to overcome in bringing this creativity to life?

I will rather focus on the future and the potential for greater things for our young people. I think going through problems or obstacles only hinders the mind instead of inspiring it. Definitely there were issues faced from bureaucratic, political and financial all of which we continue to face but the success of the project showcases that people can and are willing to embrace change especially positive change. At this juncture I want to take an opportunity to thank the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Nigeria’s Fed Min of Education, the National Universities Commission as well as the pioneering Universities that took up this initiative 1st in in Nigeria-Africa and the United States the University of Benin in Edo State its Chairman Governing Council the amazingly brilliant and wonderful Sen. Effiong Bob as well as Lincoln University of Jefferson City in Missouri USA. Without individuals who believe in a vision and institutions willing to give change a chance many programs would still be left as an idea.

Funding is factor as one can imagine when dealing with quality in education we cannot just hope and pray but we need to invest and consider the future of not just our present selves but our children and generations to come. If we are to leave our country in the hands of our young people it is not right that it is only those who were lucky enough to travel to expand their intellect that should be trusted to lead instead we should invest not only heavily on ICT and physical structures but programs that will enhance each students marketability within and outside his community so he or she can also be confident enough to lead and compete in our ever challenging world. We continue to meet and discuss with individual Universities and funding agencies to help foster the expansion of the project across the country to this end I want appreciate both Sen. Barau Jibrin the Senate Chairman on Tetfund and Tertiary Education, the Chairman House Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFUND. We are waiting on the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to consider the project for funding across the zones of the country as well as each University taking it up individually for execution.

Power and access to Multimedia (Internet): This has been a bit of a challenge but with every University and our technical partners we are able to find avenues and packages that are unique to every situation in order to yield our collective positive result.

Q: At the moment, can you list some countries your concept has been able to make impact?

Currently we are working in Nigeria as they say charity begins at home and we are expanding across its geo-political zones with Universities like the University of Abuja, University of Maiduguiri, Usmanu Danfodiyo in Sokoto as well as the University of Ibandan all considering the project to name just a few. We have also gotten notice of interest from schools in Liberia and are working with faculty in Uganda. Our impact is across West Africa via the Economic Community of West African States we are working to see how best we can establish a uniform agreement to allow benefits and sustainability. We are also working with Institutions in the United States and nations in Europe to help boost the program’s reach thanks to our relationship with UNESCO and the Institute for International Education IIE.

Q: What are the philosophies behind your noble accomplishments?

This is a bit difficult for me to express mainly because I draw philosophies from so many great teachings but I believe for me it narrows down to doing the right thing and doing it well for generations here and those yet unborn. As I stated earlier I am one that continuously advocates being part of our world’s solutions and not limiting to just talking about its problems. Africa-Nigeria have brilliant and hungry to learn youth and we must not presume that having spent money on structures to enhance a campus is enough to boost a student’s intellect and prospects to conquer the world.

We must think ahead, we need to also foster relationships internationalize/modernize our learning and teaching methods in the classroom so every student can graduate knowing he or she can compete with students from across the Atlantic be it India, China, Scotland, Canada, Brazil, the UK and or the United States.

Q: Kindly take us through your aspiration to network Africa to International community through your program in 5 years down the lane.

Well it’s a step at a time. Africa is a huge continent and just like every community has its own specific needs so does every country and society within it. For now focusing on STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) as well as Agriculture has been our major course focus areas but travelling across the continent we foresee in the next 5yrs that other subject areas may pick up.

The Nigerian National Universities Commission under the awesome leadership of Professor Julius Okojie gave the project acceptance, approval and formal introduction to the Nigerian University system and for that I am forever grateful to the NUC for being that positive change component the country needs in our tertiary education system it is my hope that both the Polytechnic and Colleges of Education systems do the same.

We intend to further strengthen our linkages with foreign Universities in different parts of the world not limiting our focus areas to only one area this way we give all parties the best network and choices to interact with. Being visible on the West African continent I believe we have a way to go part of our goal is for every student who cannot afford to travel abroad but attends University should still have access to a foreign component to his or her degree. This way an African business graduate for example will no longer be limited to knowledge he gathered by his/her faculty in facing the world ahead they can now learn 1st hand from faculty from across the world and business leaders giving them the confidence to face the world ahead not to mention they will now have friends from classrooms across the world they can now work with in the future.

Q: How much have you invested in this program?

I have invested a lot of me in this program and when I say “me” I mean every part of my being has gone into working hard to bring it alive so putting a cost would be pointless as this is something that I cannot factor in a cost implication. Striving to enhance the lives of others working with passionate people one cannot truly quantify this. What I can say is I have a gained more in helping to enhance a system than I would have if I sat back and did nothing. So I encourage everyone to do the same find a good adventure for bettering the lives of others and work hard in bringing it to fruition. It may not necessarily be in education it could be in healthcare, agriculture, the sciences and or any other sector/area you feel compassionate towards making a positive difference.

Q: Kindly take us through your childhood into adulthood

I grew up in a family with FIVE wonderful siblings I have THREE brothers “Ologun Akogun, Unu Akogun Bally Akogun and one beautiful and amazing sister Mrs Tokunbo Giwa-amu. I had a blessed childhood I would like to say it was an average childhood but when one looks at the Nigerian population I can honestly say I was blessed and fortunate to be born into a home that loved me and raised me to be the man I am today.

My father who till this day and forever I consider my best friend ever and I remain his is my role model he is non-other than Rt. Hon. Tunde Akogun, my mother a blessing to me and an exemplary woman in our society if I may so myself I learned a lot from parents knowing how to love, to be giving, discipline, hard work as well as to carry the fear of God in everything we do. My teenage years where really challenging I jumped around High Schools a lot trying to find the perfect fit this in turn gave me an opportunity to meet more and keep more childhood friends I attended Home Science Secondary School and both the Air Force Military School in Jos and the Nigerian Military School in Zaria Kaduna.

I later gained a Scholarship to attend my University education in the United States. I spent a lot of my adult life working and doing my part outside my day to day jobs working with the Missouri State Government and Regions Bank (USA) at different intervals. I worked donating my time with the Big Brother and Big Sister project (an organization set up to help young kids develop) as well as the Boys and Girls Club of America. Many men can speak of the one special woman in their life I can brag about three special ladies in my life one that I was born to my mother Dame Dr. Tumi Akogun, the second is my wife and in truth my better half not only is she my blessing she is Mrs “Blessing” Akogun her strength her passion is one I pray every man has an opportunity to see in his partner, and my 3rd blessing the 3rd lady in my life is no other than my baby girl Olohije Arianna Akogun. I am currently a husband and father of two special and beautiful children I mentioned my daughter as a blessing but but my first child and son is my special boy Ohimai Simon Akogun.

Q: Finally, what message do you have for Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari on how Nigeria can significantly benefit from your program?

I believe our President Muhammadu Buhari is taking all the right steps in making Education part of his key component areas for change in Nigeria. I believe just like I advised others that are expecting our government to do it all, I say this is not realistic we must all come out and work together to push programs and projects that can make that positive difference in the lives of our people. I am consistently in touch with officials with the Education Ministry as well as the National Universities Commission currently run by its Executive Secretary Prof Abubakar Rasheed (mni) who I first met while he was the Vice Chancellor at the Bayero University in Kano he was fantastic then and I know he is doing more than a great job now overseeing the NUC. It is my hope that we (the Initiative and the Nigerian Education Sector) can work together to enhance our tertiary system.

I do advise every student and young person to continue to work hard to prove that they can be better and they can be stronger than their situation. Don’t wait on anyone or anything to give you a reason to do what is right. Just do it. Always try to do the right things, be at your best for yourself for your family for your community and of course for your country.
 

 

 

 

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