A Nigerian-American who goes by the name Obinna Ukwuani and a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston – has decided to follow his dream in opening Africa’s first Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) campus in Nigeria.
Obinna who grew up in Washington D.C, went back to Nigeria for eighth and ninth grades as his family felt it was important for him to know his roots. An epiphany hit him when he returned back to the States during his freshman year at MIT.
The edge, he realized, was due to his schooling in the United States. “I met up with my peers, the friends and classmates I’d met during my time there and it was shocking to see how far behind me they were. It was a very real experience for me,” says Obinna. The imbalance he recognized, “was an injustice.” according to Obinna.
“In the States, if you work hard, you’ll be fine in this life. So I had that moment where I knew I wanted to improve things in Nigeria.” says Obinna.
Obinna’s sudden realization eventually led to the launch of a robotics summer school in Lagos for high school students from 2012 to 2014. The Exposure Robotics Academy taught 113 boys and girls from 17 states around Nigeria how to code and build robots. Isn’t that impressive?
The five-week program hired MIT students to mentor Nigerian high school students in a program sponsored by Shell Oil.
After writing a business plan, he spent five months shopping it around before four investors came forward, each offering a $50,000 investment. “I really believe in what I’m doing,” “It’s a long-term model. It could be a decade before they get their money back,” says Obinna.
Obinna believes that Nigeria’s top-ranking issue at the moment is that, the country doesn’t produce anything. “We import everything, and it comes back to education. We’re not doing a good job,” he says. He’s hoping to change that. When the school opens in Abuja (he projects this will happen in 2018 or 2019), he’s aiming for 600 students living on the Makers Academy campus.
While there are other schools in Africa offering STEM education, Makers Academy would be the first innovation centre where students have access to tools such as laser-cutters, 3D-printers, woodworking equipment and more, says Obinna.
Obinna invested his experience and sacrificed better opportunities in the States to chase his dream in touching the lives of young Nigerians. Even at the point of looking for investors, he didn’t give up – he still perseveres. When he looked closely at his country’s situation – instead of complaining, he plunged ahead to be a solution provider.
Now your turn… It is time to challenge yourself to be a change conductor in your community and stop complaining. If Obinna can make this bold step – why can’t you?