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    Friday, February 9, 2024

    UNILAG Innovation Challenge: Lecturer Seeks ‘Disruption’ of Nigeria’s Education System

    UNILAG Professor Ogundipe with one of the winning teams of the Professor Ogundipe Innovative Challenge

    The Acting Director of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) IT Hub (NITHub), at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Victor Odumuyiwa, has criticised Nigeria’s education system, even as he seeks its ‘disruption’ to align with goals and not just the processes.

    Mr Odumuyiwa, who spoke on the theme: “Empowering Tomorrow: Unleashing the Potentials of Gen Z for Disruptive Innovation,” was the guest lecturer at the second edition of Professor Ogundipe Innovative Challenge (POIC)- an initiative of Professor Ogundipe Innovation and Science Foundation (POISF).

    The lecturer, who queried the design, curriculums, and length of academic programmes offered by Nigerian tertiary institutions, said what takes place on the campuses is merely the offering of courses and not proper learning.

    According to him, innovation is paramount for Nigeria’s economic growth, global competitiveness, national security, and resource efficiency.

    He said Generation Z, described as those born between the years 1997 and 2010, are characterised as inventors, artists, and entrepreneurs, and so do not have the patience to focus on theories but practicals.

    He said: “I still wonder who decided to make some degrees five-year or four-year courses. At MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), what is important is to take a certain number of courses, and brilliant students could decide to finish in three years what is designed for five years, and they are awarded their certificates.

    “What happens in our institutions is no longer learning but just offering courses. We need to disrupt the processes to allow innovations and creativities which this generation is known for.”

    The lecturer advised the participants, particularly the young innovators, to prioritise patience, strategic partnerships, and collaboration, and that they should identify platforms for opportunities, as enablers of growth.

    “Ideas alone don’t rule the world but implementers of ideas do,” he said.

    Innovation Challenge

    The immediate past Vice-Chancelllor of UNILAG in whose name the competition and a foundation was instituted, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, said it was the creation of the students and a select staff of the Faculty of Science where he once served as the dean.

    Mr Ogundipe, a researcher and Professor of Botany, said he was only approached to provide support, and that he never imagined that the initiative would germinate so quickly.

    He said: “So we are not here to celebrate Ogundipe but the students of the Faculty of Science who in their wisdom, and with the guidance of their lecturers, came up with this idea. They even went on to register a Foundation as a platform to nurture the idea.

    “The programme started in 2019 and from what I have seen, this project will be taken far beyond what it has become today.”

    He thanked dignitaries in attendance including an octogenarian who founded the institution’s Chemical Engineering Department, Ayo Ogunye; the Lagos State Governor and his deputy, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Obafemi Hamzat respectively, who were represented, among numerous others.

    UNILAG VC Speaks

    The Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, Folasade Ogunsola, commended the participants in the challenge, particularly the finalists, urging them to take charge of their future by being innovative and creative, saying there are limited jobs available to serve everyone.

    She said: “We’re a country of an estimated 223 million people, and 70 per cent are youth. But one thing we surely do not have in large supply are jobs waiting for them. The future can only happen by creating new jobs, creating new enterprises, and new businesses for people to conquer.

    “At the University of Lagos, what we are working intentionally to produce are those who will create jobs and create new entities. And so we’re focused on ensuring that innovation happens and not just about sharing knowledge.”

    She said that Professor Ogundipe “as the 12th vice-chancellor took innovation and entrepreneurship to new heights, and I’m not surprised we are celebrating the second edition of POIC.”

    “And I want to ask for the young people here. Think outside the box, think about how you’re going to make Nigeria the best in the world and that can only happen by challenging your mind and looking for solutions to problems,” she added.

    Winners Emerge

    Meanwhile, Team Neptune from UNILAG with a project on bioengineering emerged winner of the competition. It won N1 million cash prize and free training from Opolo Global Innovation, a hub for talent promotion.

    Team Horizon from the Lagos State University (LASU) came second with an idea on technology for farmers. It won N750,000 and free training from Opolo Global Innovation Hub.

    Also, Team Ilucens, also from UNILAG, and Tfree from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), emerged in third and fourth positions with their ideas on food processing and health technology. They also received N500,000 and 100,000 with free training from Opolo Global Innovation Hub, respectively.

    According to the Dean of the Faculty of Science in UNILAG and Chairman of POISF, Elijah Oyeyemi, the competition provides a platform for students to develop hands-on skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

    He said the target is to build students to be problem solvers and job creators.

    According to the organisers, the applications opened in 2020, and 947 applicants registered in 199 teams with 50 proposals. Subsequently, 10 semi-finalists were drawn from the total applicants and five of them made it to the final round.

    $15,000 Donation

    As the father of the day, Ayodele Ogunye, the Executive Vice Chairman of Nautilus Nigeria Engineering and Construction Limited, announced a donation of $5,000 to the foundation.

    In his remarks, Mr Ogunye said the POIC is an investment into the future of Nigerian youth.

    “The students are smart, capable, and talented. All that is needed is to create the platform that will build the capabilities of the youth to find their expression and exposure,” he noted.

    The Chairman of the event, Kola Adesina, who is the Group Managing Director of Sahara Power Group, doubled Mr Ogunye’s donation.

    Mr Adeshina was represented by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Folake Soetan, who expressed the desire to convert the students’ ideas into generative impact alongside viable and profitable businesses.

    She said: “This laudable initiative couldn’t have been more apt and timely, as our dear nation grapples with a series of challenges today. Our economy is groaning under the weight of deregulation, devaluation, insecurity, economic downturn, and a host of many other issues that we’re all aware of.

    “In the developed nations, a lot of them have used innovation, creativity, and different social experiments to achieve greatness. As such, I believe this ideation competition, where student groups compete to solve real-world problems, is not only timely but germane.

    “I believe the goal of this programme is to foster real-life innovative solutions to specific challenges that are facing our country at this time.”

    Lagos State’s Commitment

    Representing the Lagos State Government, the Commissioner for Tertiary Education, Tolani Sule, said the government is impressed with the initiative, saying it aligns with its administration’s agenda on education and technology.

    Mr Sule said for the development of Nigeria, “universities must be very innovative to conduct research to bring new technologies and new ideas.”

    “The government is identifying with this great project because of its passion for education and technology. Any institution promoting such is promoting the agenda of the government and so we are fully interested in it,” he said.

    Oyindamola Ogunsanwo, who also represented the Lagos State First Lady, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, said since its first edition, “the initiative has been encouraging youth to break barriers, make positive impacts, and significantly contribute to the growth of the society.”

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