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  • Writer's pictureAhmad A Idris

Education, the great leveler of opportunity. (My Tedx Talk)

Some time in February 2020, I got invited to give a talk at TEdxKangiwa in Katsina State, Nigeria. I talked on education and technology of course. With almost 6000 views on YouTube as of today, here is the summary and video of the talk. As usual, looking forward to your feedbacks and comments.

Education, the great leveler of opportunity; an amplifier for the greatest resource known to man — human potential. But what happens when education becomes complacent? When pedagogy loses its masts amidst the turbulence of the relentless innovations of our time? What happens when there is a chronic disconnect between what we learn in school and the reality of the pertinent skills needed to thrive in our highly competitive world? What happens? Well, Steamledge happens; where we are completely reinventing education; firm in our belief and our conviction that untapped human potential is the greatest tragedy known to mankind, and if you would indulge me over the next several minute, I’d love to put some meat on those very delicate bones.

Growing up, I was privileged and grateful to my parents to receive the best of conventional education from primary through secondary school. I frequently changed schools, each time seeking better exposure to the best ideas and alternate perspectives, from my peers and teachers. I excelled and was top of the class more times than I care to remember, so much so that I was awarded a scholarship to study Engineering in a prestigious University in the UK — I was your poster-boy for what discipline and hard work in one’s studies rewards with; you know that kid that growing up your parents always compared you to and wondered why you couldn’t be a s successful as? — I was him!

As a scholarship student in University, it was only natural and expected that I would ride the waves of my success and continue on this impressive trajectory, you know, make the deans list, graduate suma cum laude, I had it all figured out, or so I thought. This where the wheels started to come off and while I breezed through the Math courses, I struggled in the practical application and computer programming. My international colleagues had no such barriers and were wholly participating and engaging with the content as though it was second nature, and indeed it was. These guys and girls had been exposed to computers, electronics and programming from a very tender age and this gave them an overwhelming advantage over the likes of myself. For the first time in my academics, I felt inadequate; shaken to the core of my very being, I questioned the narrative I had built for myself, I basically had to go

on a mission of self-discovery. I did pick-up programming during this time and graduated but of course I was only playing catch-up and second-fiddle — certainly not at my best. This led to sub-stellar grades and resulted to in missed internship opportunities at some of the most prestigious organizations you will ever hear of (Jaguar LR, Aston Martin, General Electric, IBM and Google). All stemming from the fact that although I was your typical gifted student, nurture beats nature and a lack of early rigorous exposure to hands-on technological applications meant that my education was lopsided.

Epiphany struck! No child should have to go through the psychological trauma of feeling inadequate through no fault of theirs; no child should have to go through life malnourished intellectually in our highly competitive and hands-on world; no child should be left out from having early access to technological thinking and rigour. It was true for me back then and in the age of AI, trust me it is even more true now more than ever. Returning home and together with my co-founder (Gbenga), we dived head-first into fixing the education deficit. Steamledge was born, an education and technology company that through world-class mentorship and innovation, exposes young minds to state-of-the-art technological curriculum with an emphasis on hands-on project-based learning enabling active participation and creation of technology rather than Passive observer and consumer of technology.

Our curriculum runs the gamut, from introductory technological basics all the way to cutting-edge software development and robotics, presented in an endearing and easy-to-understand format for any child regardless of age or level, so primary, secondary and even tertiary institution students, we meet them at their requisite level. We believe that the laws of physics and nature are ubiquitous in our observable universe, therefore, the frequency and scale of success and innovation witnessed time and again from the developed world due to early access to the technological keys to the kingdom can be replicated and effected in our part of the world. A WEF report suggests that up to 65% of children enrolling into primary school today will have to take up work in jobs and roles that currently do not exist. To emphasize, that is more than half of our kids aged 4–7 today will be living in a very real future that our conventional educational system on its own is ill equipped to adequately fortify them for. In ice-hockey, we skate where the puck is going not where the puck is. In the same vein, if we are to ensure and insure the futures of our future leaders, we must take the their education in their formative years very seriously. We must enable kids and teenagers to be technological innovators and influencers, building the narrative as they see fit.

Today, Steamledge serves over three thousand students weekly through three branches located in three states across the North of the country. We provide early access to an average of seven thousand students across the country with over a dozen partners and counting. With such impressive subscription rates, you would be forgiven for perhaps thinking we have solved the problem and can rest on our laurels, and while we have made great strides towards this, there is still an enormous amount of work to be done. We recently introduced one of my personal favorite projects, the Almajiri project with the aim of educating these brilliant but underprivileged members of our society with pertinent skills that would enable them be reintegrated into functioning working-class citizens of society, and we are only getting started.

Steamledge is revolutionizing education in Nigeria and in Africa on child at a time; with innovation on steroids, we are slowly but surely rekindling and reinstating education as the defacto greatest leveler of opportunity regardless of socioeconomic circumstances.

Join us and invest in the human spirit, the human ingenuity and the preservation of human dignity through the gainful engagement in honest, rewarding labour; labour that will be overwhelmingly tech related in the nearest future and a future insured through steam education.

Thank you.

Video on Youtube:

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