Every year more than a million candidates seek admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions. Usually, less than 40% of this population get admitted. The situation is further compounded by the limited accommodation and physical teaching facilities in the universities. However, with the continuous advances in technology, especially with the concept of hybrid learning, there seems to be a lasting solution to the problem of inadequate physical infrastructure in the Nigerian and, by implication, African educational system. Today, Gbenga Awomodu chats with Gossy Ukanwoke, a 23-year old Nigerian who is the President and Founder of Beni American University, a forward looking online university which hopes to bring quality education to every African youth, adult or teenager willing to study for a post secondary diploma or degree. He talks extensively on how the BAU team is building a 21st Century University with strong emphasis on technology, web 2.0 and entrepreneurship. Enjoy!
Could you tell us a bit about yourself – your education and where you grew up?
Gossy Ukanwoke, currently concluding my Bachelors in Management Information Systems at Girne American University, North Cyprus. I grew up in Nigeria and had my early education in Nigeria as well.
How, when and why did you found the Beni American University?
Beni American University was conceived in December 2011. However, the eventual news of what we were working on was broken by a U.S Media website and that quickly picked momentum across other news media. BAU was founded out of the concern and challenge to do something about Nigeria’s failing educational system. Based on official and public records, about 30% of secondary school graduates are able to get admitted into local universities annually. This means we have millions of students piling up every year, who are willing to take on higher level learning, but do not have the opportunity. There are also working professionals and stay-home adults who may wish to acquire entrepreneurial skills conveniently and effortlessly to match their schedules. Finally, BAU was born out of a need to ensure that our university graduates can effectively compete based on content, quality of learning and opportunities as against their international counterparts.
Students Circle Network was your first attempt at a start-up. Can you tell us a little about that?
Students Circle Network is the only student-oriented social layer for the OpenCourseware Consortium resources. As a member of the OCWC, Students Circle provides academic content from some of the top universities in the world to students in Africa for free. The students can connect with teachers and fellow learners from across the globe and learn in a virtual social environment.
What valuable lessons were you able to take away from that in setting up the Beni American University?
SCN taught me that once your product is unique and provides value, it will be accepted, recognized and given global attention. I also learned the importance of having a good team as well as working with a very definite but flexible plan that can allow you to refocus and be dynamic with the ever-changing market.
How do you plan to tackle the problems associated with Nigeria’s poor educational system, unemployment situation and overall development challenges?
First we have come to understand that there is an emerging problem. We have considered these problems and have picked out a few ways to deal with them. Firstly, we are working with internationally trained tutors, who are young and understand the dynamics of teaching and learning in the modern environment. They are 80% Nigerians by origin as well. This will allow our students learn from people who understand them, people who have quality backgrounds in their respective fields. Secondly, we are working with a few international Centers for Entrepreneurship as well as Entrepreneurial Hubs to take our students through a rigorous business development boot camp; which will allow them form teams that we will fund. Then, they can launch a product in the market upon their graduation from our institution. Finally, we are also partnering with international institutions that are ready to absorb some of our students when they graduate and allow them complete their degrees and graduate-level learning at their institutions.
Continue reading here: Meet Gossy Ukanwoke – President, Beni American University