Our interview in this episode is with Olaniyi Ayeni, a Software Developer, Writer and Orator who is transforming his world and inspiring the next generation by teaching young people how to code. He is currently the founder of CodeSpark Nigeria an NGO focused on teaching kids how to code and exposing them to the world of technology and innovation.
Olaniyi is the author of two books which are ‘Rewriting the Nigerian Story: From Corruption to Integrity’ and ‘Break out: 7 Timeless Lessons From Dropout Billionaires’. He is a prolific writer and Software Developer that uses his gifts to inspire his generation.
He is currently undergoing his masters program in Greenwich University in the UK studying Big Data and Business Intelligence. He worked for 3 years in Nigeria after graduating with a computer science degree in University of Ilorin before he set out for his masters in the UK.
Codespark.ng is the brainchild of Olaniyi Ayeni which he set up to bridge the technology gap that exists in Nigeria. He is no ordinary individual, he has a strong passion for Africa.
According to codespark.ng, the mission is summed up in this words: ‘We Teach Young Minds How To Code Through Playful Coding, Games and Art.
Coding is a new language. Every child deserves to be fluent’.
The project has reached 12 schools and charities, has 25 volunteers, has impacted 3504 students with girls making 40% of the participants, but still has a long way to go with over 20 million unreached Nigerian school children.
In order to achieve this feat, they make use of various tools which include Scratch, a free programming tool that aids the creation of their own interactive stories, games, and animations. They also train them on Robotics with the use of Raspberry Pi and Arduino.
Also in order to ensure these children have vast choices, they make use of CS Unplugged, a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.
How did it all start? He says:
“As young child, I have always asked questions about life. Questions like who am I, what am I doing here? Who is God? Etc.”
Olaniyi’s experiences are similar to mine and most introverted children that I’ve met. Introversion makes you look inwards a lot and makes you think. It’s been said that most discoveries are made by introverts (melancholics) while they are executed by the cholerics. For Olaniyi, everytime he found answers, he would share it to the world.
He continued “As an introvert I spend most of my time in my room, reading or just being by myself. I always had the desire to seek knowledge. I haven’t changed still, I still ask questions and as soon as I get answers I try my best to tell the world.”
Through his books and social media platforms he shares new insights he gets through his ‘discovery moments’.
He continues “I am here not for myself but for the very purpose of playing my part in making the world a better place”
When he finds answers, businesses or social entreprises are born. And that’s the case with Codespark.
He says, “CodeSpark is one of the answer to the questions I ask. Why is Africa so backward and irrelevant when it comes to technology. The answer was that as kids we knew nothing about it. That’s how CodeSpark was born.”
He emphasizes, “Where there are problems, there are opportunities.”
Codespark aims at exposing Children to coding at a young age so that when they are old they would not depart from it.
Olaniyi says “The future would tell how effective this initiative is, when more people become interested in IT at an early age and come up with technological solutions to problems around them.”
His recent book, ‘Rewriting the Nigerian Story: from corruption to Integrity’ had it’s foreword written by Pastor Sunday Adelaja, the Nigerian-born Ukrainian Pastor and author of the best-seller ‘Church Shift’.
That’s really a great feat to have the Pastor of a large church in the world write his foreword. How did Olaniyi get to meet him?
He says “Sometime last year, I bumped into his Facebook page, liked it. Then I got notification the next day that he’s having a live broadcast. It turns out that he had been coming twice daily on Facebook, talking about rare issues of life, all of which were answers to the questions I always ask. I got addicted to listening to him everyday. We soon got connected online, talked by skype and he’s been my mentor since then. I am still amazed how quick he responds to my mails and messages”
I recently saw a video he posted on Instagram where he used Microbit by BBC to make a tune, (it’s a tool used in teaching Children coding and Technology.) I believe with his efforts and others who are taking giant steps in ensuring Africa grows technologically, it would soon pay of.
After seeing the video and with the fact that he is studying in the UK, I asked him to differentiate between Nigeria’s educational system and that of the UK.
His reply was spontaneous, “The difference is much. I can’t exhaust them all”.
Then I asked him to at least mention something for you to read, here’s what he said. “Apart from the sophisticated facilities put in place. The lecturers want you to excel and would help you to understand what’s being taught. The reverse is the case in Nigeria.”
As someone who has studied in Nigeria and currently taking a course on Leadership and Management in Shaw Academy, UK, I can relate.
Olaniyi said he knew how to use all programming languages, a feat he attributed to Personal Development. He therefore left these smart words for young people in Nigeria.
“Knowledge is free on the internet. Nothing is impossible. Ask questions and always look for ways to do things differently. The only limitation you have is yourself. So conquer yourself. Then you can conquer the world!”
Just in case you missed our posts with the CEO of Techpoint.ng, you can check it here
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