The Greatest Person in the World


I have sometimes wondered what it means to be the greatest person in the world. Did you have to be a President of a country, a tech billionaire which has several billions of people on their platform, a religious leader? What makes people legendary and is there any way to rank them, especially so one can reach the top? 

Many people have tried to classify this using different parameters. In several, two persons identified as spearheads of the largest religious organizations have come out tops. One is Mohammad, the other is Jesus. Through them, billions of living and dead people have designed their ways of life. In today’s world, other people are commanding the attention and lifestyle of billions of people. About half of the world’s population rely on platforms overseen by Mark Zuckerberg. The fact is that none of the religious leaders were able to oversee that many people in their lifetime. While you might say that the population was much smaller, in terms of percentages, they still did not command nearly enough that Mark commands. Returning to the topic of this article, what makes you the greatest person in the world?

Do you rank by resistance? Here, you start to look at people like Mandela, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King (that’s a lot of M’s) or Mahatma Gandhi. All these people mean the whole world to millions of people, whose lives are significantly better because these people, amidst other voices around them, commanded change that provided people with a little more of a good life. 

Do you rank by pioneers of scientific advancements? Here, you start to look at Nikola Tesla, Einstein, Marie Curie, Newton, Edison, Maryam Mirzakhani, Ford, and so on. So many of them. If you delve into the scientific foundations and innovations, there are just too many people who have contributed significantly to humankind’s progress which has seen us overcome existential pandemics to raising our productivity and understanding of the world. Our lives have evidently improved in tremendous ways. 

Do you rank by political leadership? Winston Churchil, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Sankara, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jomo Kenyatta, Angela Merkel. All these people affected millions of people in their lives. Therefore, in what proportions do we judge? The longevity of influence, and demography of influence, the history of influence? 

The flaw in determining this is the boundlessness of influence that exists in human lives. Each person’s life is the result of hundreds of diverse people putting in work to move the world forward. A young person who is a Muslim and a slave in America, have at least two major influences in Muhammad and Lincoln. These two influences would have transformed his spiritual and physical freedom. Then you have educational influences, healthcare influences, technology influences. Today, due to the platforms like Twitter, being heard no longer comes at a huge cost and there is less gatekeeping on what can be shared. This has meant hordes of platforms that advocate for different freedoms can easily garner the support they want to enforce that freedom in a way no one has ever done before. 

This has steadied my need to be the greatest person in the world. It is simply impossible to hold that much dominance in the whole world. We can however do great work that causes major influences across people’s lives. Today, with technology, we are also able to deliver impact to billions of people and change their lives faster. 

This also reflects the democracy of influence that can exist. In whatever field I seek to work, I can impact the lives of billions of people and have a share in the catalogue of the legendary. This also erases the need for competition. People need to work together to increase the value of humankind to itself. Whether in the same fields, adjacent fields or very separate fields, our world is a connected ball of influence that ensures that when we do good, we find our good in the lives of daily people, the same way our evil snowballs across places we barely ever think it will reach. 

Mindfulness – The Return to Innocence

The work of the mind is thought. Our ability to entertain multiple thoughts comfortably at once makes the mind the virtue that it is. In a complex world, you want to be able to process things rapidly, connect dots, make meaning, decipher things, and work around concurrent tasks. A great mind simplifies the complex and make living less tedious. Yet, the virtue, when it starts to sink in the unending complex and simple tasks that the world never stops throwing at it, it may start to grit in its own way. 

Often , as I get to oversee several things I work on, I am in constant battle to keep my mind in a single place. Trying to manage all the progress and obstacles from one mind soon starts to take it toll on productivity. As a person who cares much about my productivity, that is a problem. So I started to work on it. 


There’s a mundane saying that makes a lot of sense.


While washing dishes one should be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing dishes.


Nhat Hanh

As shorter version goes

While washing the dishes, wash the dishes.


I think this is the simplest description of mindfulness you will find or the simplest prescription. There are certain tasks that you cannot simply take your mind off. Driving, operating a heavy machinery and so on. For something as mundane as washing a plate, your mind is likelier to wander. Keeping the mind on the plates, noticing the swashes of water around the sink and the lather as it replaces the particles in the plates and then get washed away itself, that suddenly becomes less easy.  In my early trials, I lamented failing at that, as I continued to work on the workings of my mind.

With a few more readings, I gathered that not only are almost all minds meant to wander, the task of mindfulness is in constantly returning the mind to the present. That was a breather.  So I started to practice that instead. I worked on constantly returning my mind to the present.

Why is this even important at all? I think we start to lose the magic of life when we do not wait to experience it. Mindlessness makes an experience less fulfilling. I think you age faster, because everything seems to be at a speed where you are constantly behind, constantly trying to catch up. Thinking about that alone is tiring. To fully enjoy the gift of life, we need to be keep our mind on it as it happens. We need to be able to witness the emergence, discovery, happening, lingering and the passing of things, and of the people that are within and without us.  

Mindfulness may also be connected to gratitude. When you lose sight of your present and your mind is always in the future, you are less likely to be appreciative of the things that your past has given you. Gratitude is looking backwards, and at the present and coming to full realization of the gifts that you have and being appreciative of them. You cannot be grateful for the future because your gratitude will be inaccurate. Therefore, returning the mind to the present deals the mind the capacity to be fully grateful. Given that we return our gratitude both to the supernatural and the people around us, mindfulness means we can also improve our relationships with people, because we become fully aware of how supportive they may have been to us. And in the case where they or we have been toxic, we come to a proper realization of this and do our best to form bonds that only moves us forward and are less harmful. This ability to evaluate by increasing our awareness of the present is likely to raise the quality of our lives. 


Mindfulness is even more important to me because of my interest in design and creative writing. For design, I need to be fully aware of the things that make things work, and other points in a system, obvious or not, that affect the quality of a work being done. Having my mind constantly running a rigorous mill makes my process difficult and less effective. Thus, relentlessly returning my mind to the present, preceding events and being fully aware of my surroundings or the things that I am training my eyes on, is critical to my productivity and growth. Writing demands the same. Thus, the less attention I am able to share with the present, the less successful I will be at these things.

Getting to be mindful is therefore not as easy as snapping one’s fingers. It takes some work. For some people, they take to meditating to train their minds to be more mindful. Given the amount of people who use this, I believe it produces results. However, I have not been successful at bringing myself to meditate in the way that is popularly prescribed. To sit in a corner with folded arms or legs, when I am not praying, has so far called for some commitment I have been unable to give – similar to my early morning jogs.

So far, I have tried a few things that are working. I more often work in two hour chunks where within a two hour period, for which I usually set a countdown timer, I spend 90 percent of my time thinking and working on just one thing. I try as much as possible to postpone anything that comes up within this period that does not fall within the chosen task. I have not done a proper evaluation yet, but I believe I have been able to manage my mind better while at work. I hope to learn more about how to improve my mindfulness without jeopardizing my ability to keep several task running concurrently. I want to live life in its fullness. There’s not much to it otherwise.

Photo by Aa Dil from Pexels

Moving to our fourth year at Agbowó

On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, Agbowó released its third magazine. It also marked our third year in existence. Since our humble beginnings, we have built an art organization that is now standing out among other art organizations across the continent.

When we first started the magazine, it was only a literary magazine. However, I felt it was important we went for more and for several reasons. I don’t know to what magnitude it is to create and run a literary magazine, but many people had been failing at sustaining one for several years- especially keeping them at the top. Some started well, but started to fade in relevance, several died altogether. Few platforms existed that provided creative Africans with a platform to share their works. For this reason, we had to figure out our sustainability model.

From the beginning, we had our eyes on the globe. While we are an African organization, we wanted our literary and arts platform to be mentioned in the same realm as The New Yorker, Paris Review and Granta. These were organizations that had lasted several decades and continue to wax stronger. However, without similar resources as these organizations, keeping the magazine alive was going to be a task. Keeping it alive, relevant and outstanding was going to be great task.

In 2019, we acquired an events organization, ArtsnChill, allowing us take some of these experiences offline. Yet this step was taken to start to solidify our approach to sustainability. Few weeks into the year, we had our first event and did about 9 more afterwards. In May, we won the Goethe Institut grant that allowed us do more events, but most especially offset the financial costs on us for doing offline events. Almost all of our events were sold out every time we organized them. It also kickstarted our first set of revenue as an organization. While we still had to balance our costs with our income, it made us feel good that there was something to build on. It was also just one of the steps we took to raising actual revenue from serving people in the art community. We tried to run ads on the platform, but when it started interfering with the experience of readers, we had to take it down.

Our third magazine (agbowo.org/memory) was in fact well received. With the commitment of the team, we can guarantee that the organization will continue to thrive and improve in reach and relevance. However, that is not what it will mean for us to succeed. The most important legacy we would leave behind is helping platforms like us find a way to sustainability independent of continuous founder sustenance or grants. The reason this is important for us is simply that creative platforms provide a good avenue to support voices from every corner and of every ideology. Our ability to keep these alive is critical to the progress of our society. When Africans are left with only foreign organizations to share their most important creative works (which has been the case), our ability to strengthen our narratives become at the mercy of foreigners who may not understand the importance of the words and contexts we create. However, many Africans do this because most of the platforms that guarantee them any form of financial return were foreign platforms. Practitioners of creative writing and several other forms of art have often resigned to the inability of their craft to support their livelihoods. Creative Africans thus flocked towards where the money sang, which made sense, as against African platforms who were struggling to stay up. 

Thus, at the launch of our second magazine, we became clearer about our goals. We wanted to provide global audience to creative Africans. We also wanted them to get returns on their craft. This was showing some promise until the pandemic, which halted a lot of our activities. However, our base of activities remain untouched. Our team continued to help creative Africans get published on the platform and when it was time for the yearly magazine, we put in a rock solid performance in creating a magazine that people loved to hold in their hands. 

There is still a lot to figure out. While we have achieved our primary goal of becoming a recognized African literary brand, we must kickstart (or revive) our journey of building a responsible platform with impressive revenue to bolster our work. Four years is a long time, and what we do in the next 12 months, barring any new halting events, will be instrumental in defining how prepared we are to build one of the Africa’s most reputable art brands. 

Is Nigeria Ready for Digital Education?

Sometime in 2017, I sat with my cofounders at my first education technology startup, and engaged in one of the numerous realizations about the product we had built. We had given so much to creating this application and had seen it eventually become a delight among the students that used it. Our app, which we called the Geniuses Social Learning Application was meant to make it easy to teachers and students to work together, especially after school, wherever they are. A student could share work with fellow students to study and they could also do the same with their teacher. Teachers should share new learning items to everyone on their timeline and group, while students can consume content from an automated curriculum.

As delightful as all these were, there was a fundamental market problem which made our application awesome but not rewarding. The problem was not in the interest of students or teachers. In fact, when students came across the application, they became so engrossed they leave us standing. The issues came instead in form of infrastructure. Students did not have enough mobile phones to enjoy this application at home, while teachers could not use a tool most students did not have access to using. More importantly, we had to give away a lot of airtime to the people who used the application. Every now and then, students messaged us to ask for money for data to use the application. Although the application consumed very little data, students could not afford to pay for data outside the regular subscriptions that only allowed them use social media apps – a provision made by telcos to offer special data packages for social media. At the end of 2017, we had to close shop. Our application was well ahead of its time. The conclusion was to wait a few more years. The alternative was to provide gadgets, airtime, strong bandwidth for our users.

In 2020, more problems came. While there was a sudden demand for digital education platforms, the users were still not ready. Infrastructure is still lacking. In addition, more of the existing infrastructure has been put to test. Even if you are able to afford internet access and power, you could still be cut off from online sessions due to bandwidth problems. Unless you intend to start a new telecommunication company and provide strong bandwidth for yourself, this is not a problem you could easily solve. For some internet access providers, their network start to misbehave once rain starts falling. This means several people usually try to get several options to keep up with live online conversations. This cost is significantly higher than pre-pandemic periods and will easily dissuade a lot of people from trying at all.

This meant while several digital education platforms existed at the start of the pandemic, they still could not take up the opportunity that the pandemic provided nor were teachers and students able to bridge learning gaps adequately during this period. Instead, as school owners try to survive the period, some are turning into new businesses. The funniest I heard while in a meeting at work, was about a school owner that took out all the desks in the school and started rearing poultry in the classrooms. The failed transition of most schools to effective online, simply uncovered the many inadequacies of the current education sector in Nigeria.

The process of learning at home had always been unsupported by most schools. All learnings are encouraged to be held in classrooms while students usually have assignments to take home, but nothing to warrant consistent communication with their peeps or teachers. It was the reason we did not gain much traction with Geniuses the first time. Instead, schools worked to provide computer labs in their schools for students use. However, many of these labs were not built to be part and parcel of students’ learning. Rather than being integral tools of students’ learning process, they were things students went to once in a while. The most techy thing many schools did was use projectors to display notes for their students – and in such funny scenarios students still had to copy down the notes instead of just being handed the printed copies. Others often only use their tech solutions to prepare for CBT exams. Thus, the pandemic was a brutal shock for many schools, rendering them incapable of providing quality education for their students.

Many of the people who enjoyed using digital platforms during the pandemic were usually students from schools  that already embraced the technology before the pandemic started. There were some schools as such that had successfully integrated technology into their learning procedures. However, these schools constitute only a few of the total population that could have access to such learning opportunities.

One thing I know is that schools now understand why they should embrace digital technology for their learning activities. This is now a reference on why this is critical. Between schools, usually affluent, who have embraced digital education and those who are unlikely to use it, are a significant chunk who had some of the facilities required and have now understood more reasons why the switch is key. The chart below is not concrete data but gives some visualization on my understanding of how the market is structured. 

This meant during the pandemic, thousands of schools effectively shut down, or use very inefficient platforms like WhatsApp simply to communicate with students via their parents’ phones. However, motivation waned with time. The inability of several schools to even pay their teachers during the pandemic meant very few teachers started or maintained communication with their students and kept at it. Motivation on the side of the students too waned. Learning online is not as seamless as people expected the transition.

Before the pandemic, online courses had very poor completion rates. Compared with online live classes, students who took online courses had flexibility around time and bandwidth. Yet many of them failed to complete their classes. In Doug Lederman‘s article, Why MOOCs Didn’t Work, in 3 Data Points, he provided that MIT researchers document low retention rates, enrollment declines and general affluence of students to explain why massive open online course providers have largely ditched their original model. 

“Among all MOOC participants, 3.13 percent completed their courses in 2017-18, down from about 4 percent the two previous years and nearly 6 percent in 2014-15. And among the “verified” students, 46 percent completed in 2017-18, compared to 56 percent in 2016-17 and about 50 percent the two previous years.”

This meant that even when students across the world had full control of how the consumed educational content, too many barely completed their classes.  At the end of the article, Doug’s final sentences read

New education technologies are rarely disruptive but instead are domesticated by existing cultures and systems. Dramatic expansion of educational opportunities to underserved populations will require political movements that change the focus, funding, and purpose of higher education; they will not be achieved through new technologies alone.”

If these conclusions were reached for the global audience where a good number of people who even have access to these online courses have the facility to do them, how would we rate the local Nigerian audience where poverty is prevalent and most families can barely afford consistent daily nutrition, not to talk of education technology facilities.

Is Nigeria ready for digital education? The answer is largely no? But does that diminish the efforts people are taking to provide it? That is no as well. We need more companies and organizations with the staying power to keep pushing with their efforts to improve access to quality education – at some point things will yield significantly. A good amount of people will be able to use such services at present, but to achieve mass education, you will need much more.

Thus, the approach to bridging learning gaps with digital technology will only be successful with new processes, rather than just technology. Processes created by policy, backed by the appropriate funding. Else, digital technology solutions will continue to be knackered by the damning Nigerian system while the few who are able to score contracts to provide edtech solutions for a few will continue to bask in the positivity that will likely fail them.

Cover Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Scaling Design Systems

At the beginning of design, the overarching arm is to create something that works and solves your users’ problems. Behind this are usually a set of team members who are deeply connected to the problem they are solving, and even without documentation, has the shared goal imprinted on their minds, enough to guide their design process. However, as teams grow and companies go from one or two designs to several, the challenges becomes more than just creating what works. New hires come with new perspectives and creative juices, and in the quest to deliver excellently, they may introduce new ideas to the designs of the company. Since they are also usually disconnected from the primary aim of the company, they will often design without it. This eventually kick-starts a chaos in the design room. And consistency in design is first to suffer it. 

Design systems are created to curtail these undesirable events and ensure designs within a company remain consistent as the product scale. From a few pages and functionalities, products develop into hundreds of pages with new technologies. It is easy to lose track and break the experience of users when products become cumbersome. With design systems, designers have a set of standards for design and concepts on which the designs should be used. However, design systems should be regarded as a continuously but harmoniously changing system. The essence of a design system is scale, and this includes when scaling teams, products or enterprises. 

What should be accounted for when scaling design systems. The first are the core principles and ethics of the company. Rather than being a combination of colours and lines, designs are meant to be meaningful. And this meaning, when not communicated properly and consistently, will leave products in the strange directions that are often undesirable to the owners, and users as well. Is your design meant to convey complexity or minimalism, exclusivity or openness, conservation or vibrancy? With multitude designers having different ideas on how the product should work, when the principles and ethics are not clear, your product may break rules that you do not enjoy breaking. 

When the company is clear on its core principles and ethics of work, it must sort out its leadership. Small teams often depend on a solitary designer who dictates the pace and pattern of all designs in a company. When building for scale, this type of leadership will likely crack, creating frictions that slow down work that it aimed to speed up. While a design system is created, it should allow contributions for the whole team involved in the design process at that company. This is exemplified by Google’s committee by design. The middle ground is to have a team that decides the design direction of the company. Knowing which stage of development you are should inform your decisions. Your goal is to reduce friction while staying up to date with the product’s design needs. 

Companies usually already have design libraries that designers can pick components to use. This becomes limiting when design is needed to scale. Design system comes to the rescue by not only defining what components are used in the design of products, but how they may be used. Creating an initial design system can sometimes take several months or years. To be able to define that works for a company, the company must have collected enough feedback overtime to help refine its direction. While this process does not stop, at some point, there is enough feedback for a company to set up guidelines for its design. An assembly of product components and how they may be assembled are put together. A popular approach is atomic design, which documents designs from their singular components to their appearance, along with other components, on pages. 

Even though design systems are a set of standards, these standards must remain flexible to feedback and changes. While design system are not meant to change abruptly, this will be chaotic, they are expected to evolve with time. Companies or product teams must continuously listen to feedback, measure the impact of their design and combine this data with their creative ideas to provide new design solutions. 

After design systems are created, and other values defined, companies need to develop an efficient and effective way of educating everyone in the company of the company’s design direction and system. When such information is broken and does not reach all the people who need it, the essence of the design system becomes defeated and companies may continue to see errors they sought to prevent with the design system. 

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

[Draft] My Life is Meaningful

I’ve got to say I don’t necessarily believe the world is vain. A general lamentation at death, especially one regarded as untimely, is that it is all vanity. It is often a reaction to loss and our inability to deal with endings. I am grateful for this ambit of time, that I, a speck in a moving blue, have to explore sated desires. And it is more reason why I think it is often ill-advised to spend your time pursuing life in fear, pursuing ambitions that are not the ticklers of your soul. The result of my life is my life well-lived, a judgement that only I have the power and knowledge to proclaim. You may lose things, objects, people, parts of your body, and perhaps sadly your memory, but you’ll never lose the power that the feeling of making your own path sprouts in you, albeit and conjunct all the influences that surround you. I am a moment in time and my life is meaningful.

to be continued.

What is Color Theory?

Here is the first of my articles on design. You’ll probably find some of these articles already online. I am just documenting some of the things I have learnt and anyone could follow the trajectory to become good designers too.

Understanding colors helps you achieve coherence in design. Colors are visual and psychological. They direct the attention of the person and help them experience a design a certain way and you want to be able to get people to pay attention to the right things. Rather than enjoy the beauty of your design, you do not want people pondering over how jarring or underwhelming your design is. This is why a good designer should learn about color and how they work together. That brings us to the first definition.

So what is Color Theory?

Color theory is a set of principles that guides designers to create cohesive color combinations. These principles help designers choose and combine colors effectively when creating color palettes. They can be represented in various forms such as color charts, color wheels, color schemes, color triangles etc.

There had been several attempts to define color relationships in the past. One of such was Johann Wolfgang van Goethe’s book titled Theory of Color. Van Goethe’s book had an equilateral color triangle which contained nine colors, defining that color relationships were categorized by emotions. Before him, Sir Isaac Newton has presented a color theory that was a spectrum from splitting white light into red, orange, green, blue, indigo and violet. Others include Nobel prize winning chemist, Wilhelm Oswald, through his book, The Color Primer ; Louis Prang who wrote the book Theory of Color and popularized the primary colors in the form of red, blue, and yellow.

DecoArt Blog – Color Theory Basics: The Color Wheel

Categories in Color Theory

  1. Primary Colors– These are yellow, red and blue. They are the fundamental colors that combine to form other colors.

Easy Pace Learning. Primary colours learning primary colours

2. Secondary Colors – When you combine each of the primary colors with another primary color, what you get are secondary colors. The secondary colors are green, orange, and purple.  

Macie Gardner – Secondary Colours

Tertiary Colors – These are the colors you get when you combine each primary color with each secondary color. The results you get are red-orange, red-purple, blue-green, blue-purple, yellow-orange, yellow-green.   


Pinterest


Tertiary Colors – colors next to each other on the color wheel 

Complementary Colors – There are colors that are opposite one another in the color spectrum. E.g Orange and Blue.  


Color Theory: Color Harmonies | The Paper Blog

Triadic Colors – These are three colors that are equidistant from one another in the color wheel. E.g. Red, blue, yellow.


Color wheel. Triadic color scheme.

Analogous Colors – These are two or three colors beside one another on the color wheel. They are usually easy on the eye when used together. E.g. Blue, green-blue and green.


Split Complementary Colors – These are three colors where the one color is directly opposite the two colors spaced out by one color. E.g. Red, green and yellow.

Double Complimentary Colors (Tetradic) – These are four colors consisting of two pairs of colors complementary to another.

Monochromatic Colors – This is a colors made of the shades and tints of one color.

Square Color Scheme – These are four colors evenly spaced from one another on the color wheel.

Properties of Color

www.tes.com (Contrast – Lessons – Tes Teach)

HUE

A hue is the name of a color which signifies its position on the color spectrum.

SATURATION

This refers to the intensity, chroma or purity of a color. A color that is bright is highly saturated while one that is dull is desaturated.

BRIGHTNESS

This is the degree of light or darkness in a color. It may also be described in terms of brilliance.

VALUE

This is the degree of darkness or lightness of a hue. Variations in value are used to create a focal point for the design of a picture. Contrast of value separates objects in space, while gradation of value suggests mass and contour of a contiguous surface. Gradations of value are also used to create the illusion of depth, thus producing three dimensional figures. White, black and gray are referred to values without hues.


TINT

A tint is amount of white added to a color

TONE

The tone is the amount of gray added to a color.

SHADE

This is the degree of black in a color.

COLOR TEMPERATURE

istockphoto.com- Color wheel, warm and cold colors



WARM COLORS

These are bright colours. They include yellow, red, red orange, orange, and red violet. Basically, the reds, yellows and oranges. These also describe the temperature of the colours.

COOL COLOURS

These are darker colors like blue, green, violet, yellow-green, blue-violet etc. Basically the blues, greens and purples. They are the other side of the color temperature.

There you go! A simple introduction to some terms in understanding how colors work together. Look forward to my next article.

Cheers

A Simple Categorization of Education Intervention Areas in Nigeria.


Education intervention programs are not exclusive to underdeveloped countries like Nigeria. One of the largest education intervention programs is Teach for America which has had over 60,000 volunteers since its inception. Due to several reasons, shortfalls occur in different learning phases and must be addressed because they often directly affect the quality of life available to the affected person.  Having worked in a number of initiatives that directly or indirectly intervene in the education sector. I wish to categorize these areas of intervention into these classes.

(This seems like an obvious classification. But I think documenting the obvious is important, so it becomes a conscious part of our design process. In addition, you can easily understand how to plot your growth along with the classes or across them.)


Class 1: Out of School and Uneducated

Nigeria’s 13 million children are the largest in the world when counting the number of children who do not attend school, have yet to attend a school or have had to drop out early. This is a staggering number equivalent to the population of some countries like Belgium, Portugal, and Rwanda. Helping these children get educated is both important and urgent. The case of out of school children’s cut beyond just financial capability. While money is usually one of the hindrances, certain parents are comfortable leaving their children out of school for cultural reasons. Other reasons that could hinder a child’s access to education include gender, location, conflict, disability and socioeconomic status – factors that exist before the child is born.

I will also highlight girls who have to stay out of school temporarily but consistently each month because of their menstrual period. This continuous disruption of a child’s education due to the absence of WASH facilities (and cost of menstrual pads) remains one of the key areas of intervention, especially in low-income schools. This adds to other reasons why girls miss school such as child marriage, early pregnancy, child labour, housework, etc. 

Some Important data about out of school children are these;

  • 63 million children of primary school age (typically aged 6-11 years) are not in school
  • 61 million adolescents of lower secondary school (typically aged 12-14) are not in school
  • Adolescents of upper secondary school age, from 15-17 years, make up the largest group of those out of school. About 139 million (53 percent of the total) are not in school
  • More than one-half of all out-of-school children are in sub-Saharan Africa
  • 50 percent of children who are out of school are girls
  • Nearly 1 in 4 of out-of-school children live in crises-affected countries

Intervention in these areas includes providing WASH facilities, evening classes, creating new schools accessible to children in remote areas or areas of conflict, creating structures that allow disabled children to attend schools, inclusion programs, etc.

Class 2: In Pre-Varsity School but Under-Educated

This category comprises several public schools in Nigeria and surprisingly a large number of private schools in middle and low-income communities. While it has become the bane of Nigerian public education system to be under-resourced, you will also find that several private schools are also unable to provide quality education. What is common is that these schools often charge lower than the high-profile ones but appear an upgrade on the public schools. Students who attend these schools are less exposed to important skills that are introduced to students in the early stages of their lives. An example of this is computer literacy. 

Interventions for public schools and low-income private schools will often include those that provide access to key educational resources, information, and services at a reduced cost, or with a financial model that either allows students to pay over a long period or is funded externally of the students’ pockets.

Pre-varsity education intervention is one of the most important in this list. This is because when early child development and education is done properly, they form a strong foundation for the latter years of the child. Students who started out poorly will often struggle to catch up with their peers who had a great foundation.  Asides being great at literacy skills, students may need to be introduced to other soft skills such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, sports, team-work and so on. Learning about digital technology is becoming more than necessary as the world continues to evolve.

Class 3: In Tertiary School but Under-Skilled

Well, 9 out of 10 universities in Nigeria (from observation rather than data) do not possess the right facilities to train world-class students. Students who are lucky enough to know this early and are sharp enough to make moves, often have to rely on other means, usually online, to attain what is regarded as the world standard. Thus, intervention for the millions of students who are in Nigeria’s undergraduate and postgraduate schools is necessary.  

Providing alternative learning opportunities that undergraduates can rely on is a way of intervening in the malaise. Starting from helping undergraduates learn the use of simple work tools to introducing programs that actually improve the quality of education received in their fields. This may also include increasing access to such learning programs and opportunities and providing them at attainable costs.  

A direct intervention would be influencing the creation of better government policies and improvement in funding provided for academic institutions.  

Class 4: In job – but Under-Skilled 

Due to a continuously changing world of work, in addition to the poor training most people receive in Nigerian tertiary institutions, you will find that lots of workers do not possess the required skills to do their job at maximum efficiency and productivity. Nigeria’s labour productivity is at 3.61 dollars/hr which is quite low especially when compared with other countries such as South Africa (19 dollars/hr), Turkey (31 dollars/hr), and the United States (67 dollars/hr).  

This means the country is leaving a lot of money on the table that could have been used to improve the lives of citizens. We are not maximizing our labour capacity. Improving labour productivity, asides from providing key facilities that make work easier and faster requires the further education of workers to excel in their current fields. This education is often also required because many people will work in jobs they did not study at the university. Better trained officers will raise the income per spend of a company significantly.  

Class 5: Out of Job and Out of Skills

This category of people may also be products of poor tertiary education or no tertiary education at all. These set of people lack the required skills to take on most jobs that pay well enough or the jobs that they would ideally want. Unemployed, these set of people are incapacitated from gaining steady sources of income. This may also include women who are unable to return to school, do not have the required capital and knowledge to sustain a business or are heavy dependances on unearned income.

Some of the intervention programs for these set of people are entrepreneurial training, vocational training programs, street education programs, etc. These programs are key as they support an otherwise excluded population who may easily resort to crime or other forms of work they would normally not want to do.

Class 6: Adult Illiteracy  

Unless dead, adults whether or not they are out of direct service will continue to interact and transact with other people, both young and old. Different institutions will often require both the old and the young to have standard literacy skills to enjoy their services. Thus, adults who can neither read nor write and do not have trusted people to do this on their behalf will be excluded from key services and opportunities that may be necessary for them to live well. 

The Organization for World Economic Cooperation (OECD) defines adult education as:

Adult education encompasses activities and programs organized for this purpose to meet the learning needs and interests of those who have been out of compulsory schooling and whose main occupation is no longer to go to school at any stage of their lives.

Adult Education remains a key area of educational intervention. These interventions include what may be referred to as ‘continuing education’, ‘recurrent education’ or ‘second chance education’. 

Why is Adult Education important? Answers include the rapidly changing technology which continuously demands better literacy level to maximize. Others are 

  • The Extension of Human Longevity- When adults are properly educated, they make healthy life choices.
  • Increase in the Time of Formal Training Participation
  • Changes in Work / Professional Life
  • Changing Status of Women- Women, who may have been marginalized at the early stages of their lives get a chance at redemption.
  • Changes in the concept of leisure time
  • Education Life-long Need
  • Democracy, Increase in Human Rights Demands

Class 7: Teacher Training

This is quite essential to power most of the learning needs of members of all the different categories listed above. Teachers need to be well equipped to help students; you cannot give what you do not have. In addition, since varying categories have varying learning demands, their teachers must be able to handle their training, whatever they are. Thus, teacher training interventions are just as important when addressing education gaps in a country. In Nigeria, The Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria has pointed out that a total of 250,000 teachers must be employed annually in the country to address the shortfall of teachers in basic and secondary school levels. 

Teacher training interventions may include upskilling teachers and exposing them to modern teaching techniques in their fields, creating programs that increase the availability of teachers and addresses the shortfall, creating interventions that solved teacher needs such as poor remuneration. These are some of the areas that need urgent interventions. 

The United Nations already reported that new projections show the world is off-track in meeting its education commitments by 2030. This should propel more people to take education intervention seriously and proffer, as well as continue to vigorously implement, new solutions that can improve access to quality education in Nigeria and across the world.

Are you working in education? Which of these areas are you working on?

Habeeb X

#Around the world, August 12 is celebrated as the International Youth Day. This year’s theme, “Transforming Education”, highlights efforts to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all youth, including efforts by youth themselves.

How To Be A Butterfly

_____________

“Yet I must acknowledge that it is a curse to see things very clearly. The only cure of which is an evident breakthrough. Before then, many wonder why you dance to a piece of music they cannot hear. What do you see? Where are you going? Why will you do that? Until you find your breakthrough, seeing and subsequently acting a little bit different is a cause for concern. Until then, you remain in the stead for more knowledge, hollowed in your own conviction, seeking light not for yourself, but for others who cannot see as clearly as you do.” 

HABEEB KOLADE 

_____________

One activity we sometimes undergo during self-awareness exercises is saying what animals describe us. I still do not know which shares similar characteristics with me. This is because while I might think I share some strengths with an animal, we might not share the same weaknesses. Maybe I am overthinking it. Yet, I have taken a special liking for the butterfly. It starts as a caterpillar and in a murky yet wondrous transition, throws off its skin and wears new ones- those colourful wings. That is one example of the grass to grace archetype. In a country where most people live in undesirable conditions, it is great story to start as the ugly duckling and in one remarkable fashion, become the delight of all. But that is not the only reason I am inspired by the butterfly. 

While man’s vision is sharper, butterflies can see across a broader spectrum. The patterns and colours that a butterfly sees are invisible to man. In addition to this, butterflies can see in all directions. To combine man’s sharp vision with the wider spectrum and directions a butterfly enjoys is to have the capability to see things clearly and deeply. One quote by one of my most favourite persons, Nikola Tesla reads; 

“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.” 

Thinking clearly requires mental clarity; being awake and alert to the different factors that affect certain systems. In order to act intelligently, one needs to be able to see, perhaps not all, but a little more than the obvious factors that surround most situations. In a world where people are constantly preoccupied with things that take away their focus, it is very difficult to attain clarity. Thus, I crave those moments when I am able to tear away from the noise and the unapparent blindfolds. Those moments I can see clearly and can discover and comprehend all the important details that I need to know to be able to properly influence things in a way that ensures true change occurs. 

Yet I must acknowledge that it is a curse to see things very clearly. The only cure of which is an evident breakthrough. Before then, many wonder why you dance to a music they cannot hear. What do you see? Where are you going? Why will you do that? Until you find your breakthrough, seeing and subsequently acting a little bit different is a cause for concern. Until then, you remain in the stead for more knowledge, hollowed in your own conviction, seeking light not for yourself, but for others who cannot see as clearly as you do. 

The major reason I like butterflies has nothing to do with real butterflies. Rather, I enjoyed learning about the Chaos Theory which has the butterfly in one of its analogies. Chaos Theory is the science of unpredictability. It is the science of nonlinear and dynamic systems. My first real introduction to Chaos Theory was while I was doing my final year project as a Mechanical Engineering student. I needed to develop Runge Kutta scheme based FORTRAN- subroutines that could simulate dynamics of a harmonically excited nonlinear pendulum. Using fractal characterization, I could then determine if Runge Kutta methods could be relied upon to create approximate solutions for nonlinear systems. This journey launched me into the world of dynamic systems- a world where so many factors influence the direction of a system making it a chaotic state. It becomes quite difficult to understand the directions which things take thus leaving unpredictable outcomes to applied modifications. 

In all this chaos, the Butterfly Effect theory creates some hope. It explains that there is indeed a connection between small changes and big outcomes. As I read, this effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. 

It is not easy to look back after a hurricane occurs and draw the lines back to a butterfly. However, I think the amazing thing is to be that butterfly that sets off a hurricane sometimes in a near future by flapping its wings just at the right moments and in the right manners. The magic is to be there before things happen, and understanding what ways to flap your wings in order to set off a hurricane in a particular place. Combine this with the incremental development philosophy of kaizen, and you can repeatedly make small changes that eventually cause unprecedented and massive events that ordinarily would have been too cumbersome for one individual to inspire. 

It means I can begin to ask myself questions like, what little changes can I make today that will create significant effects on our situations and perhaps solve our most difficult problems? While hurricanes definitely occur from our little actions, can I influence what types of hurricanes are formed by taking conscious actions that eventually connect? Can I connect the dots looking forward? You see, we all make choices. If you do not choose a path, fate will decide for you. To solve real problems in a country muddled in complex situations, one must be able to understand patterns and understand how to set off a chain of activities that eventually create desirable outcomes. My questions continuously remain how much control can I muster? In what way can I influence change in the way I want, not just as a consequence of my action, but as a reflection of my decision – as a manifestation of my intended goal. 

When butterflies travel, many of them settle on any flower that they see. Some butterflies choose their perches. You do not see them on any kind of flowers. That gives me hope. You see, we can create the kind of life we want, and we will do just well. I hope I can continue to choose my perches, to not succumb to settling in places that are not within my choices. In areas where I can decide, I hope to be able to do things, not because I have to do them, but because I want to do them. 

This power of choice and the ability to influence (premeditatedly) big changes from seemingly small actions are a combination of the desirable attributes of butterflies I am learning to glean. 

As we grow, we soon discover that our realities are more complex than we think. We are powerful beyond measure, yet we are just as powerless. As much as we have the power to change the world in unprecedented fashion, the world can crush us in an incredible swing. This is well lived on a street, when a driver of a bus, ensured to drive carefully but was eventually the victim of a tanker that fell on the bus from an overhead bridge. You see, you can’t control all strings, but you must try. You should master the strings that fall in your hands and wield your influence impeccably. While butterflies do not have all the best defences against harm, they know how to use their magnificent flight and colours to keep them going. 

The subtle way in which butterflies contribute to the growth and diversity of beautiful vegetation and food is very lovely. As agents of pollination, butterflies give life and ensure continuity of life. This can mean many things to me. I want to do things that are vital to the growth of other people. I want to touch people’s lives in a way that leaves indelible marks on their existence. I hope I can be the reason more people choose quality life, and more the reason they take inspiring actions. And I want to do this in that subtle manner, without the unnecessary noise and drama. I also hope I can build remarkable things that last beyond my time and my space. Things that grow beyond my imagination. Built in the corner of a room, starting with small thoughts and gentle actions, but travelling beyond the oceans and mountains to impact lives forever. While many of our dreams become memories of things that did not get to fly, I hope the dreams most important to me come to life. 

To have the ability to fly without looking back is to be a butterfly. The ability to experience the tastes of different nectars, journey like a focused wanderer, never too attached to a place to fear leaving is to be a butterfly. I want to cut myself from the clutter and seek peace in new places. I want to see the far ends of the world. I want to conquer new horizons and never settle on my laurels. I want to keep going without hesitation. I want to fly without restraint, in the things I do and the places I go. I want to be a butterfly. 

A butterfly has its weaknesses, who doesn’t? I remain in awe of its other attributes. You see, I want to be able to change the world, while being beautiful, while being subtle, while being limitless, while being as harmless as possible.

Habeeb Kolade
#EveryoneHasAStoryToTell

July is Coming! We Can’t Wait!

On July 22, we will release the second edition of our yearly magazine, themed Limits. We have received amazing submissions from diverse African countries. We are enthused by the quality of works sent, and that these amazingly creative people have trusted us with their work.

July is now one of my favourite months. It is the most significant month for Agbowó. On July 22, we will release the second edition of our yearly magazine, themed Limits. We have received amazing submissions from diverse African countries. We are enthused by the quality of works sent, and that these amazingly creative people have trusted us with their works.

Why is this a significant step for us? Last year, our magazine was simply a collection of works that had been published on our online literary journal, agbowo.org. We simply presented it in another format. Yet, it was an important step, and people embraced the magazine as if the works were completely new. One of my exciting moments was when I attended a literary event in Lagos and met this very excited lady who spoke so highly of the magazine and even remembered some of the writers and titles in the magazine. Who remembers Abeiku Arhin Tsiwah?! Great writer but easy to mispronounce name for me. And then she said Petitioning Christ. Her friend had shared the magazine with her via mail and she frantically searched for it again. The magazine equally impressed another budding writer who soon sent her works for publication on the literary journal. It felt very different from the online accolades we received, because I could see that reaction for myself and knew our work was important. Ours is not the first African literary magazine, but few (or almost none) have built the kind of credibility that has made their American and European counterparts revered and darlings of creative people around the world, including Africans. That is the level of excellence we aim to operate and even more.

This year, we did a call for entries with a specific theme. We received works from almost all the regions in Africa. Our editors have had a lot of work to do, especially since we also continued to receive submissions for the online literary journal, which is open throughout the year. By now, we have finalized on most entries, and are now working on producing something amazing from the awesome works that have been sent to us. We cannot wait.

July 22 is also the day we get to unveil new steps we are taking at Agbowó in building platforms to provide global access for creative Africans. We are making this a yearly tradition. While we are gradually building our literary platforms, we hope to do more. We want to build tools to help creative Africans create new works, while also building platforms for them to reach their audiences across world with their creativity. More importantly, we want to help them capture the value they are creating. Everything we do is on this canvas.

We are still very early in our journey, and we are still unraveling our purpose. Late last month, I had another long conversation with Moyo, who leads Agbowó, about recent developments in the literary community. At the end of that conversation, the importance of our work became more obvious and our purpose clearer. We could see why our platform was necessary and why we needed to do more; especially in setting new standards that improve the lives of creative Africans.

Last year, we made it our goal to start an events arm to bring live art experiences to people. Our goal was also to build a community of creative people sharing their works, lending their voice to important conversations and building a network. We went out to acquire arts initiative, ArtsnChill. We can say that move has shown early promises that we hope we can build on. While we took our time to have our first event few months after the acquisition, we have successfully sold out our tickets for our first two events and we already have new collaborations in the pipeline for June and July events. We also got funding support to cater for part of our expenses for our events later in the year from German cultural organization, Goethe Institut. We are working to get more funding to support our programs. While there is still a lot of improvement we need to make to our events, we believe we are heading in the right direction. And we are doing this with very lean resources, and using lean strategies.


Arts n Chill by Agbowó

As we countdown towards July, our team is working to add to the platforms that help us serve creative Africans better. Our journey has been gradual, but we have been growing. Our team has grown to 15 amazing and committed people who are just as enthusiastic about African art. That connection means our team is a small community on its own working together to create platforms for the larger community. We are proud of what we hope to accomplish.

While our world continues to grow technologically, we see the role of art in this increasingly mechanized world. There is the rising need to improve man’s utility and efficiency, but it is art that helps us connect with our souls, with our humanness, and sparks those emotions that make us who we are. Thus, our goal is to empower creative Africans across diverse forms to create art and help them reach the hearts of people who are looking for more ways of becoming better versions of themselves. While we do this, we hope to create and capture enough value for our company and the art community.

July is coming! Keep watch!

Habeeb X

Please visit agbowo.org to learn more about our work.

Follow @agbowoart on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  

There is something special about seeing your stuff live, beyond the online thing. I was excited to stand in front of this physical representation of Agbowó’s progress.