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How Robotel, other edtech startups are redefining education in Nigeria – Olu Babatunde

Robotel’s Country Director tells Nairametrics how edtech startups are providing innovative solutions to the Nigerian education sector.

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The world has evolved from traditional methods of learning to a more digital method. Edtech has become one of the fastest rising startup sectors in the world largely due to the pandemic.

This tech sector has grown beyond making learning easy for students. It has expanded to include many forms of technological innovations in the educational sector with several education start-ups offering unique means to connect teachers with students. eLearning is now in the mouths of school owners, teachers, and parents as a way to still experience the classroom from home.

The landscape of formal education in Nigeria is based largely on a relatively archaic model. Students still attend brick-and-mortar establishments to get educated. The system is largely exam-driven, theoretical, and impractical.

As much as the ed-tech sector has tried to make learning easier for schools, online learning is still not widely adopted by public universities in Nigeria, although their counterparts (private universities) have since adopted the learning method and are now running fast with the model.

In a country with a high level of low-income earners, unstable electricity, poor internet connection, and high cost of data, the digital divide is very glaring. Many students cannot afford the tools that facilitate e-learning such as smartphones, desktop or laptop computers, access to the internet and constant electricity to power their devices. This is keeping e-learning out of the reach of the poor and limiting it to the middle/high-income earners in Nigeria.

The pandemic has aggravated pre-existing inequalities, and expectedly, students from lower-income homes are the most negatively impacted. This is a threat to the decades of progress made in education, and with the country already grappling with the problem of over 13 million out-of-school children, the prospects for Nigeria’s socio-economic future are gloomy.

Amid these daunting challenges, some Nigerian innovators are creating sustainable solutions to close the education gap. One of them is Olu Babatunde, Country Director of Robotel. In a brief chat with Mr Babatunde, he showed us how Robotel provided innovative solutions to students during the pandemic.

What does Robotel do?

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Robotel Inc., develops, manufactures, and markets Robotel SmartClass+HUB, LIVE and Digital Language Content (English, Spanish and German); the 21st Century Digital Classroom Management System and Multilingual Laboratory Management Resource. SmartClass + is a blended learning system that can be used in elementary schools, colleges, universities, adult education centres, military classrooms, corporate training centres, and special learning environments such as cognitive and sign language centres. Robotel SmartClass+ resource can be configured as a Language Lab, Medical and Science Lab, Engineering and AI Lab, Mass Communications and Media Arts Lab, e-Library, ICT Centre, etc., to meet a school’s needs and expectations. SmartClass+ can be used in a multi-discipline environment to teach any subject.

What are your thoughts on the pandemic’s effect on the educational sector?

The pandemic affected educational systems worldwide. It brought about the abrupt closure of schools (elementary, colleges, universities) and learning centres that had not embraced the blended system of teaching and learning. Teaching and learning stopped totally for many schools especially public schools in Nigeria. The educated parents became overwhelmed and burdened with teaching their children while learning stopped completely for the children of uneducated parents. It was a very pathetic situation in Nigeria and other underdeveloped countries. According to the UNESCO Monitoring report, 192 countries implemented nationwide closures which affected about 99% of the world’s school population. The economically challenged were the most vulnerable during the crisis and beyond. The school closures affected not only students, teachers, and families but also had far-reaching economic and societal consequences. Lessons were learnt during the messiness of adapting through the pandemic which revealed the disparities in students’ access to support and opportunities. The question is, how do we make our school, education, and child development systems more individually responsive to the needs of our students? Why not construct a system that meets children where they are and gives them what they need inside and outside of school in order to be successful? This is an opportunity to end the “one-size-fits-all” (in-class only teaching) factory model of education.

What innovative solution did Robotel provide during the pandemic?

Robotel developed the SmartClass+ HUB which integrates technology to support teaching and learning in-class and remotely. It gave more attention to learning design and pedagogical issues of teaching and learning.

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Robotel SmartClass+ enables learning to happen anytime, at any place, in any language and on any device. When school closures happen at any time, SmartClass+ HUB empowers schools to remotely continue education safely, seamlessly, and effectively. This means that students can continue their learning and tackle their exercises outside of the classroom, and teachers can review students’ work, grade it, and provide feedback from any location, via the Internet. Robotel SmartClass+ is the best-blended learning solution available in the market today. The resource is versatile, flexible, and highly user-friendly.

What do you think can be done to enable the wide adaptation of online learning in both public and private schools?

Teachers and students must urgently adapt to the blended learning system that allows teaching and learning to continue when the need to limit human interaction arises. It is important to look at how teacher education has adapted to the restriction in human interactions, and move to new ways of teaching and learning in the preparation of future teachers for a world marked by uncertainty. We must begin to:

  • (Re)educate teachers for scenarios that are unpredictable and unknown.
  • Open up the whole frontier of remote learning by ensuring that all students have access to the internet and the technology for remote learning. Where schools, teachers, and students in certain areas cannot afford this in their budgets, the federal, state, local government, and private companies can look into it and lend a helping hand.

21st-century learning absolutely requires technology and the internet, therefore, improving the quality and reach of internet connectivity is key. All teachers and students should have the technology to teach and learn from outside the traditional face-to-face learning model.

Other Edtechs that provided solutions to the educational sector during the pandemic include:

  • uLesson – An organization that leverages the best-in-class teachers, media, and technology to create high-quality, affordable, and accessible education for African students.
  • Gradely – Which uses analytics and data-driven recommendations to help schools and parents intervene in real-time to students’ learning gaps.
  • Pass-ng – A self-testing online platform in Nigeria that allows users to practice for national exams through interactive modules.
  • Prep class – An edtech company that connects learners with qualified tutors across Nigeria.

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Janet John is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Uyo. She specializes in technical writing where she creates easy to read documentation, articles to clearly and efficiently explain highly complex processes. When she is not writing, she works as a freelance front-end developer

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    Billionaire Watch

    How young Elon Musk started and sold 3 businesses for $1.9bn before Tesla

    We look at the 3 successful businesses Elon Musk founded and sold for a collective $1.9bn before starting Tesla.

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    Elon Musk needs $20 billion wealth gain to clinch world's richest man title

    Success is never an accident. It is most times the result of many years of hard work and consistent effort. Elon Musk is popular today for his electric car company Tesla and his space project SPACE X. But long before these, he was already a multi-millionaire and had founded 3 successful companies which he sold for a collective $1.9bn.

    The purpose of this article is to paint a clear picture of what it takes to be among the top 1% of any field. It takes years of consistent hard work to get there. Elon Musk is the perfect example of an individual with a very strong work ethic. His story below will prove that to you.

    This article will briefly look at the 3 successful businesses Elon Musk founded and sold for a collective $1.9bn before starting Tesla. Let’s go!

    READ: Blue Origin Vs Space X: Bezos and Musk’s subtle battle for supremacy

    Blaster ($500)

    A 12-year-old Elon Musk facing bullying in high school and a not so friendly dad taught himself how to code. According to the Inc. Magazine, he mastered BASIC a general-purpose coding language making use of a commodore PC he acquired himself. He later that year, sold the code for his PC game Blastar to a PC magazine for approximately $500.

    This was his first business endeavour which he started and sold.

    READ: Tesla investor sues Elon Musk for causing problems with his tweets

    ZIP 2 ($340m)

    After the sale of Blastar for $500, Elon Musk and his brother Kimbal took a $28,000 seed money from their dad and started another internet venture, Zip 2. They rented an office and slept in it because they couldn’t afford a house.

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    Zip 2 was a web software startup that created online city guides for newspapers. The software was patronized by the New York Times and other notable media companies.
    Elon Musk and his brother Kimbal sold Zip 2 to PC giants Compaq for $340m. The year was 1999 and Elon Musk was 28 years old.

    READ: Reinvestment: The powerful strategy used by the 2 richest men in the world

    X.com/PayPal ($1.5bn)

    Elon Musk continued on his journey of starting companies and selling them. He took $10m out of his earnings from the Zip 2 deal and joined the internet boom.

    He founded x.com an online platform he envisioned to be the future of internet banking. In 2000 X.com merged with a Fintech startup, Confinity, founded by Peter Thiel, another would-be billionaire. Both companies combined to become what we know as PayPal today. Elon musk was named CEO of PayPal and had the highest number of shares in the company.
    In 2002 PayPal was acquired by eBay for a whopping $1.5bn.

    READ: Elon Musk gains $25 billion in a day, as Tesla surges by 20%

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    What you should know

    Elon Musk has often stressed the need to be consistent and have strong work ethics. In a graduation ceremony by the USC Marshall School Of Business, Elon Musk shared his opinion on work ethics according to CNBC.

    You need to work super-hard. Work hard every waking hour,” Musk said in 2014.

    “If you do the simple math, and say if somebody else is working 50 hours [a week] and you’re working 100, you’ll get twice [as much] done in the course of a year as the other company.”

    We hope this Monday article will inspire you to work harder and strive to get more work done in record time.

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    Corporate deals

    DEAL: Nigerian fintech software provider, Appzone raises $10m to scale its products and services

    Appzone platforms are used by 18 commercial banks and over 450 microfinance banks in Africa.

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    Appzone a fintech software provider that builds proprietary solutions for financial institutions and their banking and payments services announced that it has closed $10 million in Series A investment.

    The Series A round was led by CardinalStone Capital Advisers, a Lagos-based investment firm. Other investors include V8 Capital, Constant Capital, and Itanna Capital Ventures. New York-based but Africa-focused firm Lateral Investment Partners also participated.

    Founded in 2008 by Emeka Emetarom, Obi Emetarom, and Wale Onawunmi, Appzone functions as an enabler (at payment rails and the core infrastructure) within banking and payments.

    READ: Shola Akinlade: The inspiration behind Paystack’s success

    Appzone platforms are used by 18 commercial banks and over 450 microfinance banks in Africa. Together, they amass a yearly transaction value and yearly loan disbursement of $2 billion and $300million.

    Before now, Appzone closed a $2 million deal from South African Business Connexion (BCX) in 2014. Four years later, it raised $2.5 million in convertible debt and bought back shares from BCX in the process. But overall, the company says it has raised $15 million in equity funding.

    This new funding will be used to scale its products and services and expand across more African countries. The startup also plans to achieve scale by growing its engineering team.

    READ: From Chemist to Bank CEO – The Story of Uzoma Dozie

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    What they are saying

    Yomi Jemibewon, the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Cardinal Stone Capital Advisers, said the firm’s investment in Appzone is further proof of Africa’s potential as the future hub of world-class technology.

    READ: Bill Gates holds far more cash than Nigeria’s foreign reserve

    Appzone is building a disruptive fintech ecosystem that will be the backbone of Africa’s finance industry with products across payments, infrastructure, and software as a service. The impact of Appzone’s work is multifold — the company’s products deepen financial inclusion across the continent whilst providing best-fit and low-cost solutions to financial institutions. Its emphasis on premium talent also helps stem brain drain, rewarding Africa’s best brains with best-in-class employment opportunities.”

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