A Nigerian social entrepreneur has come up with a novel solution to school closures amid the pandemic. He is bringing the classroom to hundreds of underprivileged students with a brand-new virtual learning program.
Otto Orondaam, founder of the volunteer-run Slum2School Africa, has so far connected 948 students to his remote-learning program, and he's aiming for the stars; he hopes to reach 10,000.
"About three months ago we saw that thousands of our kids in secondary and primary schools across slums and underserved communities weren’t learning," Orondaam told Nigeria's Technext in July, "and many were being engaged in various abusive activities."
He described launching Slum2School's first virtual learning classroom, as well as delivering digital tablets and laptops to thousands of students, as a "very audacious decision." Yet, Orondaam was successful. His program has been reaching remote communities across Africa since the summer.
The entrepreneur took to Facebook on July 14 to announce his first recruits, posting, "Impossible is Nothing when we Work Together."
Slum2School's Virtual Learning Studio and Classroom invites all participant students to log in at the same time to join live class sessions with peers, teachers, and trainers. The platform is more intimate than solitary remote learning, Orondaam reflected, it can facilitate blended and hybrid learning, and it is affordable.
Orondaam's innovative solution to widespread school closures was born around the same time as Nigerian Minister of Education Adamu Adamu announced that secondary schools under the control of the federal government would not be reopening for their West African Senior School Certificate (WAEC) examinations.
Top presidential aide Tolu Ogunlesi relayed the announcement via a thread of tweets on July 8, posting, in part, "WAEC should suspend exams, and urges State Govts to toe FG line."
While school closure orders were respected countrywide, the knock-on effect upon students was manifold. Shortly after the launch of Slum2School's virtual classroom, student Kannou Robert came forward with a testimonial.
"I tried to learn by myself but I felt lonely and alone," Robert explained. "I was so excited when some of our mentors at Slum2School sent us food items and informed us that even though schools were shut down, we were going to be able to learn.
"This made me happy," he continued. "[W]e were given electronic laptops and tablets, headsets, and provided with the tools needed to continue learning digitally."
Robert remains concerned, however, that many of his peers have lost hope of reclaiming their education. The continuation of Orondaam's program relies upon donations, but the entrepreneur believes that the cause is of undeniable importance.
"At Slum2School, we believe that the future of education is digital," Orondaam explained to Technext, "and every child deserves to have access to the best of educational tools to learn and succeed in the 21st century, regardless of their social and economic background."
On Oct. 5, Orondaam was named amongst the Global 100: Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) for his humanitarian work, and was nominated to give the Class of 2020 Valedictory Speech beside Dahlia Ducreay from the Commonwealth of Dominica.