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Titi Adewusi is Vice President, Global Business Development and co-founder of 9ijakids. The App- based platform for education in academic, business and financial knowledge and more importantly values learning weaved in fun games for children was introduced by three sisters, all engineers, a year ago. In this interview, Titi told Daniel Obi that their intention is to build generation of children who become successful in business at same time become great citizens with right values using games as a tool to help children develop an entrepreneurial mind-set, teach them the values that make them upright. The App which contains many games makes learning in financial literacy, business, understanding Nigeria better and other areas fun. What we are doing is to utilise technology to make learning exciting and entertaining for our children. Excerpts
Could you tell us more about 9ijakids concept which is focused on children?
We saw the need to promote education, values and Nigerian brand. We found out that among families, children and Nigerian youth, there is disdain for anything Nigeria. Unfortunately, things about Nigeria that get on the public space are about corruption and scam. We decided to build a platform to promote Nigeria among children. We thought of coming up with puzzle books, but we changed our mind on the realisation that children these days are not much into reading but on the tablet. These days, parents are struggling their phones with their children. Based on this information, we came up with games to pass across the same message but in a fun way. Take for instance, the game of Monopoly allows people to remember the streets in London even before individuals visited the city. This created traction for London. Also individuals build literacy skills playing Scrabble. This means that through playing a game, individuals can learn something. We are also developing destination Lagos and Pan- Nigeria destintions and other concepts. This is exactly the concept of 9ijakids platform. This is to teach children something using the means they enjoy, which are games. Now that technology is the driving force, we decided to make it an App.
What exactly do the children learn through the App?
It is not just for academics. For us, it is not just Mathematics, English, Sciences and so on which is though good but we feel that there are other things that should form the foundation for every child. To us, the first are values, teaching about honesty, integrity and mostly the Nigerian identity. Some people really say unpleasant things about Nigeria, which is one side of the story, but we as a nation can actually push our second narrative. This is what the game does. Nigeria is not all about corruption. Secondly with the way the World is, it is also important for Nigerian children to inculcate financial literacy. This includes value of money, savings and revenue etc. The App which contains many games makes learning in financial literacy, business and other areas fun. What we are doing is to utilise technology to make learning exciting and entertaining for our children. We are teaching our children values that are Nigerian while pushing for excellence but in a fun way that they will enjoy doing.
Are you saying that it is only App based learning for children?
It is an App-based learning platform. Once there is a smart gadget, the App can be downloaded and the children can play it. It is one App that has different bundles of games and values. It depends on what you want your child to focus on. For instance, there are games on entrepreneurship, financial literacy, democracy and football etc. In playing the game, the child gets points to determine his/her level of knowledge. Do you imagine that when you tell your child to read his/her book, the child begins to form excuses but when you tell him/her to come and play a game, the child jumps at it. There is also citizenship game that tells a child all about citizenship, talking about longest river, when Nigeria got its independence, national symbol, many personalities in Nigerian history and meaning of National flag and many more. We have to build pride in Nigerian children concerning the nation. We should not have a check-out mentality. People can still check-out, that is fine but if you don’t make them proud of who they are now, there is nothing tying them back home. One thing is that no matter what you hear about Nigeria, some people are excelling in the country. Interestingly, there are other things we should be proud of about Nigeria. The country really has a lot of positive firsts. Some people will argue that all those firsts are history but we need that narrative to propel us. My hope is one day; Nigeria will be a force to reckon with. At the grassroots, there is a negative mind-set that is prevalent and this is constantly passed on to generations but we can change the narrative with our children by telling them the sunny side of Nigeria and good name is better than riches.
Are there other areas of study for the children?
What we have done is to take school curriculum and put it into learning game App for children. Apart from the academics, we have other things which are values and skills such as financial literacy, business, democracy and sports all designed in a fun way for children taking into consideration the Nigerian culture. For instance, when we teach music through the game, we are not teaching only with Piano and with French or English instruments but we will add indigenous instruments. To us, whatever the children are learning, we make it fun for easy understanding. We want our Nigerian children to know more about Nigerian history. Foreign countries guard their narrative and tell you what you want to hear and our children buy into it, deepen their knowledge about foreign events than Nigerian events. Our passion with 9ijakids therefore is to begin to create a different narrative about Nigeria by involving the children through the App. In Nigeria there are potentials, that is why multinationals are bent on coming to Nigeria but Nigerians never appreciated what they have.
For how long has the project being in existence?
Just over a year.
This is a wonderful concept that keys into enhancing learning and promoting Nigerian values. But are you involved in partnerships to further the concept?
When we started, Nigerians were occupied with 2019 elections and now the elections are over, we will take it up from here. For me, this is what I really desire, that is, to push Nigerian positive narrative forward by catching the children through games. One area government needs to held in advancing education is access to technology. Whenever we go to schools with systems, children show great interest in playing the games as they want to have high scores in the game. This enhances their learning. Children are enthused with technology as they navigate through mobile handsets easily. Our desire is to advance this skill and employ it to teach them values and academics.
Is the App locally developed and what is the cost of download?
All we do, we do locally. We have a team that conceptualises the whole games and develops them. Downloading the App is free. It comes with some free packages but other packages come at a cost as low as N3,000. My hope is that the more funding we get, we will likely drop fees so that many children and families can access it. In the modern day, technology has to be a regular part of a child
The game appears to be an elitist one for particular children, as only the wealthy children can afford smart devices, do you agree?
This is where we need support to make all children or most children have access to smart devices for learning. The elitist children don’t really do well in the game than common man children. The common man children have hunger to know more and they don’t give up. Therefore the common man children need access to devices and this behoves on the leaders to introduce technology to education as technology has become significant in today’s life. Companies can partner with schools and government to introduce technology in schools for children use.
Tough environment is a big challenge in allowing youth achieve their dream learnt through such platforms like 9ijakid App, what is your take?
What I have realised is that there are some people and organisations that help the youth in the practical aspect. I met a woman who helps public schools manage vocational studies. I agree that the practical aspect is important. There is not much white collar jobs, so it is important that at secondary school level, students are exposed to entrepreneurial skills and vocations and financial literacy.
Talking about partnership, would you accept partnering with banks to advance their products?
It is about pushing education on how to save and invest and teaching financial literacy than promoting specific bank products. If we want Nigeria to be the next China, Dubai, it involves a conscious effort on the education. Education is also mind-set. In Nigeria, we have the resources, the brain to make it happen. Therefore how do we cultivate that mind-set, it is to believe in Nigeria that it is possible here with integrity and values.
For one year of the concept, what have been the challenges?
Some Nigerians are still doubtful what the concept is all about. Ordinarily Nigerians have condensing attitude of things made in Nigeria. Another challenge is funding but when prices of tablets come down, many Nigerians will key into it for learning.