T HE exploits of a young Nigerian and computer science graduate, Moyinoluwa Adeyemi, who reportedly built a special android watch that tells time in Yoruba, shows that Nigerian youths can excel given the right climate. Moyinoluwa, a graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, is a software developer and Google expert. The significance of her achievement lies not only in the invention per se but more importantly in the deployment of one of the country’s major languages to make important contributions to the array of products and services of her employer, Swifta Systems, and she has by so doing reinforced the use of the language in the limitless world of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Perhaps, Moyinoluwa’s innovation may not be considered as fundamentally great in that it is modelled on the android platform, but the salutary effects of its deepening of the use of the Yoruba language cannot be quantified. The seemingly little piece of invention has eloquently demonstrated that technology should not be a hindrance to cultural awareness. Indeed, technology should be a potent vehicle for the dissemination and spread of cultural values among different peoples of the world. And that in a sense makes the deepening of the use of local languages indispensable.
It is gratifying to note that a product of a Nigerian university has been able to distinguish herself and prove her mettle within the environment of a world class organisation despite the known inadequacies of the country’s educational system in the area of pragmatic academic preparation for the world of work. It has further shown, like in many other salutary instances where Nigerian youths have demonstrated exceptional resourcefulness within and especially outside the country, that the real issue militating against technological and economic progress is not the people but the defective system that tends to circumscribe the translation of their intellectual capabilities into development-driven endeavours. For instance, given the well known and outstanding exploits of some Nigerians in the country and abroad in the field of ICT, the country should be a technological hub on the African continent not in terms of importation and distribution of ICT products and services but in terms of real local production with substantial value additions by local experts. But the purposeful official intervention that could have brought this into fruition has been lacking.
Again, if the lofty ideal is achieved, it can only be sustained if the average Nigerian tertiary institution graduate has been adequately prepared in such a way that his/her potential is unlocked and waiting to be unleashed on the work environment by way of useful innovations and inventions in his/her field of study. It is most likely that the work place contributed more significantly to Moyinoluwa’s drive for inventiveness than did the university system, but how many graduates will be fortunate enough to be employed by world class organisations?
Indeed, how many graduates working in good companies possess the extra drive to interrogate the status quo without being equipped with sound academic preparation deliberately designed to do so? The point we are making is that there is a need for a paradigm shift in the country’s education system, including school curricula and classroom instructions, because it is geared towards producing white-collar-job-seeking, instead of problem-solving, graduates. For example, the problem of limitation in the use of android watch by potential users who are only literate in Yoruba language has been solved by the invention under reference. That should be the essence of education: to provide solutions to problems. And naturally, where solutions are provided, there is always money to be made. This is by no means limited to the field of ICT: all that is required is to ensure that impartation of knowledge in all fields of study is designed in such a manner that makes graduates problem-solvers, be they entrepreneurs or employees in big organisations. In this regard, the introduction of entrepreneurship courses by many tertiary institutions in the country is good and should serve the purpose of exposing students to the business side of their courses of study, but it is not a replacement for acquisition of technical and problem-solving skills from their core fields of study.
Perhaps the acquisition of these skills with a tinge of indigenous languages may prove helpful. In other words, the adoption of local languages as media of instruction in the classrooms may be considered side by side with English where practicable. The addition of indigenous languages to English for the purpose of teaching in schools has the potential to broaden the horizon of students and the versatility of their expression. There is a sense in which the knowledge of two or more languages by a user tends places him or her at a vantage position in society. And where it is impracticable to adopt local languages to teach, parents should not fail to ensure that their children and wards have a working knowledge of their indigenous languages. Certainly, Moyinoluwa did not receive computer science instructions in Yoruba at the Obafemi Awolowo University, but she understands the language and was able to use that knowledge to solve a problem. We commend Moyinoluwa Adeyemi for her invention and recommend her for emulation by other Nigerian youths.