CEO of 9jacodekids Academy, Ugochukwu Nkwocha, says outsiders may steal Nigerian jobs through high-tech, but shows way to stop it, in this exclusive interview with IGNATIUS CHUKWU
Q: What does 9jacodekids Academy do?
We teach children between ages four and 16 everything about Coding, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and 21st-century Tech Skills in general that have relevance to their future. The world is now run on technology and software.
Q:Schools are not teaching this, so, should it have been normal to have this in school curriculum?
In 2014, schools in countries like the USA, and the UK started teaching coding in schools for young pupils of about five years. Some schools in the USA now make it a compulsory subject just like English and Maths. They have made it such that, you must have a minimum of credit in coding and computer science before you are allowed to graduate secondary school. In Nigeria, it should be incorporated into the school curriculum but unfortunately, it is not.
So we as a tech firm have come in to fill the gap. Many parents know about this need because they travel abroad and see it. They wonder whether they must have to send their little children abroad just for this critical knowledge. They want to see it done in Nigeria as they see other students their children’s age build games, mobile apps, robots, and websites. Now, they can have that same opportunity with 9jacodekids.
Nigerian schools teach computer classes, is what you teach different from what the schools already teach?
Yes, Nigerian schools only teach elementary computer, what we call Computer Appreciation. They try to teach them basics such as; what is a computer, how to turn it on, the parts of a computer, etc. While these are important, they are too elementary. My own six-year-old daughters already knew these elementary things without learning them in a classroom. Kids already tinker with computers at home and learn the basics without going to school. At 9jacodekids Academy, we are going beyond the basics of what is a computer. We now teach the fundamentals of computer science that will equip kids to create their own technology rather than being just consumers.
Q: So, you mean Nigerian system is not meeting up in ICT in schools; that we are simply not there?
Nigeria is just not there. As a country, we are moving backward rather. Nigeria needs to do something about it. Other countries are moving ahead but we seem to be moving rather backward.
Soon, they will take over our jobs here. The world is a global village now. Children from those countries with such skills will take jobs from Nigeria and sit in their homes over there and do it.
Q: Do you foresee a kind of dichotomy soon in Nigeria between those that have these coding skills and those that don’t have them? Will there be an academic dichotomy in Nigeria between such skilled persons and ordinary educated persons?
Yes, there will be a split. The gap is huge and many do not have access to this critical and sensitive skill. There will be more kids that won’t be able to pay to learn this. Even if you offer to teach them free, they do not have laptops, robots, internet, etc, to even join the classes and learn.
There is the issue of who will have to pay to provide these tools for them to learn. That is why we seek grants and partnerships with NGOs to move into the public education space and provide this service. We have plans to bridge that gap. It requires computers, gadgets, etc. Tech is expensive.
Q: Coming down to earth, what do you teach here?
At 9jacodekids Academy, we teach Coding, App Development, Robotics, Website Design, etc. We run on weekends and on holidays. We have in-person classes and online classes. We have many students from countries abroad; we have them from the US, UK, etc.
Q: What is the duration of courses here?
We have a progressive curriculum; Tech is very vast. There is always something new to teach, to update.
It has entry, but no exit time. You can be with us for four years, still you have more to learn.
However, there is completion of courses. There are different stages. You have some for two weeks, one month, eight weeks, etc.
Q: How are the students/pupils coping and responding?
They are doing great; they are excited. It’s rather the parents that have doubts. The kids are already addicted to phones and games. When we teach them, they are happy because we latch on to what they like to do already.
Now, they build Apps, they create games that their friends can play. They boast about what they did. Two of our students have been featured on BBC. One built a store-keeper App that helps keep stock of inventory in his mom’s cake shop. The other built a robot that folds clothes. They have won global attention.
When classes are over, the children don’t want to go home. At home, they stay on their laptops for hours trying to do their assignments. Parents are amazed that there could something that can take their kids away from television, games, etc. Parents have come with testimonies of how their kids thinking abilities, and also their academics have improved.
Q: What about concerns about safety for kids out there in the online world?
Yes, parents are concerned about their kids safety online but there are a lot of parental control software that can be used to enhance security of kids online.
Q: When did you start?
We started operation in March 2016. We have taught over 5000 kids around the world. We also partnered with the Rivers State government in 2019 to train over 1000 primary school kids in coding.
Our plan is to open more branches starting from Lagos.
We just raised funds from an investor to expand. A few from months now, we will launch in Lagos, then thereafter Abuja and Enugu.
“Giving your child tech skills in the 21st century is not a luxury or just a nice thing to do. It’s critical and essential to their success in a world dominated by computers, software, AI (artificial intelligence) and robots”– CEO/Ugochukwu Nkwocha