In a visionary quest to revolutionise education and empower the next generation, Oladapo Akande, the helmsman at EduTimes Africa, shares his compelling journey and mission.
With a passion for imparting knowledge and a commitment to addressing the challenges plaguing the education sector, Akande discusses the inception of EduTimes Africa and its unique approach to fostering educational development.
Join us as we delve into Akande’s profound vision for transforming learning and creating a lasting impact on the educational landscape.
Who is Oladapo Akande?
Oladapo Oritsemeyiwa Akande is a proud Nigerian of both Yoruba and Itshekiri heritage. My mum was Itshekiri and a big-time textile trader in her time, travelling to the Netherlands often to submit her own designs for the Dutch Wax that she specialised in. I spent about 20 years of my life in the United Kingdom, where I did 90% of my schooling, from primary through tertiary. I attended St Mary’s College, Twickenham, now St Mary’s University, the alma mater of the famous British long-distance runner, Mo Farah. Back then, we were awarded University of Surrey degrees. Academics wasn’t really my thing at school, as I was far more interested in playing sports. I played rugby and cricket for my boarding school, and I went further in rugby by playing for my county, Oxfordshire, too. I once held the Oxfordshire long jump record at the under-16 level and also came in 4th nationally. I have several siblings on both my father’s and mother’s sides, as both of my parents lost their first spouses. I lost both parents quite some time ago, and unfortunately, I have lost three of my siblings too. My loving wife and I celebrated our silver jubilee last month with our three wonderful children. My late father, Samuel Babafemi Akande, who served as Permanent Secretary in both the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, pioneered the National Youth Service Corps, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Federal Housing Authority, which created Festac. He was the permanent secretary in charge of the famous Festac 77. He served in the administrations of Generals Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, and Olusegun Obasanjo and headed the Internal Affairs Ministry as Permanent Secretary during the civil war. So, I believe that my desire to serve is in my DNA. We, his children, used to feel he never quite received the recognition he deserved, but the civilian administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo graciously erased that notion when it named a street after him in Abuja. We will forever be grateful to the former president for that. We only wish our dad knew about it, though. Daddy passed away in 2013, six years after the expiration of Obasanjo’s presidency, but we didn’t hear about this until two or three years ago. It would really have gladdened the old man’s heart, just as it does ours. The need to feel relevant and appreciated is part of what makes us human. But I think that’s enough about me and my background for now.
So tell us how EduTimes Africa came about.
Well, the journey began when Adebiyi Oke, a childhood friend, called me and said he wanted to start an education magazine. As he spoke, my mind instantly went into overdrive as I tried to recall if I had seen anything like that before. I couldn’t recall seeing such. He asked me to think about it because he would like us to do it together. He had been following my weekly column ‘Character Matters with Daps’ in one of the national dailies for years and liked what I had been doing there. So following the phone call, I remained seated for several minutes, excited by the prospect. One, because it spoke to my passion for imparting knowledge and continually striving to proffer solutions that can make our society a better place; two, because it spoke to my core strength of writing; and three, because it ticked the all-important box for me of doing something that no one else was doing but is urgently needed. Since childhood, following the crowd has never been me. Meanwhile, it had become obvious to Nigerians for decades that the education sector was in shambles. This was a unique project and a unique opportunity. My heart was racing. A few days later, we spoke again, and as God would have it, we were both in total agreement as to the type of content that we would like to put out. I told him that I would only be interested in producing a magazine that would have a wide appeal because, apart from discussing everything educational, it must also educate. No matter who you are, you must gain something useful when you turn that page.
We then agreed on a broad approach to education that would not limit itself to only academics but would encourage and promote all God-given talents and abilities, as no two children can ever be the same and no ability should be devalued. From the very beginning, we, the founders of EduTimes Africa, were in agreement that our publication would align itself with the concept of an education that produces well-rounded individuals. Educating the whole child. With that agreement, we had crossed one major hurdle. To cut the story short, we then reached out to my friend Kammonke Abam, a savvy curator of history who has been running one of Nigeria’s leading biographical documentation consulting firms, Profiles Biographies, for years and who once ran a newspaper in Cross River State. His wealth of experience in this space proved invaluable. Yes, I had written two books, both of which had been adopted as course material by one of the country’s premier private universities, but I had never put a magazine together before. Still, I had a clear idea of how I would want to do it. Its style, its content. And I wasn’t ready to be limited by the hard-and-fast rules of convention. We would do it our own way.
Tell us a little about the content of EduTimes Africa.
The first thing that I will say is that we are all passionately driven by our in-house motto, which is to produce a premium-quality, Africa-centered magazine that will inform, educate, and inspire the continent. So, one of our publication’s most popular segments is unquestionably the How Education Made Me interview, where we interview people from different walks of life whose lives are unequivocal success stories. We ask them questions about different stages of their lives, with the aim of weaving a compelling story and getting a better understanding of how they became the person and success they are today. As I said, we cast our net wide to interview people operating in diverse sectors of the economy with the aim of inspiring our readership and countering the false notion in the minds of some of our youth today that education is a scam. So we sat down to interview Mrs. Sumbo Akintola, partner and award-winning head of telecommunications and media technology at Aluko and Oyebode, widely regarded as the leading law firm in Nigeria. We enjoyed the privilege of interviewing Oba Adedokun Abolarin, founder of the famous ‘no-fee-paying’ Abolarin College in Osun State, where the number one criterion to gain admission is that the applicant must be poverty-stricken. We have interviewed others too such as the African edutainment mogul, Obi Asika, now the Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture; the award-winning Nollywood Director Dekunle (no-dash) Adejuyigbe; the New York-trained queen of bridal wear, Olakunbi Oyelese of April by Kunbi; Moses Babatope, Co-founder of FilmOne, the leading movie production company in Nigeria and arguably in Africa; Professor Segun Ajibola, the lawyer, economist, banker and academic and former President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Nigeria; Mrs Adeyoyin Adesina, the CEO of Corona Schools Trust Council; Bimpe Femi-Oyewo, the young lady who secured $12.9m worth of scholarships within four years for African students applying to school abroad and a few other worthy individuals. All attribute a significant part of their success story to their solid educational foundation. In addition, we have an interview column that falls under the policy segment. There we have interviewed the likes of veteran educationist, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, the immediate past Commissioner of Education in Lagos State; Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, the Vice Chancellor of the No.2 university in Africa, the University of Witwatersrand (SA); Dr Nader Imani, the Vice President of Global Education at Festo Didactic (Germany) and recently appointed Private Sector Advisor to the European Union; Professor Ekanem Ikpi Braide OFR, a two-time Vice-Chancellor and first female President of the Nigeria Academy of Science; Mr Christopher Uwaje, popular known as ‘The Oracle’ and celebrated as a pioneer of the ICT sector in Nigeria; Dr Genevieve Obuobi, listed among the 100 most impactful change makers
in Africa by Humanitarian Awards Global 2023: Professor Muyiwa Falaiye, the Director of African Studies at the University of Lagos, and more recently, Simi Nwogugu, CEO of Junior Achievement Africa, a member of Junior Achievement Worldwide, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 and 2023. In addition to this, we have columnists for Health Line, Mental Health, Career Counselling, Teenage Counselling, Early Years, Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Youth Perspective, and Diasporan Perspective, amongst others. Aside from these columns, we also have a section for available scholarships and a new addition, which we titled African Scholarships for Africans: Time to Look Within. We felt it was time we began to look within as Africans. There are countless scholarship offerings, including cross-border scholarships, by both African universities and numerous corporations and nonprofits, but people simply do not know about them. So we are doing our best to create awareness. As proud Africans ourselves, we see this as a win-win for all. If, by doing this, we are able to keep more of Africa’s brightest in Africa instead of jetting off to the developed countries and invariably remaining there, then this can only be good, don’t you think? We also recently appointed three highly successful individuals in their own right as our International Bureau Chiefs for the USA and Canada, Europe, and the West Africa region. So I will say that we are quite pleased with the progress we have been able to make in the relatively short time of one year.
The education sector in Nigeria is in such a sorry state. What difference do you think a magazine like yours can really make?
There is a famous saying by Edward Everett Hale that goes like this, and I believe everyone should live by this creed. The world would certainly be a better place if we all did. “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” This is what we believe we can do, and we have always believed that we can do it well. And going by how people in positions of power and authority both in government and outside government have been taking heed of our recommendations (whether the ones we made ourselves through our columnists or the ones made by our interviewees and guest writers), we know we are getting somewhere. Our voice is being heard. We are making a difference. The promotion of technical education, which we have deliberately done right from our maiden issue, and our push for society to encourage both academic and creative talent with equal measure if we truly desire socioeconomic development, have seen increased interest in these areas by governments. Someone once said that before changes can occur, people must first talk. Someone must first broach that conversation. EduTimes Africa is in the business of telling impact stories, whether this is in the area of women’s empowerment, foundations providing free education for the poor, or special education needs. An individual who thinks these issues don’t concern him is less than wise, as what affects others inevitably affects us all. The Japanese mindset of ‘disadvantage being a collective responsibility’ puts this notion so succinctly. Tell me, do you think our out-of-school numbers of over 20 million would be this high if there was provision from SS1 for those whose strength lies in their technical ability to follow a technical education pathway? Do you think the dropout rate after JSS 3 would be this high? Some of these hoodlums and area boys who terrorise us all on a daily basis could have been technical geniuses if only that option was made available to them when they were at school. One of my editor’s comment articles, aptly titled ‘If Only’ speaks to this sad issue. But it’s not too late. With the required will, something can be done. The German VDMA, in partnership with the Dangote Academy, is doing great things up there in Obajana, training world-class industrial maintenance technicians who can match their counterparts anywhere in the world. I wonder how many Nigerians know about that. Nigeria could do with many more of such.
Congratulations concerning your recently inaugurated editorial board. Who are these new members?
Thank you. Yes, we recently inaugurated our editorial board with just three members for now. Ordinarily, this is a step that we should have taken long ago, but we were very intentional in taking our time. What has always been at the top of our minds has been identifying the right individuals. Men and women who will add immense value to the publication and align effortlessly with our vision. First is Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, who hardly needs any introduction, having utterly transformed the educational sector in Lagos State during the years she spent as the Commissioner of Education in the state. I will let you in on a little secret. We had pencilled her name down almost from inception. So when we heard that she would only be serving one term as commissioner, we jumped right in there. We wasted no time in inviting her to join us because we knew that, with her formidable and impeccable track record, there would be others waiting in the wings just like we had. We were absolutely thrilled when she accepted our invitation. Mr. Femi Sunmonu may not be a household name, but he has certainly distinguished himself in the legal profession, having co-founded Femi Sunmonu & Associates in addition to doubling as the Africa Chair of Aliant Law, an international law firm with branches in 21 countries across the globe. A one-time council member of the Nigerian Bar Association, he has acted as an advisor to the federal government and to several state governments too. Our third and final member for now is a media expert who is now a highly regarded academic in the diaspora, Professor Abraham A.O. Currently, he is a DBA doctoral supervisor for Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia, Spain, while he is also a board advisor for other institutions. EduTimes Africa will certainly still invite more eminent Nigerians and non-Nigerians to join its editorial board, but we feel no compulsion to rush it.
What is your content outlook for Nigeria in 2024?
One of our many publication goals in 2024 is to increase awareness and feature more content concerning the out-of-school children problem in Nigeria. This pressing issue demands urgent attention; otherwise, it has the potential to adversely affect the future of our children and the nation as a whole. As these out-of-school children will eventually coexist with our own in society, the responsibility falls on each and every one of us to positively transform their educational experiences and reshape their narratives for the better. Working closely with our strategic partners, we look forward to proffering more concrete and workable solutions to this seemingly intractable problem and ensuring our recommendations reach the right quarters.
What is your content outlook for Africa in 2024?
As part of our 2024 economic advocacy for Africa and its people, we advocate for the domestication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in every African country. This is crucial for achieving sustained development and shared prosperity across the continent. The SDGs serve as a foundational framework for each African government to address critical areas, including poverty alleviation, food security, healthcare accessibility, quality education, gender equality, provision of clean water, maintenance of a healthy environment, promotion of affordable and clean energy solutions, fostering decent work and economic growth, advancement in the industry, innovation, improved infrastructure, reduction of inequalities, the establishment of sustainable cities and communities, promotion of responsible consumption and production, commitment to climate action for life below water and on land, the establishment of lasting peace, justice, and strong institutions through collaborative efforts that will help to achieve all these goals.
What needs to happen before you can say that EduTimes Africa has been successful in its mission?
I love the quote by Marcel Proust, which says, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”. So we will need to start thinking differently if we’re going to have any chance of solving many of our society’s and global challenges. We must begin to see things differently. The modern-day explorer is the person who employs creative thinking to produce new solutions. With the looming catastrophe that global warming portends and the scourge of diseases that we do not yet have cures for, amongst many other issues that still defy solutions, the world needs new thinking. Look at our nation, Nigeria, which is faced with a myriad of problems. Without creative, out-of-the-box thinking, it is going nowhere. We need solution providers. It would gladden our hearts if, through the little advocacy EduTimes Africa is doing, our school curriculum and even knowledge assessment methods began to lay more emphasis on the ability to understand, the ability to think, and the ability to innovate so as to provide solutions. More so than the ability to simply regurgitate what one has memorised. That is not what our nation or the world needs now. This may explain why, though in Nigeria, 90% of teachers have never heard of dyslexia Not to mention knowing how to accommodate the challenges of dyslexics in the classroom, in many advanced societies, dyslexic thinking is now regarded as a plus, with employers favouring those who have it. It is now seen as an asset because of its uncanny ability to solve problems. A disproportionate number of household names in the business world are dyslexic because business is about one thing: solving problems. Albert Einstein, a standout icon in world history, gave this profound advice. Stop viewing your challenge as a crisis, but rather see it as a puzzle. Why? When you think of it as a puzzle, you are more likely to think of a fresh approach to solving it.
Looking to the immediate future, we have several things in the pipeline. There are several prospective partnerships and collaborations that we are quite excited about. We have a couple of multilateral organisations with whom we are likely to conclude partnership agreements within the next month or so. We hope to do the same with the academy of a global IT giant with whom we are already in discussions. We’re also in talks with a private sector-driven organisation widely seen as the country’s leading think tank. Meanwhile, within this year, we have already secured a number of partnerships and collaborations with the likes of Junior Achievement Africa, The Fintech Association of Nigeria, Wowbii Interactive, ALTS Education, MHF Medical (UK), Babcock University, The Omniverse (a new project to be launched in February), convened by Obi Asika, and in partnership with ISN Hub, among many others. But in all, at EduTimes Africa, we have one singular ambition, and it’s this. To play a significant role in bringing down the horrendous out-of-school numbers not just in Nigeria, where they are by far at their highest, but in Africa as a whole. Yes, this may sound a little cliché as we hear it everywhere now, but still, it’s a cliché we like, and it’s this. No child should be left behind.