Is this the arrival of the African Child? – Gbenga Olorunpomi @GbengaGOLD

Imagine a world where the African Child finally grasps and plays his role as a part of the global village. Think of a time when the Negro Adolescent feels at par and even beyond his European, American and Asian contemporaries. Close your eyes and visualize Ade, Bala and Emeka having no fear when discussing global issues, charting and implementing a new course for a better planet while their fairer-skinned friends play catch up.

While you are still dreaming of that time, note this: the Osun State Government has been there, done that and are now about to live the dream. On Monday, June 3rd, the proud people of Osun will witness the Unveiling of Opon Imo; the tool I choose to call The Equalizer. I choose to name it so because I believe this device will equate the black child to the white one. They have had their iPhones and Blackberries for a while now; the children of Osun have now got their Opon Imo.

On that day, the world will join the proud people of Osun to see the fruits of years of idealizing, meetings and taking big, risky decisions. That day, all will see that the time of the African Child has finally and truly arrived.

What is this Opon Imo? The Opon Imo, “Tablet of Knowledge”, is a standalone e-learning tablet that will provide the senior secondary students of Osun with the contents required to prepare them for school leaving examinations. It contains 3 major content categories; Text Books, Tutorials and Practice Questions. 150,000 of these tablets will be distributed to all senior secondary students across state schools in a move that is expected to radically democratize ‘access’ to learning, regardless of means, location or status. This means that in one fell swoop, the students will have – literally at their fingertips – access to all the books they need at all times in the most interactive and engaging way possible and they will also be learning to use tablets. And it will be FREE!

I don’t know about you but I find this tool very exciting, for many reasons.?First, the textbooks section means there will always be books available to read at all times. I understand some of the books will be available in audio formats, so the students can listen and learn new words. Second, the Tutorials Section gives the students a teacher outside the classroom. The Past Question Section speaks for itself.

For me, this trifector is perfection.

Although this is the first of its kind in Africa, Opon Imo has a great chance at massive success as it intends to illuminate the learning problem on the Black Continent using contemporary ICTs, indigenous content and taking into account our peculiarities like unreliant power supply. The technology is also a win for the coffers of the state as it is estimated that by digitalising textbooks, over N8 billion ($53 million) is being saved yearly. When you consider the number of trees that would have been otherwise cut down and used to make the textbooks for the 150,000 students who are about to begin using this tablet, you should be amazed. Also, as 100,000 of the tablets will be produced in a factory to be built in the state, with the cooperation of the project’s foreign technical partners, the problem of after-distribution mainatance and repair has been adequately taken care of. At this factory, young citizens of Osun will be trained as technicians. The job opportunities is another win.

I must say I am truly blown away by the novelty, potential and simplicity of Opon Imo, but I’m hardly surprised that the Osun State Government is taking this bold and hardly-threaded approach to solving a Pan African problem like mass literacy. This is only a small part of the ‘Government Unusual’ which Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola promised his people when he sought their votes. Within minutes of my first interaction with this maverick, I knew the people of Osun were in for a wonderful ride with him in the saddle. That was in August, 2010, when he came to deliver a speech at the inauguration ceremony of Team Ribadu in Abuja. His words were laden with passion, his eyes betrayed the uncommon courage needed to think differently and achieve the unprecedented. This is the kind of leadership Nigeria needs to unshackle herself from the chains of poverty. This is the kind of thinking that can spark change and take Africa to its Eldorado.

As I join the guests and well wishers of Osun at the Unveiling of Opon Imo, I applaud the man at the helm for being courageous and determined to do the unusual. I applaud his party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, for giving their platform to such a wonderful mind as Ogbeni Rauf. And I applaud the people of Osun for being brave and standing solidly behind their leader. Considering how excellent the governor is at his job, it would amaze you to know he is doing all this despite the fact that only two states in the entire federation get less money from the federal purse than his state.

On that Monday, I too would be dreaming of a time when Osun will be the Silicon Valley of Africa, breaking forth technologies that will place Africa firmly in the eyes of the world. I would be dreaming of a time when one of the kids using the Opon Imo would go on to become the next Steve Jobs. With a visionary leader like this, that dream may not be as far-fetched as many may think. As his opponents have learnt time and time again, betting against Ogbeni Rauf is never a good idea.

Gbenga Olorunpomi is a Digital Media Expert based in Lagos.

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