Olatunde Olatunji, ’13, grew up in Nigeria but came with his family to the United States for a better education. Grateful for the opportunities he received, he wanted to find a way to bring the same experiences to people in his homeland. “Very few people from Nigeria get the chance to come to school here in the States. I felt I owed it to the people of Nigeria to try and do something to help them,” he says.
Early in fall 2012, Olatunji approached two classmates, Keefer Taylor, ’13, and Zach Correa, ’13, with the idea of starting a school. Both were interested in getting involved, and the trio decided to begin in the town of Ilesa, outside of Lagos, where Olatunji’s father grew up. “My dad said he had visited his old school recently and that it looks exactly the same as it did when he was a student. There’s been no change, no development, so he and I both thought we should try and help them,” Olatunji says.
Olatunji, Taylor, and Correa traveled to Nigeria during fall break in 2012 to assess the needs of the area and how best they could help. For Taylor and Correa, who had not previously been to Africa, the journey was eye opening on many fronts. “A lot of things we take for granted, such as running water and having electricity throughout the day, are things they just don’t have right off the bat,” Correa says. “But what spoke to me was how welcoming the people were; it wasn’t something I expected.”
The biggest revelation came when the three began to understand the complexities of their proposed project. “As we approached people about potentially funding a school, they said ‘I don’t think you realize how much work an entire school is,’” Olatunji says.
Conversations with young Nigerian students, however, revealed a different—and more manageable—need. “Out of the large number of students we met, few of them had even heard of the Internet or used a computer,” Taylor says. The three knew that they could have an impact by developing a curriculum to teach computer literacy.
They named their venture the Computer Outreach School of Nigeria, and their first partner school is the Ilesa Grammar School — the same school Olatunji’s father attended as a child. The school will provide classroom space, and Olatunji, Taylor, and Correa will develop a curriculum aimed at building computer literacy in students aged 10 to 16, as well supply equipment for the space.
The three have solicited enough equipment and financial donations from friends and business connections to begin the school this summer, and they plan to travel to Nigeria in July. “We’re going to teach some of the classes ourselves, and train Nigerian teachers so that after we leave, they can continue the curriculum we’ve put in place,” Correa says.
They plan to start with basics like typing and web browsing, and hope to eventually train students to record and edit their own videos, based on a personal request from the Nigerian students. “The students approached me and asked me if they would be to learn edit video, and put videos together,” Correa says. “I’d love to show them how to use a video camera, record a video, edit it, and go through that whole process.”
They also will spend time figuring out what resources they will need to sustain the school in the long term so that they can properly fundraise for their organization.
“We see it expanding to other cities in Nigeria, or even into other countries, once we get a sustainable model going,” Taylor says. “We want to develop a framework that others can use to create and sustain a school elsewhere.”
Photo: Keefer Taylor visits with students at Ilesa Grammar School in Ilesa, Nigeria.