OSOGBO, NIGERIA: Sodiq Adegboye, 21, the oldest child of a middle-class family in Osogbo had always dreamed of being an undergraduate, having everything he wanted, and experiencing the freedom that came with being away from home and not being continuously watched.
When he was eventually granted admission to Fountain University in 2020 to study medical laboratory science, he assumed that he would be able to use high-end technology, dress nicely, and finally travel the world.
But, his 100-level days didn’t go as planned. He had a difficult first year because his monthly allowance from home hardly covered his expenses for the entire month.
Adeboye, after the end of session exams in 100-level, went back home stressed and disappointed at the quality of life he had lived in his first year. He thought hard and spoke to anyone that cared to listen about how his financial situation could be improved to live the undergraduate life he had imagined and this resulted in many sleepless nights.
“I needed to work to earn more money to complement the monthly allowance I get from home. I needed to get a skill that would earn me money as a student—a skill that won’t affect my academics” Adebayo told The SolutionsPaper.
The pressure became worse whenever he thought of the many youths that roamed the streets jobless. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment during his March Ministerial briefing had said the 2015 and 2020 recessions have brought about a fourfold increase in unemployment since 2015.
According to 2021 data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics website, 33.3% of youths in Nigeria are unemployed and 21% of youths are under-employed. The World Bank Development Report in 2021 also shows that over 50 percent of Nigerians do not have digital skills.
The bootcamp that changed everything
In September 2022, Adeboye discovered an e-flier promoting a graphics design bootcamp hosted by AAF Academy on the WhatsApp status of Afolabi Faisol during one of his restless nights. Afolabi was “a fresher” in a separate department, just like Adeboye.
They always converge at the mosque to pray and Adebayo had observed him on multiple occasions creating flyers and posters on his laptop. Some of them were used online, while others were brought to life on flex banners by the university’s mosque organisation.
When he came across the bootcamp flier, Adeboye messaged Faisol with reluctance to find out if he could arrange personal sessions when he buys a laptop. The discussion that ensued corrected the notion that a high-specification laptop was needed to do graphics design.
“Immediately after our conversation I registered for the bootcamp and I took the classes diligently,” Adeboye said. “The classes were delivered via WhatsApp and we were given practical assignments to submit after each class,” he added.
Adeboye got his first job while the bootcamp was ongoing. He was given an assignment and he used his friend’s business flyer for the assignment. He redesigned the flyer and his friend posted it on her WhatsApp status where someone on her contact list saw the design and asked for his contact information. The person wanted him to help design the same thing and he was paid N7,000 ($15.19) for the project.
Subsequent projects have had Adeboye charging less, the least being N3,000 ($6.47). The kind of relationship he has with a specific client and the kind of design might also influence his rates.
Even with his busy schedule and truckload of school activities which hinders him from working with some clients, Adeboye said he has had more than 10 clients this year.
50-years-old Mary Mogaji who took part in AAF Academy’s 2021 bootcamp was already working as a confidential secretary at the Ministry of Service Matters, Osun State.
Her role required her to have the graphics design knowledge to produce letter-headed papers and logo designs. She was on the verge of paying for a physical class that she would be attending when she stumbled on AAF Academy’s bootcamp flyer on her brother’s WhatsApp status.
Mogaji, initially found it difficult to cope with the classes as it was usually after a long day at work. There were times when she wanted to quit but managed to consistently attend classes and turn in assignments. She was able to learn the rudiments within one month and further develop her graphics design skills.
“I get compliments for my designs and most of my colleagues ask me on several occasions where I learnt graphics design from. I can confidently call myself a graphics designer now and in a bid to learn more, I have applied for the upcoming training”, Mogaji told The SolutionsPaper.
How the WhatApp Bootcamp Works
Faisol was only 19 when he got the idea to start the Afolabi Abdulakeem Faisol (AAF) Academy on 02 March 2021 to teach people how to make graphics design and edit videos via mobile phones and earn money.
Afolabi told The SolutionsPaper that he had doubts in his mind when he decided to start AAF and it was difficult to get students. He however utilised his WhatsApp to gain visibility by consistently creating graphic flyers and videos advertising the training to his WhatsApp contacts.
The first bootcamp AAF hosted in May 2021 had 500 participants and lasted for 5 days. The success of the first bootcamp encouraged him to organise two more bootcamps in 2021 which had 1000 participants each and both lasted for a month.
Participants register for the bootcamp using a Google form and get a personalised identification number which secures them access to the class.
They are then added to a WhatsApp group where Afolabi introduces them to the basic principles of design and video editing through recorded videos, text, pictures, and illustrations.
The recorded videos contain practicals on how to use mobile phone apps such as Pixelab, Legend, and InShot for graphics design and video editing. At the end of each boot camp, participants are required to take an online examination but only those who pay N1,500 ($3.24) are issued a certificate.
The academy has held 7 bootcamps since 2021 and taught more than four thousand people across twelve countries including Zimbabwe, Ghana, Qatar, Malawi, Liberia, Pakistan, and specifically over 3500 people in Nigeria.
“The academy started with just these two courses (graphics design and video editing) but with the help of a few friends, AAF Academy has expanded its curriculum to now teach marketing video creation, link generation, Facebook ads , social media marketing, 2D animation, and graphics,” Afolabi told The SolutionsPaper, “and the only tool that is required is a smartphone”.
Afolabi juggles the trainings with his undergraduate studies. Oftentimes he organises the bootcamps during his session breaks when the school is on holiday. Recently, he was required to go on a compulsory SIWES training during the last holiday.
Although the academy now has other tutors who volunteer, Afolabi noted that he still has to consider their schedule when planning boot camps. Finding a time that is convenient for all the parties involved has been difficult.
“To have a value-packed bootcamp like the last one, we need all the tutors who taught in the last bootcamp available. We, therefore have to fix a period when they have time. Most of the other tutors are freelancers and students simultaneously hence, they have a lot of work on their table so the board has to sit down and plan the best time and way to go about the training.” Afolabi said.
Also, separating the wheat from the chaff can be quite tasking in an online class as various people apply for classes they are not willing or able to attend.
“Some people would join the group and won’t participate,” Afolabi lamented.
This is why participants are required to do an online examination for a certificate at the end of each bootcamp as it helps to track the percentage of those who complete the training.
Afolabi says he also has to deal with unruly people who flaunt the rules of the WhatsApp group by spamming the group with unrelated advertorials. He is forced to remove them from the group.
The drop in rate is still high but Afolabi is not discouraged. He added that AAF has plans to launch a digital learning platform in the coming months to allow anyone across the world to learn different graphic designing skills using their smartphone.
Lead editor: Precious Ewuji
Video editor: Prince Ola
I am Fatimah Bashir, a final year student of Fountain University. I am a passionate freelance writer and campus journalist. I am interested in solutions journalism and human-angle stories.