To Empower Youths, this Nigerian is Teaching Digital Skills in Yorùbá

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TSP/OSOGBO, NIGERIA: On January 16th, 2023, Olasunkanmi Opeifa, a Nigerian teacher in India, had difficulty using Canva, a graphic design app. Frustrated, he went to bed but stumbled upon a Yorùbá language lecture video analysing the usage of the app on LinkedIn the next day.

“Interestingly, the work I closed that frustrated me in the night was on that same app, and I just closed it and went to bed. As I woke, it was as if God just said this is the solution to your problem, and I saw how he analysed how to work on Canva, and that was it for me,” Opeifa told The SolutionsPaper.

Digital skills have continued to be in high demand following their power for personal, organisational, and national development. These skills have also been projected as a major yardstick in the employability and effectiveness of employees.

Information and Communication Technology contributed about 18.44 percent to Nigeria’s national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2022, indicating its potential to contribute to Nigeria‘s economy with adequate investment.

A 2016 study by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) found that millions of people worldwide lack access to education in a language they speak or understand, which affects their understanding and output.

The African Union (AU), in its 2020–2030 digital transformation strategy for Africa also identified language barriers as a problem facing digital transformation in the continent. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the areas of the world where the issue is more prevalent. 

The English language, in which most digital education is being taught, is not native to Nigeria — although it is the lingua franca. Yorùbá, Hausa and Igbo are the three dominant languages in Nigeria with over 250 other indigenous ethnic languages. 

According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), youth unemployment stood at 42.5 percent, and about 133 million people living in Nigeria are dimensionally poor in 2022, which means that ordinary people willing to acquire digital skills may not be able to afford it.  

Why Yorùbá Language?

Yorùbá is one of the most popular languages in Nigeria with about 21 percent of the Nigerian population and a total of 47.3 million people worldwide speaking Yorùbá as their mother tongue.

Timi Olagunju, a lawyer and tech policy consultant, told The SolutionsPaper that passing tech knowledge in indigenous languages can enhance youth learning by making it more engaging and enjoyable.

’Using indigenous languages to teach tech skills can increase access to technology education for youth who may not speak the dominant language used in formal education. This will enable more young people to develop an interest in digital literacy and acquire technology skills that are relevant to the current job market,” Olagunju said. 

He pointed out that teaching tech skills in indigenous languages can increase the diversity of the tech industry by attracting more young people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, bringing new perspectives and ideas to the industry, and helping it better serve the needs of a global customer base. 

The video that came to Opeifa’s aid was from Olaleken Adeeko, a data analyst who is using the Yorùbá language to break the language barrier and promote digital technology skills among people of Yorùbá extraction.

Adeeko, who is also a Microsoft certified trainer, makes videos where he teaches data analysis and other digital technology skills using his native Yorùbá language as the medium of instruction. Adeeko makes these videos twice or thrice a week and posts them majorly on his Tiktok and YouTube channels, where internet users connect with him at no cost. 

Adeeko told The SoutionsPaper how on 05 September 2022, he initially planned to set up the TikTok profile for his mother to teach people about òwe and àkànlò èdè (proverbs and idiomatic expressions). She rejected the idea due to her busy schedule, triggering his decision to teach data analysis and digital skills in the Yorùbá language. He recorded the first video on the same day.

“My ultimate goal was to revolutionise the way we approach education and make it accessible to individuals from all walks of life and background. I strongly believe that using Yorùbá, my native language, as a medium of instruction can greatly enhance the learning experience and make it more enjoyable and comprehensible. I can help bridge the gap and promote inclusivity in the world of learning.”  Adeeko said. 

Emmanuel Tobiloba, a tech enthusiast who first came in contact with Adeeko’s digital literacy lectures in Yorùbá language on Facebook, told The SolutionsPaper that learning in his mother tongue makes learning easier and comprehensible, it also enables him to learn faster compared to learning in English.

“In 2021, I forayed into data analysis. I was really intentional about learning the intricacies of data analysis, the problem was with the contents I came across then, I needed someone to hold me by the hands to explain them to me. I later lost interest in learning about data analysis,” Tobiloba said. 

“So in 2022, I picked interest again and luckily for me, that was around the time Mr. Adeeko started his Yorùbá version of Anything Data. So I met him, he shared resources with me and that was where the whole journey started.”

He went on to describe how watching a two-minute video that explained data cleaning and other things in Yorùbá language helped better than numerous others in the English language he had watched. 

“Learning data analysis in Yorùbá language gives me leverage in this journey and those things would have been difficult to understand, but learning from him in Yorùbá language has made those things easy for me to understand.” He added.

Kemi Ogunsanya, another Microsoft certified educator and content creator, also explained how Adeeko’s contents have broadened her knowledge base. “I will just use three words to describe the way the contents have been. It’s enriching, it’s enlightening and it’s insightful. I love the contents Mr. Adeeko puts out, they are just straight to the point, brief, and passing across a very concrete message. Every time I watch the contents Mr. Adeeko puts out and learn from it, it’s as if he is holding my hands – step by step. It’s so explanatory and detailed.”

“I’m going to say I have gained opportunities to train and teach other educators some of the technological tips that I have learnt from Mr. Adeeko. An example of that is the use of ChatGPT.  In recent times, Mr. Adeeko has put out lots of videos about using ChatGPT for different purposes. I have learnt so much from that I have been able to share and train other educators,” she concluded. 

Tobiloba declined to disclose details but he told The SolutionsPaper he was about to strike a lucrative employment deal with a fintech company as a result of the work he has been doing based on the knowledge he acquired from Adeeko’s contents. 

Challenges Facing Yorùbá Driven Digital Literacy 

Despite recording impact, Adeeko’s initiative is beset by several challenges. The fact that his contents are produced in Yorùbá means that people who do not understand the language are by default ostracised from being beneficiaries. 

Adeeko also said that finding the right words to use for technical terms can be particularly difficult because the field of technology is constantly evolving, and there may not always be a direct equivalent for certain terms in the Yorùbá language.

“Another challenge is the time it takes to record and edit videos. It can be time-consuming to set up the recording equipment, film the video, and then go through the process of editing and fine-tuning the final product,” he said.  

We also have to deal with internet trolls, who are individuals who enjoy finding fault and causing trouble online. While these individuals are a minority, they can still be disruptive and make it difficult to focus on creating high-quality content.”  

Although Adeeko started teaching data analysis in Yorùbá for leisure, he noted that the interest from viewers has been encouraging and he aims to keep improving on it for his audience to be digitally literate in the short term and earn a living from what they are learning in the long term.

“I have received numerous messages from people saying that learning from my page has become a daily routine for them. Some have started their own side hustles using the knowledge they have gained from my page. Overall, the response has been very positive and it is gratifying to know that my content is making a positive impact on people’s lives,” Adeeko told The SolutionsPaper

Editing Credits

Editor: Chinonso Kenneth

Sub-editor: Precious Ewuji

Multimedia editor: Chinweuba Michael Tochi

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Taiwo Fatola is a freelance journalist and fact-checker. He currently studies at Osun State University. Taiwo is interested in accountability and solutions journalism. He tells his stories from a human angle.

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