The Inyang Effiong Show

The PodCast About People and Events around Nigeria and West Africa

EP18 How to Teach Engineering Design the Modern Way

Click above to listen.

Interview with Prof. OA Fakinlede oafak.com on the best practices in teaching engineering design in Nigerian Universities and other resource-constrained countries.
In this episode, we discussed the best way to teach hard subjects so that students will gain relevant knowledge, how to leverage current technology to improve lecture delivery, design as a solution to multiple issues and what lies ahead in engineering education.
We discussed Autodesk’s Fusion 360 and why this software has revolutionize the way engineering design and modelling is being taught.

Prof. Omotayo Fakinlede is a visiting professor of Mechanical Engineering at LandMark University, Omu Aran in Kwara State of Nigeria.
With over 35 years experience, he has been at the forefront of engineering education and practice in Nigeria, both at the University and in research and support institutions.
You can reach Prof. OA Fakinlede at his website oafak.com.

Episode sponsors OutdoorsTour , providing the best holidays in Nigeria  ,

Using Nigerian Languages for Learning in Schools

On a forum of classmates from college, someone posted a video of a Professor who wants children to be taught in their native language. Some parts of the video were well thought out and she had some empirical facts to back up why such a method may be better. Listening was a big chore though as she spent a lot of time speaking in a language I do not understand. She also missed the point that some people have English as their first and only language.

I prepared a short WhatsApp type message to pass my points across but found out I needed a lot of background information sent first and ended up writing this article on my thoughts concerning language usage and cultural issues in Nigeria.

A. Yoruba people expect everyone to speak Yoruba.

The Yoruba, Ibo, and Hausas come from an Empire background. What we call Yoruba are a collection of people most of who did not even speak Yoruba or were called Yoruba until recently. What they had in common was being under a central empire with one overall culture which spread to subdue the individual cultures of the different people.
The people we call Hausas are mostly a collection of small pockets of tribes and ethnicity who use Hausa as their language for trade and administration. The Ibos never had an empire but were very close and have very similar cultures across all the city states.

What most of these hegemonies do not realise is that the people from the Delta and South Eastern Nigeria, never were under one empire and each community was almost autonomous with their language, culture, and religion. Communication with others was for trade and there was no expectation for the others to use a common language or come over to their culture.

While the Igbos will expect you to speak Ibo within Iboland, they adapt very fast to whatever culture or language they find themselves operating in, this is mainly business-driven though as traders need to understand the language and culture of their customers. This adaptation does not mean they will practice the culture or be subsumed by it though, it is purely a means of understanding and improving their business advantage.

The National Youth Service Scheme has really helped open up people to other cultures, and a combination of the Federal Government Colleges and firms with a National coverage has made people leave their comfort zone and open up to other regional cultures and way of life. You can see a big difference between people who have been part of these change agents and others who have not left their town since birth. Well, most times!

B. People from big groups do not have to mix with outsiders
The second part and key difference is that for the smaller cultures, they had to mix with people who did not understand their language and culture ON A DAILY basis.
A typical Yoruba, Ibo or Hausa state dweller, can go about life for years with absolutely no need to interact with a person of a different culture.
And that applies even today!
If you grew up in Ibadan, everyone around you spoke Yoruba, you went to a school where all the teachers spoke the same language and you and the teacher understood each other with spoken and non-spoken cues. Life was simple and everyone knew their place and what was expected of them.
If you grew up in Port Harcourt, you and your best friend in Primary School are not likely to understand each other apart from using English. You are exposed to different food, ways of greeting and absorb the fact that people are different organically.

C. Empires have critical mass
Growing up in one of the big blocks means that you observe a critical mass of people doing things ONLY ONE WAY and this colours the people’s thinking towards believing that is the only way.
One way of exchanging greetings
One way of worship
One way of marriage ceremonies
A key one is the concept of naming convention, it was a big struggle for me to understand why my friend named Biola was also Ade, hmmm, and that both were short forms of much longer names. And why people had multiple first names. Seeing as almost everyone I met had this same handicap, I accepted it and found out later why. The reverse of someone accepting my own naming convention was hilarious. Till now, I have people lecturing me on why I am wrong and that I should go home and ask the elders about our naming system. All based on them assuming all naming conventions have to be like theirs!

D. Default action is the safe choice
When faced with options, people default to what they know. Thinking about strange alternatives is tasking, and the human brain is designed to conserve energy and go for familiar choices. Actively considering other people’s opinions, culture, and choices and comparing them with yours is hard work. It is easier to default to yours as the gold standard and make others change to it!

Enough background, now, back to the video.

Prof Sophie Oluwole spoke about education in Nigeria, the importance of educating children in their mother-tongue, the real meaning of education and issues around assessing intelligence. I watched the video to the end but lost some of the key explanations where she switched into Yoruba. My original assumption was that the video was discussing Nigeria as a whole but tracing the video back to its original creator , my understanding is that it is for a Yoruba audience! I will still go ahead and discuss it in the context of Nigeria since both the producer and the Professor addressed it as if they were discussing issues relating to the whole country.

I like the concept, I support the use of our languages and really hate listening to people mixing more English into their speech that the language they are speaking. I do have a few challenges seeing how it will work.

i. How will this apply to areas that are multicultural and multilanguage?
Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Benue comes to mind. These areas have multi languages living in the same place.
What about areas in the majority belt that have other people living and schooling in that do not understand the local language?
In Singapore, children are required to learn Chinese and Malay in addition to English, so learning multiple languages is doable if you have the infrastructure to support it.

ii. Language evolution
Most of our languages stopped evolving right after being conquered. How many new words have entered your language that you have documented? How do you explain basic concepts in your local language?
Take for example the concept of time, while you can say 1130am in most of our languages, it is meaningless.

iii. Competent teachers
Being a teacher is not just being a subject matter expert. At the lower levels, Primary and Secondary School, a single teacher has to understand a wide range of subjects well enough to teach the children. A primary school teacher needs knowledge of basic reading and writing plus basic science and arts. A primary school teacher will have to explain agriculture one day and migration of animals another day.

With all these though, I remember I was taught sometimes using Efik in Primary 2 and 3 and it was a good experience, so I have first-hand experience with being taught in local languages. Improving the use of local languages and making them more robust will help us all and preserve a lot of knowledge that are hard to translate or lose a lot in poor quality mapping to the dominant English (Or French as the case may be)

But going forward, we should improve competencies in English and make use of it as a medium of instruction given our present realities. While instructions in other languages look good, the person will ultimately have to learn and use English if they are to be part of the general populace outside their core region.

If a region wants to revert to using the dominant language in that region for instructions at schools, then actually set up a system for doing this and capture non-native dwellers. And local language instructions goes beyond just using the language in school, a system for using the same language in day to day transactions is required so enable the language to evolve and adapt.

7 Common Problems in 3rd World Countries

Living in the third world comes with a set of problems you do not encounter in the developed world. Some are so baked into the psyche of the residents that they are not even thought of as problems again but as regular day to day minor inconveniences to be managed!

A visitor to a third world country will have a system shock right from when the plane lands, when crossing into the country by land – only for the brave -, and all through their stay. For both visitors and residents, we have gone ahead to list the top 7 problems in  third world countries here

Note: This was compiled from my Facebook page via a series of live videos with audience feedback used to update the list.

No. 1 Checkpoints

One thing not lacking in third world countries are checkpoints. There so many of them everywhere you go. Lining the roads are all the security agencies the country can muster, from the police to the army, customs, and some that are unique creations. I counted 12 police checks in a 100km stretch once on a road in Nigeria!

If only these checkpoints had any useful value, then we would be ok with them. The ones I know and have come across serve mainly two purposes;

a. Delay your travel

b. Extort money

custom checkpoint along Lagos Benin Road

Custom Checkpoint

This is common in all the 3rd World places I have been to, from Nigeria all the way to Senegal in West Africa, the roads are littered with checkpoints with various level of menacing gun toting uniform and non-uniform people manning them. The main difference between the English speaking and French speaking countries is the mode of collection payment, or rather the way the payment amount is arrived at.

In the English-speaking countries, there is more bargaining, to and forth and attempt to justify the shakedown. The officials even have the nerve to try and strike up a conversation after shaking you down.
The French-speaking countries are more business like, a fixed amount depending on the type of checkpoint. The money is collected openly and this is the neat part, you can get change!

Both delay equally though, you would expect the French model to be more efficient and faster, but the love of fondling documents, painstaking checks of the most minutiae, recording useless data in failing notebooks adds a whole layer of delay to the process.

The only exception I have seen is Ghana, where checkpoints are few and far between. I did meet a police checkpoint along the Aflao-Tema highway, where the policemen on duty tried collecting money from me in 2015 though.

During the easter weekend this 2017, I was kept for more than four hours at a checkpoint/police station/police cell along the Benin bypass for failing to pay up promptly. The unit commander had the nerve to blame me for not negotiating the payoff and said I was responsible for being delayed and should learn. Inspector Afolabi, I remember what you did.

What crime do you need to commit to be delayed at checkpoints and asked to pay up? If you think this question is rational, you are in the wrong place. Being on the road is a crime! or at least something you have to pay to do.

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Nigeria Railway Corporation Lagos Terminus Iddo Foundation Plaque

7 Things I learnt on my Train Trip from Lagos to Kaduna

What did I learn and what are my thoughts about train travel in Nigeria from my recent trip on the Lagos – Kano line? Here is my list of the seven things I learnt and picked up. Some are old but the journey re-confirmed them.

  1. Systems do not improve on their own. The railway system was still run down, payment was made deliberately hard, coaches were smelly and in bad condition, engines needed checks. If there is no pressure on the Nigeria Railway Corporation to change, there will be no positive change
  2. When you do not understand why chaos reigns, follow the money! Everything was made ‘last minute’, disorganised and all rush. Looking back, it was just a way to make more money for the staff and touts.  There were people joining along the route with no tickets and a whole series of coaches not good enough for passengers that were filled!
  3. The government has no business in business. Sell the NRC for 1 $ and let private industry run it!
  4. The railway system has massive upside potential, both for goods and passenger traffic. All the coaches were filled from Lagos till I dropped off at Minna. Unlock the potential and we can take things up
  5. Nigerians are adventurous and open to new ideas. In the first class section, 8 out of 10 people were travelling by train for the first time and most wanted to experience how train travel was!
  6. The Abuja – Kaduna rail line is a classic example of how not to run a business. It is heavily subsidised, overstaffed and the people enjoying the subsidies are not the lower class but people that could pay market rates for the service. The cost of the tickets cannot maintain even the waiting rooms! Charge a fair price and make it economically feasible to run. Running it like we are in a 70s era statist economy is not going to cut it.
  7. In spite of all the issues, travelling by train was great fun. I’ll gladly do it again!

 

What are your thoughts? Have you travelled by rail in Nigeria recently or plan to? Drop your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

Traveling by Train from Lagos to Kaduna pt4

The business of the weekend done in Abuja, it was time to head off to Kaduna. I had heard good things about the Abuja-Kaduna line, time to experience it myself.

The first challenge was getting information on the location of the train station, for some reason, I only made calls and never really checked it on the map. Was I groggy from 27 hours spent on the train from Lagos to Minna

I had a vague idea of the location from talking to a couple of people and I set out by 0430 to catch the train, the departure was billed for 6 am. On the road and the first taxi told me 3,000 naira, what?

I jumped and pass, then spent another 20 mins before I even got a taxi willing to head that way. Fast forward to a few minutes past 5am and we finally left from Asokoro Area for the station. Arguing fares to places you really do not know seems not to be a good idea.

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Traveling by Train from Lagos to Kaduna pt3

Step back, apart from checking out if the railway still works, I planned to be in Abuja Sunday AM! So time to review my options.

Earlier stories here Part 1 Here  Part 2 Here

Our ETA Kaduna was looking like the predicted 8pm, and the connecting train from Kaduna to Abuja  has the last departure at 6pm, that means an overnight stay in Kaduna. Time to look at options.

Postpone decision to Minna arrival, then we will have a better time of arrival at Kaduna. Meanwhile, kick back or rather, roam around and enjoy the scenery and other stuff on offer.

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Traveling by Train from Lagos to Kaduna pt2

After the military ops to board, took a look around the coach interior and it was rather nice, above expectations.

Part 1 Here  Part 3 Here

Chairs were comfy, could recline real low without disturbing the person behind you and the drop down tables in front work. Good lighting you can read by, a couple of AC 220V outlets near the middle, most in working order, overhead space to store your luggage. Hmmm, not bad at all.

 

First class couch Lagos Kano Express Train

A post shared by inyang effiong (@fendristhefeared) on

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Traveling by Train from Lagos to Kaduna pt1

Nigeria Railway Corporation Iddo Terminal

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Is the Nigeria Railway system still working? One way to find out, take a train from Iddo terminal in Lagos to Kaduna 905 km as the train travels up north. The last time I was on the train in Nigeria was in 1988, an epic 18hrs of suffering – standing between rail cars from Zaria to Ilorin under the heat, dust, cold, then rain. Things should have improved. Time to find out.

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EP 17 Oliver’s Cafe is Starting the Cafe Culture in Ibadan

Mr. ‘Wale Lawal of Oliver’s cafe talks about the Cafe origins, their focus on giving customers a place to have coffee, eat and meet and why they target the business crowd.

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RoadX Nigeria Car Racing Track Open for Racing

The RoadXNigeria Car racing track is open now at Evbuobanosa, KM32 Benin-Asaba Highway. The 2.5km long track follows the best tradition of car racing tracks worldwide and has something for every racing enthusiast. Currently setup for dirt racing, there is an active E30 (BMW 3 Series) racing event going on with weekend qualifiers and monthly shootouts.

The current leaderboard is available at http://roadxnigeria.com/roadx/lap-times/

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