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Nigerian Entrepreneur Introduces Country's First Online University

posted Apr 30, 2013, 12:25 PM by Mpelembe   [ updated Apr 30, 2013, 12:25 PM ]

Nigerian entrepreneur, Gossy Ukanwoke launched Beni American University, an online university specifically for African students. Nicknamed Nigeria's Mark Zuckerberg and at only 24, Ukanwoke is the founder of Students Circle Network, an academic social network for students, teachers and institutions that brings over 10,000 free academic resources from over 200 universities globally, and shares it free for students and teachers.

 LAGOSNIGERIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) -  Gossy Ukanwoke, a 24 year old founder of Beni American University(BAU), is the entrepreneur behind Nigeria's first private online learning institution, that he hopes will provide quality and affordable tertiary education to many young people across Africa.

Ukanwoke says BAU is aimed at African students, and particularly those in Nigeriawho would have otherwise not have access to tertiary education, mainly due to a limited number of facilities available.

BAU was established in March 2012, after Ukanwoke's successful launch of theStudents Circle Network, an educational social network website for students, teachers and institutions, that provides over 10,000 free academic resources online, from over 200 universities globally, and shares it free for students and teachers.

After extensive research, Ukanwoke says he discovered that of the 1.5 million students who graduate from secondary school, only 350,000 on average gain entry into local universities annually.

"We realised that there was just a couple of issues in the educational sector inAfrica. We have universities but they are not enough in comparison to the youth population. We have universities but the infrastructure is a challenge and then the cost of setting up something new was also a challenge. We were also looking at something that we could easily accommodate as many people as possible without the constraint of location or space or resources, so online was the best alternative for us. With an online university, you can take in as many students as possible, you can get professors from across the world. We have professors who are in the US, we have professors in Malawi, we have professors in England," he said.

BAU currently offer diplomas and degree courses in Business Management andManagement Information Systems. Ukanwoke added that he plans to expand the course structure depending on the demand.

The academic team is made up of over 30 tutors.

Students pay 750 US dollars per semester but Ukanwoke says he hopes to reduce the fee as the number of undergraduates grows.

The online university currently has 50 students from Nigeria and about 110 students from across Africa.

Andrew Ebegore is a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, and is currently pursuing his compulsary National Youth Service Corps.

Due to his busy schedule, Ebegore says he decided to join BAU a few months ago, because of the flexibility the institution offers.

"I actually do my school work at my leisure time not at my work time, it allows me to meet different people from around the world, I get to interact with students and lecturers, some seasoned lecturers from around the world, professors and all that. It's good because I interact, I learn, I do everything and I don't leave my house which makes it superb."

However, critics say there are numerous obstacles to this initiative.

According to Nigeria's Infrastructure Regulatory Commission, 60 percent of Nigerians have no access to electricity, and the power supply is erratic.

2009 World Bank data indicate only 28 percent of Nigerian have internet access.

Duro Ajeyalemi, a professor of Science and Technology of Education at theUniversity of Lagos says poverty and poor infrastructure in the country need to be addressed first before e-learning can become a reality in the country.

"We do not have the resources enough to cope and many of our... because we have problems with infrastructure, electricity for example is not available in most places so we will need to have constant supply of electricity, we will need to have the computers and the technology for you to be able to benefit maximally," he said.

In an attempt to tackle unemployment, BAU has partnered with several universities in the United States and Europe, to provide education on private enterprise to students, to navle them to be ready for the job market by the time they graduate.

"There is a high level of unemployment across the world and one of the things that can actually deal with unemployment is entrepreneurship and empowerment, so what we are doing is even if you are studying Business Management in our university, you will still take our entrepreneurship program, even if you are studying medicine in our university, you will still take our entrepreneurship program so that you can learn how as a doctor or as an engineer or as a Home Economics graduate how you can actually start a business and become an employer of labour instead of being someone who is seeking for employment," he said.

Ukanwoke says he plans to expand BAU by building physical hybrid schools inNigeria.