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Friday, February 28, 2014

Spotlight on Nigeria's educational system

When many discuss Nigeria's educational system, it is usually with disgust or despair. The general consensus is one of hopelessness. Irene Bangwell, the founder of Handz and Mindz Ltd who chose to reject the resigned tone many have now adopted, has decided to make some changes.


A mother helping her children with homework (Photo: Handz & Mindz)
In Nigeria, wealthier parents generally send their children to the best schools, take them abroad on expensive holidays. Surely, there's nothing wrong with this? The problem with this is a dual one. Some parents employ these measures in order to prepare the children to take over their parents' empires and dynasties. Why is this such an issue, then? 



While this is arguably not peculiar to Nigeria alone, the situation in Nigeria is quite unique because most parents do not take into account their children's wishes and abilities. This means that a number of successful Nigerians live vicariously through their children, imposing their own unfulfilled dreams on their offspring.

For the parents who are less financially able, the 'threat of future poverty' is the perfect tool to motivate or to manipulate their children to carry on in professional fields that they may have no desire to tread or the stamina to sustain. 

Careers such as medicine, law, and engineering are coveted. These are to be attained at all costs. This is evident even on schools' Careers Days – where a considerable fuss is made over doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Any child with an interest in these areas is automatically considered to be 'intelligent'. This is to the detriment of other careers, including the creative industry.

Parents should take in consideration their children's abilities (Photo: Handz & Mindz)

The exaggerated focus in Nigeria on paper qualifications has led some parents along with some school proprietors end up killing the dreams and potentials of students. Paper qualifications refer to everything diplomas from O-levels to Masters degrees. 

Out of desperation, some  parents may go as far as  helping their child cheat their way through school. Their hope is that the students will study courses and even though they have no aptitude or interest for them, they will pursue careers that match the expectations of the parents The school curriculum is also problematic. 

There is also a stiff competition amongst some school owners. This competitive spirit distract some of their most important task: making sure students are able to engage with the assigned curriculum. As a result, schools produce individuals who 'think 80s', but are expected to function in the 21st century. This is a trend that many have accepted.

For Essienanwan Irene Bangwell, to accept the status quo is simply not an option. Fed up with the negative tag on Nigeria's educational system, she created her business Handz and Mindz Ltd in 2008. The company provides an educational platform for children to flourish. Bangwell believes that to get better results,  one should be pro-active with the emerging generations. 

“I was unimpressed by how my generation had turned out, in terms of academic performance, self-esteem, life views, and moral values,” Bangwell, the founder and creative director of Handz and Mindz Ltd  said.

Irene Bangwell is the founder of Handz & Mindz Ltd (Photo: Handz & Mindz)

Situated in Abuja, Nigeria , the enterprise Handz and Mindz Ltd caters to children between the pre-school age and 17 years old. The company counts several units: EDUPro is an advisory platform to engage parents, children and schools; WeCreate is responsible for the creation of programmes like Koboland, Female corpers for change and Teachers Tete-a-Tete; Media manages radio and television productions and the Writing Unit  hones the gifts of children and teenagers to produce novels, blogs, pictures, books and articles.

The enterprise Handz and Mindz Ltd  offers a child-friendly learning environment to children so they can discover their abilities.This step is important for the needed paradigm shift in Nigeria; which will consequently birth lasting solutions to some of Nigeria's thorniest problems – especially that of large-scale unemployment. 
Taking financial realities into account, Bangwell founded 'Green and Gold Center for Teenagers Creativity', a non-profit arm of Handz and Mindz Ltd  in July 2013.Their mission is to encourage intellectually stimulating classroom experiences, and foster environments to hone intra-personal skills, amongst students from public schools, and disadvantaged children, and teenagers. 

Counting on the support of her husband Kingsley Bangwell , Dr. Patrick Dakum  and Mrs. Olusola Bankole one of Bangwell's visions for the business is to have operational offices in two additional African countries, within the next five years.  Even though the Handz and Mindz team does not believe to be a miracle-working 'know-it-all,' they believe that every child is a star with a potential.
Copyright © Chioma Nnani, 2014