by Seyi Lawal
Gossy Ukanwoke is the founder of Student Circle Network, an educational social network that allows its members access tons of educational resources while mingling with one another. In this interview, Ukanwoke talks about his new brain child, Beni American University which is set to kick off in months to come.
Beni American University is a tool for solving an impending social crisis.
- You seem to be very concerned about education (especially cheap education). Can you share your reasons for this?
Well, I think I will go with affordable education. Yes am very interested in education. My parents did their best to provide me with the best of it, so I understand how important it is for every person to have it. It empowers you and provides opportunities for you. There is a lot of talk about talent, however, education provides us the discipline to mould talents and fine tuning them.
My interests are there because I feel its everyone’s right to have access to quality but yet affordable education.
- Asides Beni American University and Students Circle Network, what other projects are you involved with?
I am not going to tell you that, am I? Well right now am advising a few startups that am not directly involved in and am helping guide them on what to do and what not to do in becoming successful in the competitive market place.
- Tell us about Beni American University.
BAU (Beni American University) is a tool for solving an impending social crisis. Check for example, in the past 3 or 4 years, over 1.4 million students take the UMTE/JAMB examination annually and an average of about 300,000 students can only be admitted into Nigerian universities due to lack of space and no supporting infrastructure. This is a problem. Questions arise on the subject like, what happens to the remaining students?, what do they do? How about the qualified ones who cannot gain admissions?
BAU is providing an opportunity for the qualified students to be engaged, coached, mentored, instructed and lectured by a high level international faculty that will provide them with a global education but at the fraction of the cost.
- Why the name, Beni American University?
Beni – we are looking at something unique. American – we are running an American calendar, system, curriculum, course structure and our grading and evaluation system is American based. The American online education system is so advanced that the best thing to do is to model something that gives a lot of preference to their structure.
- What should Africans expect from Beni American University?
Beni American University is setting the standard for educational excellence in Nigeria and West Africa. With cutting edge technologies and world class outreach, Beni American University will be absorbing a great number of students and this will reduce the rate and number of students who are qualified but without proper higher education
- How is Beni American University different from Student Circle Network, your first start-up?
Students Circle Network as a member of the OpenCourseWare Consortium which has other members like MIT, University of California, Irvine, Delft University and other top universities in the world was providing free course materials from these universities to students in Africa at no cost. We gave students a space to connect and learn, a space to study and do group work.
Beni American University will provide these students with education that is on par with the other universities we have provided them resources from in the past. However, we will be a proper calendar, curriculum and rigorous teaching and assessments.
- Several Universities in Europe and America have been providing online education and targeting Africa, how will Beni American University be different from them?
We are not just going to be online. We will gradually have a physical presence. We will provide a quality assurance model that will make BAU not that easy to go through. Our rigorous programs and assessments will compete against the ones you will have even in regular universities.
We have an understanding of how the processes are in the region and we are structuring BAU to be part of the process not an alien institution that operates just in the cloud.
- What does BAU needs to move ahead now?
We are looking at working with local partners in Nigeria. We have a diverse set of partnerships that we can develop. One is internship partnerships – we are looking for businesses that will pick at least a student or two from our institution for a 30day internship program every year.
One is support partnerships – we are working with different technology companies, service provision companies to provide an excellent infrastructure for our students. we are quite open to speak with any Nigerian Technology/Service company.
The other is sponsorship partnerships – corporations and the government can get involved at this point to lend their support, this support does not have to be monetary, it can be their voice, encouraging students or donations to further our enterprise.
- So, when should Africans expect BAU?
Well we should just keep aware but sooner than will be envisaged. Students took JAMB this weekend, we want to provide an alternative to the ones that will be “left out” after the admissions season.
- What should we expect from you in the nearest future?
We have successfully put Africa on the map in the past and we are set to do it again, but this time even better. Our launch is near and we are working on a few final touches. However we are looking for students, adults, young people in Nigeria who can join our beta test.
As a Beta Tester, you will be able to FREELY test our platform and engage us and learn about what we are doing before we launch. To join visit – http://beniamerican.com
If anyone has questions, suggestions or contributions, they can reach me on twitter – http://twitter.com/gossyomega