Jadesola Adedeji: We believe that today’s children are tomorrow’s workforce
Jadesola Adedeji is the Director and CEO of STEM METS Resources, a company that provides 21st century skills training to children and youths in Nigeria using Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M) based activities and programs. The aim of STEM METS is to prepare students for the future workplace and as contributors to the economic development of Nigeria.She began her career in pharmaceuticals with GlaxoSmithKline and assumed roles that enabled her to work across Africa, Europe and Asia. In 2002, she bought a pharmaceuticals company called the Medicine Shoppe, which she ran for eight years.
In 2012, in her search for a learning and recreational service for children in Nigeria, she realised there was a dearth in children’s recreational learning centers in Nigeria and, more importantly, there were no programs which encouraged innovation, creativity and communication in line with 21st Century learning practice for children. Jade then found the STEM METS Resources Limited, which brought the Bricks4Kidz concept to Nigeria in January 2014. To date, the program has seen over 3000 children via its various enrichment platforms and has run as an after-school enrichment class in over 12 schools in Lagos.
Her entrepreneurial skills and passion for providing skills to prepare Nigerian children for the 21st century has gotten her global recognition and attention. Her company has recently garnered a partnership with Airbus Foundation to administer its robotics and aviation program to youths aged 12-16.She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from King’s College, London and later went on to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration from Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary. In 2016, she completed an Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France. She discusses her innovative projects with GuardianWoman.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a dreamer and I like to inspire others to dare to dream and pursue their passion. I have a curious mind and like to challenge the status quo. My life philosophy is Carpe Dieme- Seize the day.
What is STEM METS Resources Limited?
STEM METS Resources was founded in November 2013 with my friend, late Dr Funmi Ogunwuyi- we shared a vision of changing what education can look like in Nigeria. She passed away in March 2014.
We are a social enterprise committed to nurturing, enriching and inspiring young minds by providing quality, innovative, alternative educational learning platforms
Our vision is to ensure that Nigerian children and youths are equipped with the skills set required to compete in the future global workforce and also to contribute to the economic development of our great country, Nigeria. We believe that today’s children are tomorrow’s work-force.
Tell us about your offerings at STEM METS
We provide 21st century skills training to children aged 3-16 using Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (S.T.E.M) based activities and programs.
We use various proven hands-on, project based programs and tools to develop and nurture students’ critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration and confidence building skills. These programs are run as after-school enrichment classes, holiday camps, field trips and even birthday parties!
At the moment, we offer two international and award-winning programs- Bricks4kidz and the Airbus Foundation A380 Assembly workshop, in schools across Lagos, Oyo and Ogun states
What inspired your interest in STEM?
As a scientist, I try to stay abreast of current educational and scientific trends and noticed that with the advent of technology- the 4th industrial revolution is impacting how we learn and work and the skill set required for the workplace has changed significantly from when I was at school. The requirements for the workspace was constantly changing and as such, the educational systems in the developed nations were adjusting and redesigning their curricula to accommodate new trends, moving away from rote learning. They focused on skills development and practical application of knowledge starting from their early childhood educational programs
So, in my search for creative enrichment programs for my own children, I came across the concept of using STEM based activities to develop creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, collaborative and communication skills.
What is your view on STEM learning for students in Nigeria?
Educational stakeholders are trying to catch up with the rapidly changing needs and STEM based learning is being given a lot of attention recently. Some schools are embracing and incorporating activities and projects into their curriculum and also out of class enrichment programs but we still have a long way to go. We need to recognize that these programs must be applied along all tiers of our educational system starting with early years.
Do you think the educational sector in Nigeria is well equipped for it?
We certainly need an overhaul of our educational system to be better aligned to the current and future workplace needs. A recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report suggests that in order for our continent to be able to meet the jobs demands of the future, we need to update the quality of our STEM education through technical, vocational and tertiary education to develop a workforce capable of competing in technology-driven economies. This does not mean that everyone needs to become an engineer or data scientist but the expectation is that our graduates and school leavers should have at least basic STEM literacy skills essential to fill job vacancies across all sectors
There is a crisis in the quality of skilled workers in the Nigerian labour market and an ever- growing skills gap-outcomes of our out dated curricula. Inevitably, millions are trapped in the poverty cycle as school leavers have low skills set that can only secure low-level work and the 15 per cent of our population that proceed to tertiary education, graduate without essential “employment ready” skills. We also desperately need to invest and develop quality-teaching workforce. Our teachers are also products of our educational system and essential upskilling, reskilling and promoting a culture of lifelong learning is paramount to the overall success of students’ learning journey. Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. Quality Education is essential for sustainable economic development, poverty alleviation and reducing gender inequality in the workforce.
Kindly highlight some of the initiatives by STEM METS
We run the popular children’s’ program, Bricks4kidz and recently partnered with Airbus Foundation to run its STEM program in Nigeria
Tell us about Bricks4kidz
The Bricks4kidz program offers a hands-on, project-based curriculum and proprietary models designed and created by teachers, architect and engineering professionals using Lego bricks. Our programs are conducted through after school enrichment classes, holiday workshops and excursions for ages 3-13. Lessons from maths, science, robotics, programming and language arts are integrated and discussed at these sessions.
Do you think parents in Nigeria consider use of Lego bricks as a means of alternative learning?
Lego is universally known as an educational toy that fosters creativity and curiosity in children, while having fun. Children develop problem solving skills and creative expression through which critical thinking skills are enhanced. Parents are growing to appreciate Lego as a learning tool particularly after seeing the changes in their children after attending our programs. Because we have a rich and varied content in our curriculum, the benefits are quickly realized as the children engage with the tools we use. The Lego bricks and model plans are proprietary to Bricks4kidz and are designed specifically for us and are not available commercially. The idea is to teach them how to think and not what to think
Kindly expatiate on your collaboration with Airbus Foundation to launch the Airbus Little Engineer A380 Workshop Initiative in Nigeria.
I am very excited about this collaboration and the fact that STEM METS was chosen as a partner in sub-Saharan Africa. Recognising the human capital potential in Africa, Airbus Foundation is investing in its future workforce by offering STEM based programs for learners who may be beginning to think of their future careers.
Who is your target for this project?
The target for the Airbus project are young children aged 11-16 years.
What is the objective for this workshop?
To instill in learners the passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths by introducing them to the world of robotics, programming and the aviation industry. Also, to unleash their potential and nurture their passion so they can contribute to the future of Airbus and be aware that there is a huge industry waiting for them.
Should all schools embrace alternative learning?
I think a varied approach to learning that combines the traditional forms of learning with strong social and collaboration skills as well as digital literacy skills will make for a well-rounded learner. A more practical approach and applied learning as opposed to “cram and regurgitate” as I call it.
Can you tell us about a project or accomplishment that has been the most significant in your career?
Since we started in 2014, we have impacted 4,927 learners through our programs and conducted over 59 workshops- we are proud of this achievement, but are equally aware that we have hardly scratched the surface. Our impact is also in the workforce as we employ working mothers seeking a part-time position that suits their family life while still being able to earn and contribute to the job market.
What challenges have you faced running these kinds of activities and programs for students?
In the early days, we had to convince some schools, parents and other educational stakeholders of the benefits of STEM based programs using innovative learning tools like Lego and learning through play.
We also had to convince that them that we run an enriching, curriculum based and well-structured workshop and the children weren’t just playing with Lego bricks.The other misconception was that our program is only for children interested in science-which is not true. Our objective is to develop critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration and analytical skills in the children-important transferable skills regardless of whether they are interested in science or not.
As a mother, how do you manage work and the home-front?
Everything boils down to being able to plan the different activities in your life, be it work or family. The most important element, however, is ensuring that you stay aware of both personal and work demands/commitments as when necessary.
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