The Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of Equipment Hall, Mr. Gbolahan Olayomi has given reasons why he is aggressively pursuing technology enabled learning and modular education in the country,
In an exclusive interview with Maritime Bits on the sideline of the official commissioning of a modular classroom block with interactive touch screens and sport facilities at Vetland Junior Grammar School, Agege, Lagos, recently, he gave an insight why technology enabled education should be embraced by all stakeholders.
Olayomi whose parent company is the brand owner of WOMBI, the firm that constructed the state of the art unique classrooms fitted with interactive touch screens for the teachers and the students on behalf of the Lagos State Government stated that the technology enable education has an edge over the tradition way of learning in primary, post-primary and tertiary institutions.
According to him, while it takes a lot of time to lay the foundation for a building with blocks, the container is already set. The advantage is speed. It means that instead of throwing away these containers littered all over the country, we bring them and we re-use them and that is what we call being green. That is the way the world has gone. What we are doing is to set a new standard even for building and even for engineering. This project is a fusion of architecture, engineering and technology.
He explained that his company is using technology in replacing projectors and accessories in the meeting rooms, conference halls and event centres.
Giving an insight into how he started, Olayomi revealed that the parent company, Equipment Hall has been in existence since 1998 but WOMBI came on board in 2014.
He also disclosed that WOMBI is Africa’s pioneer manufacturer of interactive touch screens built for schools and meeting rooms just as he added that it has now evolved into becoming a building and construction organisation specialising in pioneering architecture which is called modular infrastructure in education.
On how the initiative with the Vetland Junior Grammar School which was recently commissioned by the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu started, Olayomi who was visibly elated by the development said: “It started in the year 2019 when we began to think of how we can house our technology in a building. We have the technology but most people did not understand what it was. The technology was miles away of its time so for it to be able to gain ground, we have to find a unique and novel project where we could house our technology in a building.
“In that way it will now make a lot more sense to stakeholders in the education industry. In a nutshell, our technology is replacing white boards, black boards and projectors. Whilst doing that, we found out that our technology has not gained ground in education in Nigeria. What that means is that we are swimming against the tide. As far as I am concern, this project situated in Vetland Junior Grammar School was a divine idea. In fact, I use that word with all sense of responsibility because the idea came to us and we said, you know what, take this technology and find an envelope to house it. The envelope to house it was to use shipping containers. This made it more unique because modular infrastructure which is what we use shipping containers had never been used in public schools set up.
“This was the idea that birthed the Vetland Junior Grammar School project. Indeed, it was a divine orchestration. The idea took a new dimension when in February 2020, we were invited to the first education summit of the Lagos State Ministry of Education and we were given a five minutes slot to present at that event. This was just two days after the idea of a modular building came to us and we quickly put our heads together, put our presentation together and used our technology at that summit at Eko Hotels and Suites where the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu was in attendance. When we finished our presentation, the governor said to us there and then in front of all the stakeholders ‘go build me one.’ That is the story of Vetland Junior Grammar School. It is the first of its type. It is also the first modular interactive hybrid learning school. What we call the Wow school in Nigeria. It is never been done before. It is also the first time is ever happening anywhere in Nigeria and today is a landmark in the history of education in Nigeria. This was the landing point for modular technology housing interactive learning technology in the same environment”.
Though he did not disclose the total cost of the project since the total figure is still being put together, he noted that the facility has an off-grid power supply.
His words: “The school 12 blocks is 100 per cent solar. There is no back up from public power supply. It is purely running on solar energy. Therefore, when you put all of that integration together, it cost hundreds of millions of Naira”.
He expressed optimism that the Lagos State Government would not only replicate the facility in other parts of the state but also give impetus to other state governments across the country to embrace it in the years ahead.
“That is our prayer and that is our desire. The reasoning behind the Vetland modular interactive school, the wow school is a global adoption. The children easily learn using technology. They are used to smart phones. They are used to tablets. In fact, from age six to eight months, if you want a child to keep quiet, just put a phone before him and play a video, a crying child will immediately keep quiet. So for them, it is native to use devices and technology to learn or to play. We are simply building on a foundation of video-base learning, thereby becoming a standard for learning. It is what is happening in all the first world countries and it is what is going to come here in Nigeria whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not. Now that it is here, we only hope and it is our earnest desire that beyond the Lagos State Government, we will make this project accessible to as many as possible and beyond that, we want all children in Nigeria to be exposed to technology as a framework for their learning”, he added.
He revealed that it took his firm no fewer than 10 months to complete the project as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that the site was at the lowest basin of the area.
His words: “The site of the project is the lowest part in this area. It is like a valley of the whole of this area and all the water gathered here. So while the building was ready, being a pioneer building, in about nine to ten months, it took us another three to four months to channel all the water out and rebuild an absolutely fantastic drainage system to ensure that no matter how heavy the rain is, not one drop of water is retained within this place”.
According to him, the school was a dilapidated one. It was totally run down and was in a very bad shape. In a nutshell, it was an old school knocked down and rebuilt. The interesting thing is that Vetland Junior School is one of the leading schools in terms of students’ performance. Already, it had students that were winning national prizes. Therefore enabling them with technology is just going to bring out much more out of them. These include their creativity, their innovation, their critical thinking skills and communication. All of that is catered for by the technology that is going to run this school.