Learning tech skills in indigenous languages can potentially increase access to digital education. Olalekan Adeeko, a teacher-turned-TikToker is making this happen.

In September 2022, armed with his camera, Olalekan Adeeko recorded a humble introduction video where he shared his idea to teach tech in his native language—Yoruba. To his surprise, about three hours after posting the video on TikTok, he got several “We can’t wait” comments. At that point, he knew there was no going back. Before then, he had quit his teaching job to focus on TedPrime Hub, an ed-tech firm he co-founded in 2017.

Having worked as a secondary school teacher for 15 years and professionally trained as a data analyst, Adeeko had one question on his mind: what could he do differently? The answer came: teach tech in Yoruba. Nigeria’s lingua franca, English, is the medium of instruction for digital education. Online learning platforms and resources are predominantly available in English, even though Nigeria has over 500 languages. And according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), receiving education in one’s native tongue can improve learning, learning outcomes, and socio-emotional development—in line with Adeeko’s cause. Globally, about 47 million people speak Yoruba as their mother tongue, while millions of others speak it as a second language. 

“I saw the need to democratise tech. A lot of people see tech as elitist or a field for the people that must have gone to the university and that it isn’t what anybody can actually relate with,” Adeeko told TechCabal over a call. He noted that the language barrier has made digital literacy difficult for many.

Over the next few months, he would post over 300 videos on his TikTok page, garnering over 15,000 followers and counting. His one-minute videos teach uncommon tricks on using Microsoft productivity tools such as converting text to a table on Word, creating a barcode in Excel, or merging shapes on PowerPoint.

As Adeeko’s TikTok page grew, so did his community. Posting an average of two videos every day, he now runs a YouTube channel—Anything Data—with over 3,600 subscribers and a Facebook page with over 33,000 followers. “The feedback has been what is keeping me going. People often tell me ‘I’ve been taught this many times but now that I am hearing it in Yoruba, I could actually learn easier’. It has been an amazing experience for me,” a visibly excited Adeeko said.

Finding purpose

The initial idea for the first-class computer science education graduate was to focus mainly on data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) which he says are his forte. But the comments he received for his first set of videos led him to equally prioritise Microsoft productivity tools. And since Adeeko is a Microsoft-certified trainer himself, the work was a piece of cake. According to him, his videos on Microsoft Excel get the most feedback. “So I want to believe a lot of people are struggling with Excel, maybe for their work or whatever they do,” he said.

Adeeko believes people watch his videos because he is a good teacher. He isn’t wrong: he has won several laurels in recognition of his work in the teaching profession including a Teaching Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in 2015 and the 2020 African Union Continental Teacher Prize. He claims he has trained over 30,000 teachers across Nigeria, Ghana, and Botswana. “In my videos, I tend to use different scenarios to drive home my point. I use humour as well because I don’t want the videos to be boring. This makes it fun for people to listen to me,” he said.

Making a difference

Teaching tech tips and tricks isn’t novel as tons of YouTube channels do this already. But Adeeko says what makes his content different is the medium of instruction. “I think the reason why a lot of people love what I do is that I do it in Yoruba, not because of those things that I teach because they can actually go on YouTube and watch different videos. But because my content is in Yoruba, people who understand the language can relate more and comprehend easier,” he said.

He, however, admitted that finding the exact Yoruba words for certain technical terms can be difficult. As a result, he uses both English and Yoruba in his videos. “When I started, I wanted to speak Yoruba all through my videos, but I was struggling to translate certain words. So I decided to use the regular Yoruba and the English words for certain terms for the sake of my audience,” Adeeko shared.

Adeeko, who has now earned the moniker “Yoruba tech guy”, says he is frequently contacted by his followers to answer further questions about what he teaches. This, according to him, is his driving force. Speaking about reaching a wider audience, he says he is open to partnerships but in the meantime, he recently created his personal website where he collated all his videos. “I’ve been able to put all the links [to my videos] in an Excel or PDF sheet for anybody to just download, and then you can easily see the topic, click on the link and watch,” Adeeko said. He adds that while he isn’t sure that Nigeria has a plan to promote digital education in indigenous languages, he hopes that the government will consider it in the near future.

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Ganiu Oloruntade Reporter, TechCabal

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