Nigerian universities are once again closed indefinitely. This time around, it is no thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world, and not the notoriously popular ASUU.

In the case of the Nigerian student, the age-long saying, ‘when the two elephants fight, the grass suffers’, is all too applicable.

Needless to recount the sad tales of millions of Nigerian students who end up spending two or more years extra for a four-year course.

More often than none, such wanton burden and needless delay is caused by incessant strike actions embarked on by the nation’s Academic Staff Union of Universities – ASUU

In a twist of fate, students across the world are now at home as schools across the globe have shut their gates to students to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19.

As physical classroom and white maker board learning is temporarily at a halt, leading universities in the world continue to provide education, leveraging digital technologies and tools.

Some Ivy League universities have transitioned to online or distance learning during the shutdown. Harvard University for instance and other Ivy League universities have introduced a variety of free online courses suited for interested learners across the world during this COVID-19.

While Nigerian universities are scarcely engaging their students at this time, some aspirational Nigerian students are using the opportunity of the lockdown to rethink their future.

Taking the bull of the present situation by the horn, these futuristic students have decided to take their destiny into their own hands as there seems to be no hope of resumption any time soon.

Not minding the cost of self-development and improvement in a society like ours, these students have refused to fold their arms and wait for the pandemic to end; they have decided to make the most of the lockdown, acquire digital skills required in today’s job place while creating exciting career paths for themselves amid the pandemic.

Anthony Oyakhilome Justice is a Nigerian student who is creating a new path to success outside the four walls of his school. Anthony is a 400level student of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt.

In a recent chat with him, Anthony Oyakhilome expresses his frustration at the closure of his school for more close to 90 days now without any provision for an alternative form of learning.

He is however excited about amazing personal and career growths he has made during the school shutdown.

Anthony further explains how he is using the lockdown period to become more valued-added and position himself for boundless opportunities awaiting him in the nearest future:

How have you stayed productive during the lockdown so far?

So, for me, I’ve been trying to keep myself productive by catching up on the many online courses, projects I’ve had pending for a while, and keeping up to date with my organizations too.

For example, I’m part of a youth-run organization called AIESEC with a large majority of its members being students from schools in Port Harcourt.

I’m the local vice president of marketing and communications for the branch in Port Harcourt, so I have the responsibility of managing my team and making sure they remain engaged and are developing themselves during this lockdown.

Nigerian student male
Anthony Oyakhilome Justice

I also have the responsibility to keep the brand of the branch aligned with the global brand of the organization.

I was also elected in April to be the Social Media Manager of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network Rivers Hub where I’m in charge of managing the digital channels of the hub, creating content, and generally managing the brand image for the hub.

To keep the productivity juices flowing, I sometimes have to work out because I found out that I’m more energized to do my work after a workout, go figure. I recently began using the Microsoft ToDo app to schedule myself, manage my time, and keep track of what I need to get done.

Have you used the opportunity of the lockdown to start any business, acquire any new skills, learn a new course, or start any career, etc.?

Well, there is the personal and professional development courses I’ve been taking on sites like Futurelearn, Coursera and Udemy, Schneider Electric, and a few others.

I recently completed the social media marketing course by Hubspot Academy that I have been putting off for a while and I can’t tall you how happy I was when I aced that course.

These courses are focused on the things I’m interested in so it’s all adding up to be quite a very busy and productive period for me honestly.

Then, there are the freelance jobs I’m taking online to keep the data and subscription cost at bay because data is a really big problem for me because I always need it and the cost is always steep.

Honestly though, if I list all I have to do this period, we’ll probably be here for a while, lol.

I think the biggest things I’ve done this period to add value to myself was taking online courses, attending the virtual conferences that AIESEC organized and becoming part of the executive of the YALI Network in my state which has also given me an extra sense of responsibility and accountability to my team and the hub.

I think for me, these are the top of the list things that have added value to me this period.

 If the lockdown continues to prolong, what would you be doing home?

Lol, if the lockdown continues till the end of the year I’ll be fine with it honestly.

Inasmuch as the COVID 19 situation messed up my plans to go for my Industrial Training experience which was supposed to start in June and a few other plans I had, it also presented me with a unique opportunity to skill up and reconnect with my family.

I’ve particularly enjoyed talking with my sister this period because school and my extracurricular activities always had been me busy before.

So, if the lockdown continues, I’ll probably have my work cut out for me but it will present me with a chance to test out every area of interest I have and to know which works for me.

I’ll probably also be applying for opportunities too because it was during the holidays two years ago that I applied for the UBA Campus Ambassador program and look how well that turned out.

For Nathaniel Ike who recently graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife and waiting to be mobilized for the National Youth Service Corps, the lockdown has helped achieve some of his important goals.

Nathaniel has been able to complete his book project titled Becoming a Brand Ambassador. The lockdown has also afforded him the opportunity to build his social media platforms and make it very engaging which in turn, has helped him to attract more engaged followers.

Nathaniel Ike

Ike was also able to organize and complete an online masterclass on Cryptocurrency trading in exchange for some cash. Well, that’s not too shabby.

Nathaniel Ike has some words of advice for Nigerian students especially during this lockdown:

“My advice to Nigerian students is simple: you have to set specific and clear goals for selves. These goals must be based on what you want to achieve or who you really want to become in 5 or 10 years from now and start working on those goals every day.

It is also necessary that you firmly believe in yourself and stay away from friends and activities that don’t contribute positively to achieving your goals.

Having a mentor has proven to help people grow faster in career, business, and life generally.

So, based on your goals either long or short term, you should have someone you can always look up to for advice, guidance, and direction in order to avoid mistakes that could be regretful in the future.

A good mentor who has many years of experience will not only advise you on the right path but can also introduce you to people who will train you on how to quickly identify opportunities and effectively utilize such opportunities for your personal growth and development”.

Nathaniel also shares some ideas on skills think students should be learning so as to position themselves for future career opportunities.

“There are many essential skills that can help students become invaluable and successful while in school and even after they leave school. Some of these skills vary in their demand in the labour market depending on a country’s economic situation.

While some of these skills are hard to learn and master, others are simple and easy. However, it is good to emphasize that having these skills are important but it is more important to practice and use them so as to benefit from them.

Some of these skills include communication skills, computer literacy, networking skills, marketing skills, leadership skills, time management, goals setting, and goal achieving, etc.

All these skills are necessary for anyone who wants to be successful in life because they are needed in our daily activities both in life and business”.

Finally, Albert Einstien once said, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

As the pandemic continues to change the dynamics of not just the education system but life generally, we can only hope that more young Nigerians are courageous enough to spot the opportunities buried in these times.


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