Our latest Edtech Superhero is one of the leading voices in the new generation of education reformers in Nigeria and is all about transcending borders through education.
Steven Loya is an award-winning educator, author, and aspiring future Minister of Education.
He is the author of “The SCAM: Things you were not told about school”, a highly-rated ebook for undergraduates and young people in Africa. To date, he has shared over 2000 copies with students for free online.
Steven Loya is very passionate about education and continuously works to provide solutions for the various problems faced in the education sector in Nigeria.
The SCAM Project was inspired by his desire to provide innovative solutions to the education sector. A movement to redefine the University Experience of Nigerian Students, helping students make the most out of school, and changing the “school is a scam” mindset to appreciating the opportunities for growth and learning that education provides.
Steven also leads a community of creatives, students from different universities in Nigeria, at The SCAM Creative Nest. The SCAM Creative Nest helps students to build skills, and gain relevant work experience remotely as undergraduates.
Let’s dive in to learn more about his journey in education.
Steven’s journey to Transcending Borders
1. What’s the first thing you do to get your day going?
The first thing I do in the morning is pray. My prayer time prepares me for the day ahead.
Once I sit at my workspace I am there for most of the day so I make sure to use the quiet and peacefulness of the early morning to spend time praying and reflecting on the day ahead.
2. What’s your go-to meal for breakfast and tea or coffee?
Lately, I’ve been staying with my parents so I have not been a breakfast person. Most times I find myself only eating around noon and when that happens I will have one of Nigeria’s staple foods, rice, and beans. After that my next meal will probably be dinner.
However, if I am staying at my place I will probably have some coffee first thing in the morning.
3. Which music artist best describes your working style?
I just listen to instrumentals when I need to focus. I plug in my headphones and the music cuts out distraction and I just shut myself away from all external noise and
focus on my tasks.
After that, depending on the kind of task at times, I play other types of music from my phone or laptop.
4. Do you consider yourself a team Google or team Apple?
I would say team Google at the moment. Simply because of most of the things I do in my day to day, Google has always been a great productivity tool for me.
Right now I am team Google.
Reason being that I value productivity, functionality, and device compatibility compared to the luxury side of device use that you find with Apple especially when you don’t have all your devices as Apple.
“… I value productivity, functionality, and device compatibility compared to the luxury side of device use…”
I usually do work that requires me to sync my phone with my laptop. Making use of Google products makes this process less of a hassle and offers me a fluid working process wherever I am.
5. Can you tell us a little about your journey? Where did your interest in education begin initially?
Just like many young people out there, I never thought I would land in the field of education. If you ask any young Nigerians what they want to be when they grow up they will either say, a doctor, a lawyer or they want to work in a bank. These are very common answers.
Like most of these people, I wanted to be in the medical field, pharmacy to be specific.
After some time, my application was declined. When it came to reapplying, I started reflecting on my entire life and thought about how to make the most use of my time. This was when I realised I loved teaching.
When I realized my passion for education, that was my lightbulb moment. I started thinking about how Africa’s education is not where it ought to be and that there was room for me to make a difference in education.
“When I realized my passion for education, that was my lightbulb moment.”
My A-level and entrance exam scores were high which meant I could technically study any course in the medical field but I chose to study education. I would say that was the craziest decision I have ever made in my life.
That was the beginning of my journey in education and education technology and since then it’s been beautiful.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with various organizations. One of them is the Elite Smartan Foundation. I delivered my first Ted Talk a few weeks ago where I spoke on “We are all Teachers: How we can transform Africa”. I emphasised the need for all of us to step into the responsibility of teaching and teachers, taking on the responsibility of transforming our society.
Africa is the richest continent on earth in natural resources with over 30% of the world’s natural resources, but yet we are the poorest continent. Ultimately, it is not our resources buried deep in the ground that makes us wealthy, but how much we as humans above the ground can unlock our potential and transform our society.
“Ultimately, it is not our resources buried deep in the ground that makes us wealthy, but how much we as humans above the ground can unlock our potential and transform our society.”
6. When you look at everything you have achieved after choosing education, what would you say to your younger self?
“Hey steven, you have made the best choice ever. Even though people find it unbelievable to thread an uncommon path, you’ve just started a journey that will transform a lot of lives.”
I wrote my first book this year and the book was centered around Nigerian students making the most out of university and how you can just change your university experience.
I published the book on February 11, 2022, and since then, I’ve given out the book for free to about 2000 students across Nigeria and the surrounding countries.
If I had not studied education, I wouldn’t have been in the position to write the book around the field and I wouldn’t have blessed over 2000 lives.
It’s a big thing for me, getting to read people’s testimonies almost every day, telling how my book has transformed their university experience and given them a new perspective on what education is all about.
After speaking at the TEDx event, I received feedback from a lot of those who felt very proud to have studied education and to be called teachers. My talk also changed people’s mindsets and perspectives about teachers in society.
7. What do you think educators can take away from the past 2 years in their dealings with the challenges that have arisen through the pandemic?
I think the pandemic became leverage for every one of us. During the pandemic, I started volunteering with an organization and we ran a program called SGC WhatsApp school.
This program provided free classes for secondary school students across Nigeria and Ghana for 14 weeks and we did that through WhatsApp and other tools like Zoom and Google Meet.
These students went on to write exams and they did very well made. This made me realize that a teacher’s role has moved beyond teaching in the classroom and become more focused on guiding learning.
As teachers, we need to direct our students. The pandemic has taught us that students can learn by themselves.
“The pandemic has taught us that students can learn by themselves.”
Teachers now need to step into the role of facilitating the learning, guiding the research process, guiding more than presenting the old curriculum delivery, and showing students what they can achieve.
We have discovered a new way of learning and teaching. Teachers should consider their role in students’ lives beyond the classroom. We are teaching our students to compete not only locally but globally.
We must adopt a problem-solving mindset because it is when we teach students to solve problems, that is how we can solve our problems in Africa and our own countries.
“We have discovered a new way of learning and teaching. Teachers should consider their role in students’ lives beyond the classroom.”
8. What is your Mantra for the year?
I and a few of my friends of mine decided to come together and network and we ended up calling ourselves the Social Capital Group as we were meeting regularly.
The Social Capital Group is a key circle of friends that are doing amazing work in different industries. We all attended the same school and met in December 2021.
One of our goals is going “Beyond borders” and this is my mantra for 2022.
I want to provide solutions that transcend beyond my local environment.
I want to engage people beyond my local environment and I think that’s worked for me in recent times. My book itself has gone beyond the borders of Nigeria and is currently being circulated in seven countries and counting.
“I want to provide solutions that transcend beyond my local environment.”
I have built relationships with people from different parts of the world. I have spoken at different events and ultimately fulfilled my goal of going beyond borders this year.
My impact has gone from local to global in just a short time.
Despite all that has happened with the lockdown, it has never stopped me from being engaged with young people and my goal of transforming Africa’s educational landscape.
The amazing thing about educational technology and the internet is that you can access way more people than you would normally in your daily life.
9. Based on the topic of your book, and the mindset challenge that you address in the book, what would you say is the mindset of young adults in Nigeria when they go to university?
Many young people believe that school is a scam and a waste of time because we have a lot of people who are out there who didn’t go to school but have become successful in their own right.
Due to this many students spend time convincing themselves that school is a scam instead of working towards getting the most out of school.
My book speaks about the difference between school and education, and the difference in approach required to get the best out of them. Many students do not know the difference between these two words.
It is important to know that the information school gives you does not make you educated. Instead, it is the experiences and the opportunities that school gives you that make you an educated person.
“… it is the experiences and the opportunities that school gives you that make you an educated person.”
If you’re going to school, aside from the lectures, the experience that you get in school through joining organizations, volunteering, and these additional experiences are what make you a better, more educated person.
My book also looks at the importance of earning and learning when you are in school. Students should try to also get part-time jobs or internships. Anything that provides a means to get paid. This helps students gain a basic financial understanding and develop salary expectations for the future.
All in all, I believe if I can change disillusioned students’ perspectives about exams, grades, about how they can get experiences as a student, they’ll become better graduates.
Imagine that we have 20000 students, let’s say 10,000 students who are doing the right thing when they’re in school by the time they are out of school, we won’t just have graduates who are looking for jobs, we are going to have well-rounded individuals seeking to provide solutions of the future to problems because of their learning and growth-oriented mindsets.
Focusing on the challenges you face as a student in the university environment without any consideration for what you’re preparing yourself for in the real world is short-sighted. Why not focus on how you can make the most out of school to ensure you’re ready for a global world? Because you’re not just competing against the people in your class for jobs, but with people outside of Nigeria who are moving here too.
More from Steven Loya
Thanks again to Steven for taking the time to chat with us, and I hope that our readers are motivated by his passion and drive for education.
It was an absolute pleasure speaking with you. After the shift that the pandemic has caused in so many of our lives, many of us can benefit from embracing new ways of teaching and learning.
If you would like to learn more about Steven Loya and his amazing work, visit his LinkedIn. You can also access his website “The SCAM project” to learn more.
Team Mobile Guardian