From Analogue to Digital: Returning to Education Three Decades After

Emi' Alawode
Posted June 29, 2020
Graduation Day- Class of 2020
Graduation Day- Class of 2020 (1/1)

I had always wanted to return to school. When I earned my first degree three decades ago, I was one of the youngest in my class. I had lofty dreams. The world seemed right ahead. However, in my culture like many others, most women are nurtured to aspire to marriage and housekeeping, and I was no exception. My quest for further education became the sacrifice I painfully paid, having tried twice to get a second degree in vain. Nevertheless, the sweet ending is that I eventually found solace in technology.

Basically, I describe myself as being of the paper and analog era. Don’t mind the fact that I once worked as a broadcaster before delving into Public Relations and University Administration. But then, none of these careers was within the blue-chip companies with high-tech facilities that many dream of. Hence, I did not get exposed to the internet as early as I would have desired. Moreover, in an emerging economy, I had to wait for mobile phones, computers, and the internet to get to the reach of the average individual. Additionally, I had lots to joggle domestically. I struggled to find who would teach me how to access the internet or explore the use of a computer. Unfortunately, hoarding knowledge about this new internet world seemed to be the in-thing then, because of the competitive spirit that pervaded my society.

I recall one of the many experiences I had. As the Head of Public Relations of a higher educational institution in my country, I produced a lot of content that needed to be word-processed before circulation. I had a secretary whose job it was to do the typing, but sometimes, I got on the computer myself, which was unusual then. Once in a while, we ran into technical hitches as whatever was being typed would keep deleting while typing. My secretary always had to call on a colleague from another office to help out. Do you know that this colleague of hers held on to that simple knowledge and did not share it? One day, the technological hitch happened again. This time, my secretary was away. So, I had to invite her colleague to help me out. When she came on the desktop, I watched to see what she usually did to solve the issue. Would you believe that this woman used her palm and the rest of her body to block my view of the keyboard, as if she were using an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) for me not to see what she did? When I shared this experience with a companion, he retorted that the knowledge was ‘bought’ and needed to be guarded jealously. This friend just confirmed the systemic knowledge-hoarding attitude that was rife in my community then. You can imagine my excitement much later when I accidentally got to know about the sticky keys and their functions on a keyboard myself.

Of course, I enjoyed the company of myself and began to find that technology and I were a good match. Indeed, knowledge emancipates and empowers. My solitude during regular leisure hours became fruitful as I spent hours upon hours on my laptop. The little knowledge of technology and the use of the internet helped me to discover an avalanche of opportunities. I got admitted to a double degree master’s programme which entailed schooling in the United Kingdom and Lithuania almost three decades after my first degree. Furthermore, I was awarded fellowships by the Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation (NUFFIC). Finding myself in a classroom simultaneously with colleagues less than half my age was not the challenge but catching up with technology which I initially found daunting, but now truly rewarding. I was determined to learn, so I asked lots of questions. Sometimes, I felt embarrassed to ask and occasionally, repeatedly for me to understand. But I kept asking, kept improving, and kept moving forward digitally. A few colleagues were willing to help, while my own kids-now young adults, were invaluable. Eventually, I found every second worthwhile.

Sadly, the challenge remains for many women, especially from emerging economies. Access to technological education is limited and motivation is low, due to cultural barriers. More women are even at a disadvantage now that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the use of technological tools on the world in a new normal. Even for those with technological knowledge, bandwidth limitations, cost of data, and little or no electricity supply remain a challenge. However, solving these problems begin with ourselves. After all, what does it cost us to share whatever we know or have learnt with others?

I am happy that I got a second chance at education. Now, I ignite the passion for further education in women and youths, by enlightening them about the various opportunities that they could take advantage of with technology. I truly enjoy sharing or imparting any knowledge gained in others. Already, my mentees have begun to reap the rewards of my informal mentorship and advocacy, which I have found very fulfilling. Having earned my double degrees, my mantra is ‘One should never stop learning and sharing’. Hence, during the COVID-19 lockdown, I invested time in personal development through online courses and webinars. I shared as much information as I could about these learning opportunities too, because like the former First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama proclaimed, "…we can all rise together, we can all win. We have to be a team of women and girls who love each other and value each other and cherish one another. Because if we don't cherish each other, no one else will."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This story was submitted in response to #SheTransformsTech.

Comments 17

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Jill Langhus
Jul 01
Jul 01

Hello Emi',

Welcome to World Pulse! Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, and congrats on the completion of all your degrees, too... very impressive. So are you a STEM teacher now? I'm looking forward to hearing more about your mentoring and advocacy work. There are quite a few STEM advocates on World Pulse, so you won't feel alone:-) Keep up the great work!

Emi' Alawode
Jul 01
Jul 01

Thank you so much, Jill. It feels like home to be here. It's surprising how all over the world, women's experiences are so similar. Together, we can break the barriers!

I appreciate your warm welcome and kind words. Yes. I hope to share more of my mentoring and advocacy work subsequently. I'm not an academic now though, but since I work within the ivory towers, I'm blessed with the opportunity of informally connecting with many young adults whom I meet during the course of my duties.

I look forward to collaborating with STEM advocates and other dynamic sisters here. Again, 'grateful for your comment and please, stay safe! :)

Jill Langhus
Jul 01
Jul 01

You're very welcome, dear! You are home:-)

Yes! It is. And, yes, we can, and are:-)

Sounds great, and looking forward to it!

You're welcome, and thanks.

Let me know who you would like to collaborate with. There are quite a few in Africa, specifically Nigeria, Kenya, and Cameroon that I'm thinking off the top of my head, that I can connect you with, if you're interested. Also, now a new member in Bangladesh who is blazing STEM trails, too.

Emi' Alawode
Jul 01
Jul 01

All of them, please. After all, it's the era of glocalisation, isn't it? :)

Thank you so much and warm regards. 'Appreciate.

Jill Langhus
Jul 01
Jul 01

Yes!

Here you go. You can click on each link and private message them, if you like, and reach out to them individually. Let me know how it goes. You can also private message me, at any time:-)

https://www.worldpulse.com/user/22216/bio
https://www.worldpulse.com/user/21284/bio
https://www.worldpulse.com/user/11675/bio
https://www.worldpulse.com/user/27928/bio
https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/achia-nila

Alternately, you can use the "search" field to find other STEM/IT trailblazers. I hope this helps:-)

Emi' Alawode
Jul 01
Jul 01

Thank you so much for these, Jill. I have begun to follow some of them in the first instance. I would now get acquainted with their stories after which I would reach out.

'So glad to be here. Warm regards. :)

Jill Langhus
Jul 03
Jul 03

You're welcome, dear. Great!

Good luck. Please keep us posted on your updates.

Glad you're here:-)

XX

Olaniyi Alawode
Jul 02
Jul 02

Great determination indeed. Keep it up

Emi' Alawode
Jul 02
Jul 02

Thanks a lot!

Chi8629
Jul 02
Jul 02

Thank you for sharing.

Emi' Alawode
Jul 02
Jul 02

Thanks, Sis! :)

Adanna
Jul 07
Jul 07

Welcome to World Pulse beautiful sis!

Thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

Congratulations on your double degree master's programme and being awarded fellowships by Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation.

Happy to know you are a mentor too. I am available for collaboration :)

Love,
Adanna

Emi' Alawode
Jul 08
Jul 08

'Appreciate the warm welcome, Sis. 'Grateful for the congratulatory greeting as well.

I'll connect. Thumbs up for the great job you have been doing. God bless! :)

Hello, Emi’,

Welcome to World Pulse! Ha! I wonder how I missed your post. I first met you at the Encourager Party. Thanks for joining.

Oh, wow, your story is so inspiring, dear. I have an unspoken dream of taking up a masters program abroad. Like what you said, marriage and raising children hinder me from pursuing such opportunity. Is there an age limit? I have so many questions.

Oh, dear. I couldn’t understand why a person needs to block your view when fixing your computer. That must have really made a mark on you because you are now generous in sharing your knowledge to your mentees. Keep it up, sister!

Please keep on writing. You’re a great storyteller. I enjoyed reading your post. Looking forward to reading your future posts.

Welcome again to our growing sisterhood!

P.S. Here I am practicing what I preach during the Encourager Party. Haha.

I forgot to say, “Congratulations on your double degree masters!”

Emi' Alawode
Aug 07
Aug 07

Now... I'm blushing! Thanks, Sis. 'Appreciate you. :)

Emi' Alawode
Aug 07
Aug 07

Thanks for all the nice words and the warm welcome. You're so funny! Yeah, we must practice what we preach. 'Glad I was at the Encourager party.

There is no age limit to learning and I'm willing to answer your questions. The acquisition of relevant skills is more important though and you have a lot already. However, go for your dream whenever ready. It's achievable! :)