VALENTINE UBALUA ON EDUCATING THROUGH CARTOONS
Valentine Ubalua, a graduate of Computer Science at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka is a Microsoft certified technology specialist and an alumni of Enterprise Development Centre, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos. As an entrepreneur seeking solutions to problems using ICT; and from his learning difficulties experienced as a child, he founded Nicademia, an educational technology (Edutech) platform which produces animated cartoons to make learning easy, fun, accessible and affordable for students in Nigeria. Ubalua was highly concerned about the increase in mass failure in national exams and the depleting population of qualified teachers in our schools.
His vision is to create a visible global brand in the education sector.
Why did you decide to employ educational technology in producing animation and what inspires you?
It was out of a personal experience; I had difficulties learning as a child. It got so bad that my teachers and parents almost gave up on me. This struggle continued from my primary school up to my university days. I love listening to music and watching cartoons, so I started teaching myself through audio-visuals. My retention abilities soon improved and I graduated as one of the best students in my department. So I am doing this to reach out to students who might be facing similar challenges and put a stop to their misery and stigmatization.
Is this a lucrative side of computer science/ICT and if not, how do you plan to stay afloat and break even?
Not at the moment but over time, it will be. I believe money will come in later, but my focus is first to find a solution to the problem. We will generate revenue from licenses and subscriptions.
You have a team of six professionals ranging from actors and musicians to animators and graphic designers that create content. Are they permanent fixtures at Nicademia?
They are all permanent staff of Nicademia and friends whom I have worked with over the years. We are passionate about what we do and share the vision of making learning fun, accessible and affordable.
How has the reception to your content and style of animation been?
The reception has been great; we have thousands of views, as well as good comments online. Our audience finds the animation unique, entertaining and educative, and this gives us great joy.
What are your key areas and subjects of focus?
Our focus is curriculum-based school subjects especially mathematics and English language.
What is the average cost of your production and how do you source funds and disseminate your work?
Our 5-minute episodes cost N850, 000 to produce. We source the funds via licenses then disseminate through TV stations.
Who is your target audience; public and or private schools?
How have you been able to involve the stakeholders in the educational sector?
This is still in progress.
How frequently do you exhibit your work in schools; several times or once a term, or do you leave the videos with the schools?
Our cartoons are used as teaching aids by teachers to make learning fun, easy and engaging in class. They are also used as a learning aid for students. It is a continuous process.
Will your animation be available for purchase as DVDs or will they only be online?
Part of our vision is the accessibility of our educational cartoons, so over time they would be available on every possible media including DVDs.
Besides TV and schools, what other ways do you distribute your productions?
Our distribution channels are; TV, schools, underserved areas likes slums, IDP camps and homes.
How many students have you been able to reach so far, and has your animation improved their performance at school?
We have been able to reach over 500 students who have used our animation. Their retention abilities have increased by 96%, and their academic performance much improved.
You also seem passionate about the education of the girl child. Is there a reason for this?
Yes, I am passionate about the girl child’s education that is why the brilliant, smart and most intelligent characters in our animation are girls. We aim at inspiring girls to believe in themselves and their abilities, as well as to change the perception people have of girl education, in a subtle and appealing way.
Do you also target parents, organizations, institutions, religious bodies and so on?
Yes we do. That is why our distribution channels are TV, homes, schools, the Internet and underserved locations.
Why is Nicademia’s vision tied to Walt Disney?
(Laughs!) Walt Disney who I call ‘the father of cartoons/animation’ inspires Nicademia. We are applying his footsteps to the field of learning. My retention abilities improved using cartoons and I know it will help many Nigerians.
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