I found him on a friend’s page, was nice to finally ‘meet’ the person behind the acclaimed Student Circle, and very recently, the first fully online African university, fresh from its beta testing phase. Say hello to Gossy Ukanwoke, the 23-year-old Nigerian who is successfully channeling his passion for Africa, technology, and education into multi-pronged solutions.
Gossy: How are you doing? And good evening!
ME: Good evening. I’m doing great! You?
Gossy: I’m very well, lots of work but I’m getting by…
ME: Welcome to the 3, 2, 1 series; a platform where the Fairy God Sister is at liberty to ask any question she wants!
Gossy: *smile* thanks and Gossy chooses which to answer!
ME: This interview is written so I’ll reproduce as is on the blog, only editing for any errors. And err, Gossy will be compelled by my fairy powers to answer! Ready?
Let’s start with, what is it about Gossy that I won’t/can’t/haven’t read in interviews?
Gossy: Gossy is really God fearing, he’s a strong Christian.
ME: Wonderful! What else?
Gossy: My computer is stuck with me.
ME: Ha ha ha… obviously!!! Give me something Gossy
Gossy: I do not like education as it is currently. I believe the system is not built for all types of learners; that’s why we see those who are not “bright” in class excel outside class, in business, in art or vocation. However, vocational learning is not always considered equal to the standard learning schemes in our societies today
ME: Student Circle Network. What’s the back story?
Gossy: I have always believed that every student should have access to quality and affordable education; Students Circle Network was built from that drive to help students and the rest is history.
ME: What’s your biggest success story from the network?
Gossy: Our users come back to say thank you and for me that qualifies our success.
ME: Any distinct story?
Gossy: A Masters students who was choked for a final project got on SCN 5 days before submission deadlines. He spoke with a teacher/a group of students, was put through and he got an A in that project!
ME: amazing! That’s the kind of story that keeps you going on a difficult day isn’t it?
Gossy: yes exactly. There have been times in the past that the pressures were so much that I once reconsidered the network but these stories give you a sense of fulfilment
Ok, #3. Who’s your ideal woman? (And I’m a Fairy, so feel free to dream…)
Gossy: Lol! Ok, my ideal woman….. should be understanding; because I could get stuck up on work and this PC so much!
ME: That’s it? Understanding? That’s it? C’mon!!! There must be other things you want!
Gossy: that’s pretty much all I can say trust me! You won’t understand how much understanding is..
ME: Looks, culinary skills, temperament, nothing? Ok, at the risk of digressing, explain your understanding of the ‘understanding’ you’re looking for.
Gossy: Understanding that being on my computer 72 hours doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention. Get the picture?
ME: hmmm….. I know your type! On to your latest venture, what does Beni stand for?
Gossy: Beni is just a unique name in itself and its part of a personal experience. So yes Beni…… I think it’s a great name
ME: Ok… if I pronounced it in Yoruba be ni could mean ‘yes’. It could also be a place, river, or part of a name. For you is it an acronym, something in a language, I’m curiooooooous Gossy!
Gossy: more things will unfold in the future I guess, but it’s a name on its own.
ME: hmmm, I’m restraining myself from using my powers to extract the name from you right now! What’s the place of social media in the communities you’re building?
Gossy: Social media drives sporadic communication between those who are remotely linked; this is vital in learning and the growth of knowledge and that intersects with what my focus is on.
ME: I see that the pioneer students at Beni American have a ‘class blog’. We had one during my postgraduate studies but I’d like to know why you set that up?
Gossy: students who are coming from diverse backgrounds come together, they need to know each other, learn from each other’s experiences, etc. I got to know a few people from that class blog myself whose knowledge I’ll be tapping into in the future.
ME: Including me? smile
Gossy: yes you were a student in the class blog
ME: Past tense? Ahhhh!!!
Gossy: the class is over, and you weren’t exactly a model student… you did not attend classes and you did not do assignments.
ME: Awwww, I’m sorry! I feel like I’m getting a talking to from a Principal! And I am a good student! *adjusts halo*
#2 If I gave you three days devoid of work/school and all the money you wanted, what would you do?
Gossy: I’d head to England to see someone and have a nice holiday
ME: See who? The person who understands you?
Gossy: I don’t really discuss personal details but yes it may be the person who understands me, or an advisor I have been promising to visit, or a family member!
ME: That’s good enough for us, I respect your privacy. Student Circle, BAU; what else does Gossy have his hands in at the moment?
Gossy: school, I’m a final year student at Girne American University, studying Management Information Systems.
ME: Final set of questions, and I must thank you for being an interesting guest…
Gossy: Thanks plenty, any time!
ME: Why Beni American? Why not Beni Nigerian?
Gossy: We need to let people know what they are going into. Nigeria doesn’t currently have a benchmark for online universities; however the Americans do and we are running an American system, curriculum, structure and calendar amongst other things.
ME: What’s the biggest take away for you now that the testing for BAU is done?
Gossy: The people love it and that’s a great start. The students have come to realize the online system isn’t exactly an easy process when properly executed as we are doing
ME: #1 If you had one wish that you were sure would be granted, what would it be?
Gossy: that every Nigerian youth gets educated and upon graduation have an opportunity
ME: Thank you Gossy!
Gossy: You are most certainly welcome
Note: Gossy is currently fund-raising to provide free tablets for BAU students as well as subsidized internet access for them. Information about his outstanding precedents, and avenues to donate are here.