Driving STEM and Social Innovation in Nigeria’s Education System – Jonathan's Changemaker Journey

Jonathan Godwin, an Ashoka Young Changemaker (2022)
Source: Jonathan Godwin

Jonathan Godwin is a technology savvy young changemaker who is helping ensure that young people with few financial or educational resources are building the skills most needed for today's rapidly changing world. He is unleashing their power as changemakers through alternative models that champion entrepreneurship, STEM and social innovation. 

Raised in an one room apartment with four other siblings, Jonathan felt the effect of poverty on young people and the challenges they had accessing education, from an early age: “I know first-hand the grave effect of poverty on personal development and the mindset of an individual”. Inspired by his father’s love of books, Jonathan was always passionate about education, noticing a gap in educational opportunities for underserved individuals. Participating in a training program on innovation further sparked Jonathan’s desire to create innovation in the education system. 

“We need to change the system that doesn't encourage young people to think; that doesn't encourage young people to grow with their ideas and do more with themselves” - Jonathan Godwin 

The STEM Club

Driven by this goal, Jonathan established the STEM Club, a non-profit social enterprise designed to identify and empower students from underserved backgrounds with relevant training and skills in STEM and social innovation. Their beneficiaries include students between the ages of 9-16 years in public and low-cost private schools. STEM Club uses gamification to drive their activities, for example, the use of unique STEM Laboratory kits.  

Their weekly lessons and case studies come in form of videos, projects and activity sheets which cut across the following six themes; STEM Education, Digital literacy, Social Innovation, Leadership, Entrepreneurship and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a desire of providing the students with practical education. 

The STEM Club has also inspired students to be creative with their thinking in a rapidly changing world: “Innovation is really a powerful tool that can change the world because, it helps us think outside the box that society tends to place us in”.  

Jonathan recounts how at STEM Club, a young female student cared about the environment and wanted to make trash disposal more exciting. This drive culminated in an automatic dustbin (‘trash bot’ that was implemented at Jakande Estate Comprehensive Senior College, Alimosho. Instead of littering on the ground, students – excited by the automated dustbin - would queue up to use it. This invention increased the motivation of students to dispose of waste properly and helped establish sustainable practices as part of the school culture.

In another example, one of Jonathan’s students submitted a song to a competition hosted by the Lagos State Department and was awarded second place. Jonathan notes how “Innovation is not just limited to building a new technological gadget”.   

“In Nigeria, sometimes it's quite easy to feel hopeless or to feel like you can't achieve more”. By taking action, Jonathan now also feels more powerful, and less hopeless in this new reality of constant change. 

“Even if I fall, I have a hand holding me up.” - Jonathan Godwin 

Peer-to-Peer Support and Adult Allies

Jonathan emphasizes the power of peer and adult allies in empowering young changemakers. “sometimes in your changemaking journey, you could fall sick, you could feel overwhelmed mentally”, but Jonathan notes “having people that help you realize that no, you're not alone would really help more people become changemakers”. Having a community that cares for his wellbeing and where he can share his struggles helped Jonathan feel “more empowered to do the work”. 

The Teenpreneurs Educational Foundation played a big role in bringing STEM Club idea life. They provided training and advice on how to run an enterprise. Jonathan also received support from mentors, who helped him liaise with teachers, build goodwill with other stakeholders and provide advice for his technology-oriented curriculum. Jonathan is creating change “one life at a time, one step at a time” with his team of peers. They have taken up their own role as changemakers. Take for example, Emmanuel Tobiloba, who helps manage finance, logistics and outreach to schools; or Thato Segole, who helps ideate strategies to grow the STEM Club, including building the group’s international presence. 

An Everyone a Changemaker World

How can more people be inspired to become changemakers? An Everyone a Changemaker World, according to Jonathan, is a world where “everyone is conscious about their actions and your power to affect the world”. “People are not really moved by what you say, but what they see”, as such, for young people, “peer to peer influences are very important”. Jonathan’s advice for aspiring changemakers is to be authentic. He also emphasizes the importance of changemaking for all – especially for future generations. “We all have that power within us. We just need to find something to bring it out”. 
 
By breaking down barriers and providing practical educational experiences for underserved communities, Jonathan embraces solutions for building a world where everyone is an equal and powerful contributor, regardless of their economic background. 

 

More About the Changemaker 

Jonathan Godwin is a young Nigerian innovator who is committed to building a sustainable Africa, powering it with technology and protecting its future with a bigger focus on conservation and education. Jonathan aims to continue inspiring young people to become changemakers. 

He served as Senior Prefect of his high school, and his passion for technology has led to winning various local, national and international competitions. Currently, he is a Mastercard Foundation Scholar at the African Leadership University and Volunteers at the Teenpreneurs Educational Foundation and is also an Alumni at Ishk Tolaram Foundation. In 2022, Jonathan was named as an Ashoka Young Changemaker.