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AU News

Professor Returns Home to Support Nigerian College Students

January 13, 2019

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Anderson University Kolawole Olaiya College of Arts and Sciences Nigeria

Nigeria is the second most prolific producer of television shows and movies in the world. 

That’s among the reasons Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences professor Dr. Kolawole Olaiya leapt at the opportunity to take a trip to Wesley University of Science and Technology in Ondo, Nigeria, to help develop the school’s film and television programs. 

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program made the trip possible; the fellowship is a “scholar fellowship program for educational projects at African higher education institutions.” It’s funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. 

Dr. Olaiya’s insight and global perspective — he’s studied in Nigeria, France, Germany, Ghana and Canada, as well as in the United States — helped him return to his birth nation armed with a wealth of knowledge.

The goals of the Carnegie Corporation, Anderson University and Dr. Olaiya were to provide aid for African universities and help them meet their educational goals. Dr. Olaiya wanted to develop the TV/film curricula using his experience from many years in the television industry. AU’s goal was to help build a sister, international institution. Dr. Olaiya’s efforts led to two-year diploma programs in TV/film production that feed students into a labor market in Nigeria eager for qualified candidates. In addition to TV and film production curricula, he also organized workshops on how to use PowerPoint and another on plagiarism and how to cite secondary sources.

“Anderson University happily approved my three-month stay in Nigeria,” he said. “I strongly believe that the TV/film production courses I designed for would lead to the provision of skilled manpower that would help the Nigerian economy.”

Dr. Olaiya’s trip left an impression on the Methodist university founded in 2007, whose students’ thirst for learning far outstripped their resources. In fact, many of the students still text him, asking for input on their work, whether it be poetry or scripts. One letter hanging on his office wall was an outpouring of gratitude from a student over what she learned.

While Dr. Olaiya’s solo trip was entirely funded by the Carnegie Corporation, including room and board, he was able to help students get needed equipment. Thanks to contributions from AU departments, Wesley University added six boxes of textbooks to its shelves.

Dr. Olaiya also inspired several students to apply for grad school. He said one student started a video blog; Dr. Olaiya helped her with a personal gift of a tripod and lights to improve the quality of her work.

He saw a lot of students using what they could to finish assignments. While smartphones are common in Nigeria, laptops are not, he said. Dr. Olaiya noticed students using the phones to type out assignments — some of them 100-120 pages long. 

“I’ve never seen students so committed in my life,” he said.

The students’ dedication sparked Dr. Olaiya to embark on a mission to get 500 new/refurbished laptops to the students.

While he was there, Dr. Olaiya assigned students to write full-length scripts. He was struck by how the scripts were the stories of their lives. He said that the students’ relative lack of screenwriting experience prevented them from masking their stories under the guise of a script. The assignments he received allowed him to coach students on leveraging their life experiences to create great scripts. His insight into the daily lives of students also led him to understand the challenges they faced.

Dr. Olaiya’s own story started in Nigeria, moving around to six primary schools when he was growing up in a military family. While he was in high school, he got interested in drama and writing. That love was nurtured when he served with the National Youth Service Corps, an organization started by Nigeria’s federal government that involves college graduates in civic duty and national service. He started as an apprentice with Nigeria’s national TV service. His work first evolved into writing for discussion programs, and he later moved to drama, where his work caught the attention of management.

Dr. Olaiya’s talent opened doors to higher education; he attended a training institution for staff and earned a master’s degree in English at the University of Maiduguri in Nigeria. Then, he studied abroad in other African nations, as well as in Europe and North America. He was awarded the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship, which enabled him to earn a PhD in drama at the University of Toronto.

“It’s been a fairly long journey,” he said.

Since 2015, Dr. Olaiya has taught English composition, literature and writing for film and television at AU. 

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