27-year-old Benson Godwin emerged the overall winner of the British Royal Academy of Engineering for Africa in Kenya, carting away the £25,000 (10 million Nigerian Naira) prize. He is a first class graduate of systems engineering from University of Lagos.
Born into a family of six, the Akwa Ibom indegene lost his father as a child and was brought up by his grandmother who was a school principal. In this interview, he speaks on how he turned his grandma’s room into a workshop where he assembled the project that fetched him the British Royal Academy prize.
I had my primary and secondary education in Ansarudeen, Surulere, Lagos. Then I gained admission into University of Lagos to study systems engineering. After my National Youth Service (NYSC) in Ibadan, Oyo State, I worked as Information Security Associate in Deloite- Akintola -Williams. It was at that point that I developed a passion to work on my project, TUTERIA. Then I resigned to concentrate on my project.
What is TUTERIA all about?
It is a system engineering software used for teaching and mentoring students. I developed the idea. It will interest you to know that I devoted my life and energy to this project. TUTERIA involves assembling software engineering gadgets and when I was introduced to the British Academy, I gave it a thought. I started the project and the work progressed. We link people who want to learn and those who want to teach together at their convenient time. It is an online platform for learners to meet teachers who take courses with them. On the platform, we have teachers who teach various languages. For instance, as a Yoruba person, you can hook on to a teacher who would teach you Hausa. For others, it could be dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, engineering, fashion and many more .
Here you are taught at your convenient time and wherever you choose without going through the classroom. This is the first of its kind in Nigeria and we are soon going worldwide. So, in a nutshell, we provide Quality Personalised Learning(QPL). When did the idea of TUTERIA come to your mind? The idea dropped in my mind in 2005 while I was still in, secondary school. I used to tutor a man’s son who lived close to my house. I taught him mathematics and I was paid N6000 monthly but the man was not faithful with payment. This got me thinking , it was in a bid to provide a solution to this problem that the idea of TUTERIA started ringing in my mind. This project came to limelight immediately I resigned from Deloite Akintola-Williams.
I worked on this project for over seven months with my friend, Abiola Oyeniyi, who is also a first class graduate of systems engineering and now the Chief Technical Officer of Tuteria Nigeria Limited. He was one of the finalists of Google Sub-Sahara Developer Challenge in 2013. When I resigned from Deloitte-Akinola-Williams, Abiola also left and joined me in my grandmother’s house where we toiled day and night to assemble the parts of the TUTERIA. So, by the time I got into the British Royal Academy of Engineering for Africa, we had almost perfected the project. How did you get to know about the academy and what is its goal?
I got to know about the British Royal Academy of Engineering for Africa in July 2016. A friend who was part of them in 2016 introduced it to me and I gave it a trial. I applied a day to the closing date and, luckily, for me, I was among the selected sixteen finalists. We went through a-6-month training and mentorship both online and physical. The grand finale of the competition took place in Kenya where I emerged the overall winner in Africa. The aim of the academy is to identify and support innovative ideas in technology in Africa. The academy is not only looking at innovative ideas that will raise money but also creating impact and benefits in many areas of employment, social benefits, health that are not accessible to many. Moving forward?
It is a massive opportunity for Nigeria because it is the first time a Nigerian emerged the winner. It tells the world that something positive can come out of Nigeria. It makes it clear that not all Nigerians are into corruption, cyber crimes and the rest. I want to encourage young Nigerians to look inwards and see what they can do. We all have ideas but only a few are ready to pay the price for the manifestation. I am driven by passion and not money.
The money attached to the award is totally deployed to the development of the company and not for personal use. My partner and I are determined to make the company come to limelight. The money is to properly position the company. We have to engage many categories of engineers and service providers to reach our goal. I won’t go crazy with ten million naira when I know that I can get trillions if I work harder. Are you married? Yes.
My wife, Jemimah, is a medical doctor and she has been amazing in her support for my passion and bothers less if I fail to give her the romantic gestures that go with a marital life. She understands that I am pursing a dream and, today, to the glory of God that dream has attracted world’s attention. Your advice for parents? Times are changing rapidly. Parents should allow their children to discover themselves and understand this by giving them the support they need.
They should make sure they do not follow the regular path of life because people who make history don’t follow the regular path of life. Bill Gates, Mark Zucerberg and others dropped out of school and today they are great people. Parents should always be their children’s backbones.