The Nigerian teens clueless on computers but aiming to reboot

Christian Asogwa at a computer during his monthly assessment at nearby Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) in Enugu, NigeriaIMAGE SOURCE,CHIMEZIE ANEKE
By Adaobi Tricia NwaubaniLetter from Africa series, Nigeria

The first time 18-year-old Christian Asogwa used a desktop computer was last April when he sat for the Nigerian university entrance exams.He spent the first several minutes of the two-hour exam, taken at a centre in the south-eastern state of Enugu, struggling to find his way around the screen.Before he could settle down to answer the multiple choice questions, which required him to click with a mouse – he was stumped.”They asked us to put our name and registration number and I didn’t know how to do it,” he said.

“I asked the person sitting beside me and she showed me where to press the capital letters and all that.”Christian had known in advance that the exam would require him to use a computer, but his state-run school in the Enugu town of Ngwo had none.

His father is dead and his mother earns little selling baby items, so there was no-one he knew who could afford to buy him one for practice or to pay for private lessons.He had resorted to learning from videos on YouTube but describes being nervous when eventually faced with the real thing.When the results of the exam, known as Jamb (Joint Admission and Matriculation Board), were released days later, his score of 208 out of 400 was too poor to qualify him for admission to study his choice of law.Christian is now one of about 240 candidates registered for next year’s Jamb who are undergoing free preparatory lessons, including how to use a computer, sponsored by a group of people who come from Ngwo but now live in different parts of the world. They call themselves the Ngwo Yellowpages.”We found out that 70% of our 218 children who took Jamb failed,” said Alex Onyia, a member of the group and CEO of Educare, a company in Lagos that provides software to educational institutions and businesses.”That means 70% of them are not getting into school [university] this year.”

Concerned about the possible impact on crime rates and the youths’ prospects, Mr Onyia organised about 12 volunteers, including their local senator, from the Ngwo Yellowpages WhatsApp group which is made up of more than 500 people.”With my background in education, I knew that the best way to help people is from bottom up,” the 33-year-old said.”The long-term plan is to revitalise the entire education system in our community. The short term plan is to get our children to pass Jamb.”They employed teachers for the various Jamb subjects and secured a local youth centre as the venue.They welcomed any interested candidate living in and around Ngwo. The intensive training sessions began in July, with morning classes for candidates like Christian who will be retaking Jamb, and evening sessions for those who are still in school.

Alex Onyia
Alex OnyiaWe noticed something significant. A lot of people had never touched a computer before”Alex OnyiaFrom Educare and a member of the Ngwo Yellowpages
1px transparent lineAfter the first month, the students were taken to a nearby technical institute and given their first assessment during which they were required to sit in front of desktop computers and answer test questions as if they were in an actual Jamb exam, with Educare providing the software.

“We noticed something significant. A lot of people had never touched a computer before,” Mr Onyia said.”You only saw a computer on the whiteboard, you’ve never touched a computer before and you’re writing Jamb? So we saw that there is a knowledge gap and also a technology gap. The failure was massive.”A 2020 survey by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics showed that while more than 95% of Nigerian youth aged between 15 and 35 can surf the internet, just about 45% had basic word processing skills.The Jamb exams were traditionally written on paper until 2012/13 when the Nigerian government switched to computer-based testing – to reduce the chances of malpractice including corruption from invigilators bribed to alter answers, to stop result sheets going missing or getting destroyed in transit and to reduce from months to about 72 hours the time it took to publish results.Bosun Tijani, Nigeria’s new minister for communication, innovation and digital economy, published a blueprint in October that highlights a goal of increasing digital literacy in the country to 70% by 2027, including a focus on schools and teachers.Many Nigerian schools offer ICT as a subject but do not have any or enough facilities.Some photos on social media once went viral of a teacher in a government school in Ghana who, faced with the same challenge, improvised with detailed chalk diagrams of a Microsoft Word screen.Students during their monthly assessment at nearby Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) in Enugu, NigeriaIMAGE SOURCE,CHIMEZIE ANEKEImage caption,

Naomi Nkechinyere Mba (L) will be taking her Jamb exam in April
“Our teachers tell us that it is simple to use a computer, that once you get to the Jamb exam hall, you can just ask someone to show you how to use it and it is simple,” said 17-year-old Naomi Nkechinyere Mba, who also attends the free Jamb preparatory classes.”They tell us that all we need to do is to focus on our books.”Naomi will be taking the Jamb for the first time next April, but was nervous when she took her first assessment test at the training centre.”I was palpitating. But the second time, I got used to it,” she said.After each monthly assessment, the teachers identify which students were nervous or unfamiliar with the computer.”We do a bit of computer appreciation for them to know how to use a mouse, how to use technology,” said Chimezie Aneke, the administrator of the programme. “It’s something they can learn in a few minutes.”Mr Onyia has promised the students that he, Senator Osi Ngwu and the Ngwo YellowPages will sponsor all of those who score above 300 in the Jamb with full scholarships for the entire duration of whatever course they choose to study in any Nigerian public university.He describes being pleased at seeing many of them now scoring higher in the monthly assessments.His social media posts about the project have led to people from around Nigeria getting in touch with him for advice on how to replicate similar initiatives in their own communities.”I know that we may not be passionate enough to help other villages, but if more people can support their own people collectively, we’ll definitely have a much better Nigeria,” Mr Onyia said.The free lessons in Ngwo are scheduled to continue until shortly before the next Jamb, in April. Christian, who is now proficient with a desktop computer, is keen to retake the exam.”I am very, very confident about next year’s Jamb,” he said.

Travelling the world’s Belfasts by motorbike

Sean Drysdale
Image caption,Sean Drysdale in Belfast, Mpumalanga, South Africa

By Niall Glynn


If you ask most people how long it would take to travel to all the places called Belfast in the world, they’d probably say not very long.

After all, how many Belfasts could there be?

Well, it turns out other than the original, and most famous Belfast, there are at least 24 others – and one man has made it his mission to visit them all.

What’s more, he’s doing it on a motorbike built in the 1970s.

Glengormley man Sean Drysdale has already completed the first part of his quest, travelling from Belfast, South Africa, back to Northern Ireland.

In the spring, he plans to visit the Belfasts of North America – all 19 of them.

Sean Drysdale
Image caption,The journey back took him through many countries, including Kenya

Sean, a retired doctor, first had the idea when he visited South Africa in 1982 and became aware of the town of Belfast, Mpumalanga.

“It took me 40 years to basically find the time to do it,” he said.

Where are the world’s Belfasts?

“So I did that trip [South Africa to Northern Ireland] in 2019-2020 and then it just occurred to me that there were other Belfasts about and thought to myself that would make an interesting ride to just go to them all.

“There’s two in Canada, 17 in the States and then there’s one each in New Zealand, Australia and Jamaica.”

His 2024 trip will take the 66-year-old on a “serpentine journey”, starting in Canada, where he’ll go from Prince Edward Island to Ontario.

Then he’ll cross the border into the US and visit (deep breath) Maine, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Nevada, California before finishing up in Washington state.

The plan is to do it all in six months, from April to October.

“I’m not planning on just getting on the bike and seeing how quickly I can get there,” he said.

“I travel at a leisurely pace and there’s a destination – I’m not trying to catch a train or anything.

“The idea’s to do it all on the same bike, this is a bike that I’ve owned since 1978 and I rebuilt it before I did the Africa trip

“Apart from the challenge of the trip, I think it will be interesting to see how all these places came to be called Belfast.”

Sean Drysdale
Image caption,Sean said some of the best parts of his African journey were stopping at the side of the road and camping in the middle of nowhere

Sean has visited cities in the US before, but this road trip will take him to much more remote places.

“I think it’ll be quite an eye-opener because a lot of these places will be in the middle of nowhere, so you’ll get to see, I suppose, the real United States as opposed to the Hollywood version,” he said.

It would be fair to say the same about his African trip.

It started in Zimbabwe, where Sean was working, then took in South Africa’s Belfast, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan before he travelled to Saudi Arabia.

His original plan was to travel through Iran to Turkey and then through Europe, but that changed when he broke his foot in Sudan.

Sean Drysdale
Image caption,Sean bought his Honda 750 motorbike in 1978

“In the end I just turned left and went up through Saudi into Jordan, then I couldn’t get any further north so I had to go into Israel,” he said.

“Took a boat from Israel to Italy – a cargo boat but they took passengers.

“So I put the bike on the boat and rode up through Italy with Covid hot on my heels.”

He booked AirBnbs and occasionally hotels, couch surfed and sometimes used a tent he had brought with him.

“Just drove off the road a bit, pitched my tent and camped in the middle of nowhere which was great, arguably some of the best bits of it,” he said.

Sean Drysdale
Image caption,Sean met up with a Saudi bikers group during his time in the country

Sean said the most surprising leg of the journey was Saudi Arabia, where he was put in touch with a man who was active in a bikers group.

“From there on I was sort of taken under their wing, introduced to different people and passed from one group to another,” Sean said.

“When I was travelling around the country they’d send me from one town and arrange for me to meet up with people at the next town who would look after me down there.”

Sean Drsydale
Image caption,Sean sampling Saudi Arabian culture

He also had an encounter with royalty.

“By accident I ended up in this place I thought I was supposed to be spending the night and it turned out to be a sort of regional administrative headquarters,” he said

“They introduced me to a prince, a member of the royal family, who was the regional director or governor.

“They put me up in a five-star hotel for three days and he insisted that I travel round with him on one of his days out – went to some of the meetings he was attending and various ceremonies and stuff – then sent me on my way days later.”

He said throughout his journey “the willingness of people to help was just amazing” including paying for his fuel when they heard his story.

“One time I fell off going down a very bad road in Tanzania,” he said.

“The trucks that were following me stopped to make sure I was all right.”

When the bike wouldn’t start, they loaded it onto the back of a trailer, took him to the next town where he could get spend the night and get the bike going again.

Sean Drysdale
Image caption,Sean said the interest people showed in his journey and their willingness to help him was amazing

He recalled a similar experience in Sudan when his bike broke down, and a man stopped to help him push it to a nearby compound where he spent the night.

“The next day they arranged a truck to take me to the next town and sort things out there.”

After travelling up through Europe he returned to Northern Ireland during the first Covid lockdown.

“I think it was at about Newry, I was riding along and it suddenly just dawned on me that I had actually done it, something I’d been thinking about for nearly 40 years,” he said.

“Then I got into Belfast, which was deserted.

“I wasn’t really expected a big crowd clapping me as I rode along Donegall Place, but it was sort of ‘right, well that’s it now and how do I get a picture’.”

Sean Drysdale
Image caption,Sean has readied his bike for the next stage of his quest in North America

Preparations are already under way for the North American trip, including contacting an online forum for the Honda 750 motorbike he’s owned since 1978.

“It should be interesting travelling through and trying to meet up with some of these guys en route – some of them want to travel part of the route with me,” he said.

“The big question will be what do I do once I get to the west coast – do I keep going west or do I make another plan?”

Three Hong Kong activists jailed up to six years for ‘terrorism’ bomb plot

Counter Terrorism Response Unit stand guard at Causeway Bay near Victoria Park on June 04, 2023 in Hong Kong, China
Image caption,File photo of police officers in Hong Kong

By Kelly Ng

BBC News

Three Hong Kong activists have been jailed for up to six years for their involvement in a foiled plot to bomb public buildings.

The trio were initially all charged with “conspiracy to commit terrorism” under the national security law.

They were part of “Returning Valiant”, a pro-independence group which hatched the plan in 2021 following pro-democracy protests.

They were arrested in July 2021, before they could execute their plans.

The court heard that Ho Yu-wang, Kwok Man-hei, and Cheung Ho-yeung had planned to make bombs using the explosive TATP and place them in various public buildings, including government offices, police quarters, court buildings and railways.

They had intended to carry out their plan between 1 April and 5 July 2021, but were arrested before any of the devices were made, the court heard.

Prosecutors said Ho, who was 17 when he was arrested, was “primarily responsible for making the explosives”. He pleaded guilty to the terrorism charge and was sentenced to six years in jail, with the court deeming him the “ring leader” of the group.

Cheng, 23, was also sentenced to six years in jail, while Kwok, 21, was given a 30-month jail term. They both pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of “conspiracy to cause explosions”.

High Court Judge Alex Lee said he accepted that “the hostile social atmosphere” during Hong Kong’s protracted pro-democracy protests could “easily cloud one person’s moral judgment…[and] might turn people with previously good characters into radicals”, according to a Reuters report.

Four others involved in the plans were earlier sentenced in May.

Introduced in 2020, Hong Kong’s wide-ranging national security law gives Chinese authorities expansive powers over political and civic activity in the city.

Some foreign authorities have criticised the law as a tool to crush dissent, while Beijing insists it is necessary to quell unrest.

Close to 300 people have so far been arrested under the controversial law.

Teenage boy killed in Australia shark attack

A picture of Ethel Beach in South Australia - a stretch of sand and the sea can be seen
Image caption,Ethel Beach, South Australia

By Fiona Nimoni

BBC News

A teenage boy has been killed in a shark attack at a popular holiday and surfing spot in South Australia, police have said.

The body was recovered from the water after the attack, near Ethel Beach in the Innes National Park on the Yorke Peninsula, officers said.

A local resident told ABC News Thursday’s attack was the first fatal one at the resort that he was aware of.

The attack is the latest of several in South Australian waters recently.

In a statement, South Australia Police said its officers were first alerted about the attack on Thursday at 13:30 local time (02:30 GMT).

“Sadly the body of a teenage boy was recovered from the water,” police said in a statement.

The force, which did not give the age of the teenager, said officers were preparing a report for the coroner.

Ethel Beach is a 400m-long stretch of sandy surf beach, popular with surfers and tourists, with waves averaging 1.5 metres.

Local resident Marty Goody, who has been surfing in the area for decades, told ABC News that he estimated the victim may have been about “30 to 40 metres off the shore”.

He said the area had always had sharks – “but there does seem to be a lot more of them now”.

The shark attack is the latest of several in South Australian waters in recent months.

In May, a surfer was killed off the Eyre Peninsula, and in February, a girl was mauled by a shark in a river in Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

Australia has more shark attacks than any other country except the US.

Scientists have cautioned that an increase in shark sightings doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in numbers.