Wilhelm Oddo

Fighting poverty and youth unemployment through ICT education

May 27, 2019 - Interviews

He’s a social entrepreneur with a passion for education. A passion for education that everyone can access and that improves children’s lives. He took part in one of our Social Business Bootcamps in Nairobi in 2016, and we had the pleasure of meeting up with him as he recently visited Stockholm. Meet Wilhelm Caspar Oddo.

Tell us a bit more about your company NLab?

It’s an initiative which works to build an ICT competitive, creative and innovative young generation by introducing new ICT technologies and teaching coding and entrepreneurship skills to children and youth of all gender and abilities in Tanzania.

What made you set it up initially?

I want to fight poverty. And I believe that all children have a right to access education of high quality regardless of economic and social status. I also believe that education, if delivered with purpose, can be a path for youth to achieve their goals and fight unemployment and poverty. But youth unemployment is a huge issue in Tanzania and many youths go without jobs even after they’ve graduated.

I worked at the Kampala International University Campus in Dar Es Salaam, and realised that there was a need for the education system to include skills that would enable graduates of all levels and ages to go and create a job rather than wait to be employed. So that’s when I decided to quit my job and focus on NLab.

How is NLab solving the problem of unemployment?

Our college is offering something much more practical to young people. We’re giving them a chance to be creative and innovative to be able to create their own jobs. All our students have to have a project that they work on during their studies and we’re supporting them to be able to develop this into their own company. They get a chance to create their own future.

Who are the young people joining NLab?

Most of our students are aged 16 to 21 and they come from poorer backgrounds as well as wealthier families. However, a majority have previously studied at public secondary schools and only a few come from private schools.

In partnership with an organisation called Apps and Girls, NLab has been operating in different secondary schools in Dar Es Salaam, as well as other regions, so students have know about our existence because of this. These student, who were introduced to coding and ICT while in secondary school, have already developed a passion, so when they join NLab Innovation Academy for our Diploma course, they already know what they want in life.

The students who join, who never participated in any of our coding clubs in schools, may join with no clear picture of what they want. So with them, we start helping them before they start our sessions, by trying to understand what their passions are.

We are also aware that not all of our students are able to pay full fees, so we have decided to allow them to pay in instalments. We are also working on additional support for those who wish to study, who have the qualifications to do so, but lack the funds to pay.

What’s next for NLab?

Taking part in SE Forum’s programme a few years back meant that I got to really think about how to make NLab work as a sustainable business. Since then we’ve been developing our curriculum as well as our company and I’m thrilled to have been able to start our certified Diploma course in March this year. We’ve already got students paying to attend our college and we’re ready to take on another 100 in the autumn.

We’ve got some great facilities now and are really excited to continue growing our college, to develop new partnerships and to be able to help more young people to achieve their dreams.