It is difficult to imagine not knowing how to type on a keyboard or how to open an Internet browser to access Facebook. But, more than 80 percent of the population of Nigeria has never used a computer, said Olatunde Olatunji, president and co-founder of The Computer Outreach School of Nigeria (COS).
COS is a non-profit organization founded by three University of Richmond seniors: Olatunji, Zachary Correa and Keefer Taylor.
The mission of COS is to teach Nigerian students how to use computer resources through teachers who are technologically literate and to bridge the technological gap that exists in many parts of Nigeria, Olatunji said.
“COS is a way to open a lot of doors to a lot of people,” Taylor said. “It really gives the opportunity to kids that they might not otherwise have.”
Olatunji is from Nigeria, and since going to school in America, he has felt inspired to give back to his country, said sophomore Andrew Valenski, director of development for COS.
The idea of COS started when Olatunji was a sopho- more, but when he did not get a grant from Projects for Peace, the plan fell through, he said.
In October, Olatunji decided to restart COS by collaborating with Correa, who is knowledgeable in computer graphics, and Taylor, who is experienced in computer programming, Olatunji said. One month later, the three men were on a plane to Nigeria to make the plan a reality, Correa said.
Taylor was inspired to join COS because it is a chari- table organization through which he can share his love for teaching and passion for computers, he said.
Initially, the founders of COS wanted to build their own school, but realized that it would be better to build on a school that already existed, Olatunji said.
COS members partnered with the Ilesa Grammar School, the oldest school in Ilesa, Nigeria. The grammar school gave COS a building on its campus to teach out of, starting in June 2013, Olatunji said. The organization’s members are going to Nigeria this summer to set up the school and train the faculty mem- bers on how to use the computers, Olatunji said. Not only will the computers be available during school hours to students, but they will also be used as a cyber café for people to pay to use the Internet after school hours, he said.
The founders plan on continuing COS after graduat- ing this year, but Olatunji said the biggest obstacle was maintaining sustainability without having the constant source of income to keep the school open.
COS relies on donations and fundraising for money to continue the organization. Sophomore Matthew Groff, director of fundraising for COS, said that most of the funding came from a number of individual donors and a few large donors. The organization members are also in the process of applying for grants, he said.
Aside from monetary donations, COS has also received many computers and laptops from businesses, such as Stancil & Co., a consulting firm where the father of Jordan Chavez, the network director for COS, works.
Groff and the other members of COS are looking to other businesses for donations and have talked to a German engineering company that has promised them $3,000, Olatunji said.
COS has already received 30 computers, but its leaders have set a goal to get 20 more, as well as more monetary donations, Olatunji said.
The organization’s members have talked about hold- ing fundraising events or partnering with groups on campus to raise more money through a COS run or by selling stickers and t-shirts, Groff said.
Eventually, COS wants to branch out of Nigeria and expand to other countries, Olatunji said.
“The ultimate goal is to help all these kids and give them an opportunity to do something they never would’ve done if we weren’t here,” Chavez said.
The Huffington Post reported on COS on Feb. 4 as part of “Two Nonprofits Started by College Students.”
Contact reporter Maria Jayme at firstname.lastname@example.org