It is a credo amidst so many students of Computer Science and other tightly related technology courses of study in undeveloped or developing countries, perhaps Nigeria, that students who make excellent results do not acquire the technical skill(s) and also, vice versa.
However, after graduating from ABU, Zaria as the best graduating student ever recorded since the incorporation of the University in 1962 and leading a team of three (3) students to win the 7th Nigerian Universities Computer Programming Context that has in participation 16 public and private reputable Universities in Nigeria, it became a narrative for both me and others, to explain why I could achieve these feats while maintaining a strong understanding and kin practice of most if not all of the technical skills required by a Computer Scientist to be qualified for employment or compete with other programmers or coders in the real world.
After so many requests, I made a presentation titled "Bridging the Gap Between Academic Performance and Technical Skill(s) Acquisition for Students" at the 2019 DevFest event organised by Google Developers Group, Zaria. Contents of the slide and brief justification can be found attached below;
It has become a trend in Nigeria (and almost normal) to come across a very large number of computer science and other tightly related technology students who have excellent and impressive results but lack the basic skill(s) required by employers or are just simply unemployable.
My academic excellence is likely the easiest to prove. I obtained a National Diploma with a 3.51/4.00 CGPA in Computer Science from Kaduna Polytechnic and also graduated with a 4.94/5.00 CGPA from Computer Science Department at ABU, Zaria, the highest ever attained in the history of the University since its establishment in 1962.
My programming skills may also not be too difficult to prove as I once participated and emerged the first winner in the 7th Nigerian Universities Computer Programming Contest (NUCPC) with over 16 top Nigerian Universities in 2018. Also, while being an undergraduate student, I worked with Dixre Enterprise and Bitsense Limited as Chief Technical Officer and Developer respectively where I oversaw and participated in the development of application software for 14 different clients with excellent client satisfaction scores.
Having realised that the next phase of good governance in Nigeria would be largely dependent on the proper interpretation of data to improve policymaking, law regulations passing and law interpretation, I was motivated to develop a software titled “NaijaPeopleRep” which focused on bridging the communication gap between the citizens and their representatives in the Senate.
To justify how these activities help students gain skills while in school, I will narrate the different activities I partook in, their impacts on my life and how they have helped shaped me.
Just while being an undergraduate, I participated in the hackathon and idea pitch competition organised my Ahmadu Bello University Developers (ABUDevs) in 2017, where I emerged 3rd and 2nd positions respectively. I further participated in the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) Change Maker Challenge in Lagos, where my idea didn't make the 1st 10 best ideas received (as judged). I challenged other student innovators during the Student Innovation Challenge, organised by the Nigerian Presidency that held in Kano in 2018. It was afterwards that I led a team to participate in the 7th Nigerian Universities Computer Programming Context and emerged the 1st winners. These competitions have helped to build confidence in me, assisted me to tolerate risk and pressure, and persevere for success.
To get a glimpse of how it feels developing useful and real life projects, I volunteered to work for tech startup companies (pro bono) and to develop official websites for some start-up companies and non profit organisations that needed online presence but are low on budget. At some point, it became a necessity to tutor freshmen, sophomore and even my course mates some mathematics and programming related courses. These activities assisted my communication skills, people skills, project management and timely delivery skills, and enhanced my network.
Participating in all these activities meant many more responsibilities, and also meant reducing my available study time. In spite, I couldn't turn down the ultimate call to lead when it came. I was invited to lead the most prominent Tech Group in ABU, Zaria i.e (ABUDevs) and eventually implored to be the Software Director of the National Association of Computer Science Students (NACOSS), my department's students association. I eventually could not resist the urge to join the Google Developers Group (GDG) in Zaria as it allows members to meet local developers with similar interests in technology. These activities ultimately improved my network within and outside the university and ameliorated my leadership and management skills.
It began to become difficult to cope with these so many activities at some point as I also needed to keep up with my side hustle to ensure I still have enough savings (I was self-sponsoring my undergraduate program). I had a small unregistered side hustle where I accord students (both within the university and outside) an even more personal attention (different from tutorials), to guide them on tedious assignments and projects, and get paid stipends (became much enough to pay tuition, accommodation and feeding).
Beyond reasonable doubt, it would be tiring, tedious and almost impossible to do all these at same time while ensuring not to loose out with personal friends, becoming left out in social activities and maintaining an excellent result; but, it is possible and worth it as it is required to get prepared for the competitive job market.