How Nigerian teenager overcame dyslexia to build electrical appliances

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He was widely rumoured to be under a spell. He was rejected by classmates and scorned by playmates. He was suffering from Dyslexia, a form of disability that impairs reading, spelling and even writing, in children. And with such disability, he lived his adolescent years with the fear of a bleak future.

But all that changed in 2014 when he eventually overcame his dyslexic condition, with the support of his mother (now late) and some of his teachers and mentors. But prior to that period, his condition had spurred him to discover a talent hitherto hidden to him and many people around him: construction of electronic appliances.

“With my dyslexic condition, I was scared because I never wanted to become a school drop-out. So I discovered that I can create and invent technological appliances,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview.

“Of course, I wanted to innovate because I could not write. So in a way, my poor reading and spelling abilities made me discover my talents.”

AYANWOYE TOBI RASHEED

19-year old Ayanwoye Tobi Rasheed is a Senior Secondary School, SSS 3, student of Federal Government College, FGC, Ogbomoso. He was born in January 1998. A native of Oyo State, Tobi was raised in Ogbomoso in Oyo North senatorial district of the state.

Having suffered Dyslexia from boyhood, he was never given any chance by people around him. But against all odds, and with the support of his mother and teachers, he fought his disability. He can now read, spell and write well.

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But much more importantly, Tobi has since discovered himself, nurtured his talents and built numerous electrical appliances including a solar-powered lawn mower, a solar-powered grinding machine, a foot mart alert among other appliances.

For more than three weeks in December 2016, Tobi could not be reached. Every effort by our correspondent to meet him for an interview proved abortive. But when PREMIUM TIMES eventually spoke with him, he spoke on his challenges, motivation and future plans.

OVERCOMING DYSLEXIA

“It was tough for me,” Tobi said of his experience before he found solution to his dyslexic condition. “Whenever I saw an alphabet, I mistook it for another.”

Tobi, at 14 years of age, had to repeat classes because he could not read or write. No one realised he was suffering from a learning impairment, and it was indeed a complex situation.

“Some teachers in the school believed Tobi was under a spell and this was the story I had to believe,” Ishola Abdulkabeer, Tobi’s private teacher, mentor and coach, said.

IMG-20170125-WA012“Fortunately for me, watching the movie ‘Like Stars on Earth’ changed that psyche. It featured a character (Hishan) who also suffered from Dyslexia like Tobi. We sat to watch the movie with Tobi and I asked him what his inference was, then he told me this was exactly what’s wrong with him. The first thing I did was to carry out a background research on his learning history.”

Mr. Ishola also disclosed that he made contact with medical professionals to examine the situation and scheduled personal coaching sessions with the boy using digital flashcards designed with PowerPoint.

“We explored the OneNote application for synchronizing exercises via PC and mobile while enjoying the digital inking feature. We gathered videos from YouTube about people who had overcome the dyslexia challenge. The scrabble game was also helpful for letter identification and word formation. We equally watched inspiring movies like Akeelah and the Bee which spurred his dictation to perfection,” he added.

The teacher explained further that it was really difficult and frustrating helping Tobi overcome his challenge in the beginning, adding that he almost gave up on him. However, Tobi’s attitude to learning and resilience, Mr. Ishola said, were highly infectious.

“I chased him away one day after explaining a concept to him several times, yet he failed to comprehend. The next day, he came knocking on my door and then I asked: ‘what did you do when you got home yesterday?’ He said: ‘I went to pray to God to touch your heart and accept me back’. That really touched my heart and from that day, I gave my all to see him succeed,” Mr. Ishola disclosed.

Mr. Ishola helped Tobi overcome his disability, through intense coaching.

POOR BACKGROUND

Born into a poor family, Tobi’s parents were not financially buoyant enough to support his educational pursuit. His mother was a petty trader who took up loans to settle his school bills from his primary school days. Sadly, on December 3, 2016, she died in an auto crash along the Mokwa-Jebba Road. She was buried the next day, December 4.

“It was my saddest day on earth. I was not really myself. She was my mentor, my guide, my mother… my everything,” Tobi told PREMIUM TIMES in a rather melancholic tone.

“Sadly, when the incident happened, I was on my way to Lagos to receive another award from my school’s Alumni Association for being the most innovative student of the year in the school. That day was my happiest and saddest day on earth.”

Checks by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Tobi has three older siblings and an aged father, who is rather too weak to support his son’s academic pursuit.

IMG-20170125-WA009But Tobi is desirous of studying abroad, to learn more and build more electrical appliances.

“I really want to go and study more in higher institutions of technology abroad, maybe Italy or China,” he told our correspondent.

“I want to learn more skills that will make me create, build and innovate things. Also, I will like to teach other people how to invent technological appliances too after acquiring sufficient knowledge and exposure. I will be glad if the Federal government can help me fund my education abroad.”

TOBI’S PROJECTS

Some of the projects Tobi built include a solar-powered lawn mower, a machine that uses solar technology to cut grasses. Also, he designed and built a solar-powered grinding machine as well as a foot mat alarm, which alerts it’s owner when visitors step on it without them having to ring a bell.

“I also designed and built radio sets and CD players in the past, although I couldn’t complete them due to lack of funds,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

His works and ideas have earned him the nickname ‘Atra the Innovator’ amongst his colleagues and teachers (‘Atra’ being a corrupt version of the initials of his names–––Ayanwoye Tobi Rasheed). All he achieved was done courtesy of the support he received from his teachers, the management team of his school and especially his late mother.

Meanwhile, Tobi says there are still numerous project ideas he has, but cannot execute due to financial challenges.

“Most of my projects are abandoned half-way. I once built a mower while in primary school, but it is different from the one I built recently. I had to abandon it because of funds.

“I must say that teachers in my school, FGC, have been supportive. The school provided the solar panel I used while building one of my projects. But there are still challenges.

“Most of the equipment and materials I need for my projects are expensive and I cannot afford to get them. That is why I need the support of the Nigerian people,” he said.

In 2014 Tobi won a runner-up prize for his invention at the Schlumberger Excellence in Education Development (SEED). The Science and Technology School Exhibition gave him an opportunity to showcase his projects as he was honoured with the most innovative student award.

He was also featured on TEDx IsaleGeneral programme themed  ‘Beyond The Walls’.

TEDx IsaleGeneral

In October 2016, Tobi featured as a speaker at TEDx IsaleGeneral, a discussion platform where speakers are invited to talk about topics that could change the world. The programme held at Isale General, Ogbomoso, Oyo State.

Despite being the youngest speaker at the event, Tobi’s presentation was adjudged the most impactful, drawing loud ovation from the crowd and fellow speakers. His presentation was titled “From Incinerator to Innovator”. IMG-20170125-WA016

“Tobi Ayanwoye was the youngest speaker we featured at TEDxIsaleGeneral…and without any bias, Tobi was the only speaker who got an overwhelming standing ovation by all members of the audience, including other speakers,” Emdee Tiamiyu, the curator of the TEDx IsaleGeneral programme, said.

“His ideas were beyond the walls and his speech was electrifying. As young as Tobi is, he has expressed huge potentials through his innovative projects that has won numerous awards for both his school and him.”

Ridwon Rasheed, the publicity secretary of the TEDx programme told PREMIUM TIMES that Tobi is a talent whose potentials must not be allowed to die.

“He is a unique unicorn, with his ability to think better than most electrical electronics engineering students and graduates; to create something he is passionate about. His brilliance and innovation won his school a laboratory from the German government.”

Mr. Rasheed urged well-meaning Nigerians and the government to ensure that Tobi is supported in his chosen field of innovation and invention, noting that his presentation at the TEDx programme and his numerous projects can help nurture a generation of creative and ingenious Nigerian youths.

SENATE INVITATION

Bukola SarakiIn the first week of January, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was informed about the young boy’s numerous projects and innovative skills. Mr. Saraki has since invited the young for a short presentation at a date yet to be announced.

“We have not been informed of the actual date,” Tobi told PREMIUM TIMES in response to the date he is billed to deliver his presentation at the Senate.

“But we are hopeful the plan would work out. The Special Adviser to the Senate President got in touch with us but said the date has not been fixed.”

Mr. Rasheed and other facilitators at the TEDx IsaleGeneral confirmed the development.

Bamikole Omisore, the Special Assistant to the Senate President on New Media also confirmed the invitation, saying, “the Senate president saw his entry and was fascinated by it and he is one of the entries we were told to prioritise at the #MadeinNigeria Desk.”

“The invitation to Tobi is part of the move by the Senate President to meet with young innovators like him to hear directly from them challenges they go through and how they have been able to make It against all odds.”

When asked what the government and other well-meaning Nigerians could do to support his dreams, Tobi disclosed that he intends to study and acquire more skills abroad.

He also appealed to Nigerians to render their support towards funding his numerous innovative projects.

“I wish to school abroad and acquire more skills. I want to come back to Nigeria and give back by training other innovative young people like me too because I believe in the future of this country, Nigeria,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.


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  • Ezekiel

    Nigerians this is what we need let all run to support this.

  • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

    Good Job kid. i am coming to look for you and fund your projects. This is the 9th symphony to my ears. I am full of joy Tobi. That is the Generation that will make Nigeria great. That is the generation i am fighting for their future. Now we know the boys are innovators and inventors next move is to put things in place to stop the Nigerian girls from 18yrs down to 0 from becoming future prostitutes ati Runs girls just like the current 89% of girl between 18 to 32 of today are prostitutes. to hell with the failed tribes Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Tiv, idoma etc, to hell with failed organised religions known as black magic, Islam and Christianity. They have contributed nothing to this country for centuries.

    • persona

      Yeye man. Leave the runs girls biko. They run an important economy for dissatisfied and promiscuous men and women in this our country. their patrons will argue they have nuisance value even as they destroy their lives.
      The route they should go is what me I don suggest. Make dem leave senate as na jamboree dem go use the guy do. The best graduating students across schools are yet to get employment from the same senate wey parade dem. You no see say all the aides of senate president dey respond now, make the issue CCT, na radio silence.

  • persona

    Great that he has overcome his challenges with creativity. The next step if for the teacher and the boy to identify that they are not supposed to get in the mouse trap of government. ALl they need is the same endorsement from Schlumbeger to Microsoft.
    The OneNote feature with its inking capability is what should now be made into a teaching aid for kids and others challenged as himself. He should own something for royalty purpose so he can overcome poverty also.
    The senate route will lead nowhere tangible not because its the senate, but the past should guide us into the future. If its not politics and self interest, they will not attend the presentation and rallying round will be a cycle that leads into frustration.
    FGC and Schlumbeger should go see Microsoft and make progress with it. Good Luck.

    • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

      What you have said is true. He will get no where with the government. I have had 3 bad experiences with inventions they stole and arent/didnt impliment properly just because some short sighted greed driven politicians and govt officials saw a way to make a quick buck, inflate the product cost and make it a business of their own. the benefit to the country and our innovation reputation was never considered.

      Microsoft wont invest in the kids projects because there is a competitive affordable price market globally already and microsoft are in it too. So am i also. I build robotic vacuum, trash disposal, cleaners, smart homes basically for fun. it only takes a few days to build and wire something with custom pvc boards, Pi’s etc and OS language compilers etc. What the young man needs is for young millionaires/Billonaires in the private sector and property business (Brains and hammers etc) to be wise and prepare for the future by investing in people like him. Thats the way to go. Thats what i would have done if i was interested in that business. like i said Building those techs are just a hobby for me, and sometimes i teach kids. Am more interest in accelerators and collider technology. Big scientific Buck to be made there. Anyway i heard the young owners of play Night club have something like the dragons den etc partnership schemes going on. he can try there, He should avoid politicians, the likes of the Ulumele foundation etc belonging to all the corrupt old men and their cabal.

      • persona

        Microsoft will support him because he’s a poster child for overcoming disability. It fits into the plan on the tripod of education, health and poverty. It depends on how they route it.
        I will personally wont mind to open doors for him but the challenge is, too many big men interest will surface now that politicians are aligned. I don’t work with them and any attempt to pipe the boy along another route will make them come after you. The truth is, he doesn’t need to develop the tech yet as Microsoft may not support that but teaching aid and possibly programing will be of interest to them to make a software that can be localized atleast. I see google reaching out also to explore teaching aids, let the race begin.

        • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

          You are correct. I also think something like “Kickstarters etc” would be another way for Nigerians to fund ourselves, schools innovation programs and innovators. The problem is that our urge for quick buck and no lust for long term investment would be a challenge, That is why schemes like MMM which i remember back from the 80’s as a scam would resurface and become popular and used just 20+ years later. But a few of us with long term investment understanding would support such schemes. And fear not of the Politicians, they are more busy with their interest in the quick massive buck from Natural resources and taxes governing because they believe Nigeria would fail from their greedy actions. But that would never be the case. Natural resources is fast disapperaing and corruption is fast ending. The young from all 6 geo-political regions would change this for the country.

          • persona

            The hope of the youth changing this country is not likely as much as I would desire that. The avarice and need to praise those who have illicit funds is the future of this nation as at today. You have identified that kickstarter type setup will not work because everyone has a desire to quickly cash out.
            In a country where everything is misplaced and laced with contradiction, very little gets done and so people do things in silos.

      • fadamora

        @disqus_VgdHsEjNEk:disqus
        I have read some of your comments and I can say you sound very reasonable. Plus, you sound like you are technically innovative yourself. Why don’t you initiate a group for minds like yours? When a voice speaks for a group of voices, which are united, it’s often heard at high places. Pull the resources together and initiate a group of inventors.
        You mentioned dragons den, I once asked why there’s nothing like that in Nigeria, despite the myriad of billionaires in the nation. Not very surprised though, many of them got the money dubiously, hence a good reason not to have an understanding of good investments. That’s a program I will love to anchor and participate in, in Nigeria, or one of it’s fractions if it divides.
        I wish you well. Hopefully when Nigeria divides eventually, footprints of people like you, the young man in this story and other diligently creative people in Nigeria will be made indelible.

  • imagine_2012

    Wonderful talent and tenacity. But then he is in Nigeria. End of the road.

    • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

      Not Really. America once was the pinnacle of cow boys, Thomas Gatling, repeaters rifles and horses. Today we know them for far more advanced space tech so as many countries in lesser but still advanced tech area. We will inevitably join that fast growing group. the politicians dont control talent and innovation as a natural resources (oil, Gas, Gold, Coal etc). so we need not worry. We just need to make sure that patenting and copyrighting your creations is imperative before showing people mostly Our Nigerian Politicians and all Business men. He can make it and so will many in his generation make it in technology.

      Hmm so you guys are impressed by what he did. Didn’t know this would be business here. You know with you guys believing in black magic and ghosts and deities etc, one would think Nigerians would freak-out to see their homes behaving and managing itself far smarter and efficiently than most Nigerians. All these are easy to make and cheap too. Need to get out more and socialise besides work related socializing only.

    • Apostel

      And where should he go? I do not want to be misunderstood, but here is his place and only here can he put his talent. One must not overestimate his talent, but a Steve Jobs of Nigeria he will not even in America.

    • fadamora

      Three short sentences but very deep. I know what you mean.

  • Odianosen

    This kind of talent I will happily “buy” by sponsoring him to school, then when he is done get him to partner with me. Might be a long term investment, but definitely worth it.

    • Kontri Watchers

      @imagine_2012:disqus

      BUHARI’s own health issue; and, Sahara Reporters

      SAHARA REPORTERS is unusually withdrawn from the Buhari health matter, but why?
      Yet, Sahara Reporters itself published on June 4th last year that “Buhari is ill”; not so?
      If a man known to be ill with undisclosed ailment symptomized by a hearing problem
      suddenly goes on holiday, without prior notice, and remains incommunicado till now,
      neither phoning to assure those who elected him as president to assure them he’s well,
      and leaving undone a pressing matter of appointing a Chief Justice of Nigeria till now,
      with 13 days left to the deadline when the most senior judge he’d appointed as Acting
      Chief Justice (Walter Onoghen) will become constitutionally disqualified unless confirmed,
      why on earth does Sahara Reporters put its own head in the sands not to see the issues,
      if the earlier reported ear impairment (of Buhari) has medically worsened close to deafness?

      • w.w.w

        THE BUHARI THAT WE HAVE DOES NOT HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO MOVE NIGERIA FORWARD.

        WHEN WILL OMOYELE SOWORE (PUBLISHER OF SAHARA REPORTERS) COME TO THAT

        CONCLUSION, THAT MUHAMADU BUHARI – EVEN WHEN IN GOOD SPIRITS- IS A WRONG HORSE?

      • Julius

        lolz, this is what you get from the boy’s story ? Mental issues are a curse and you have them .

        • S.A Iloh

          @Julius11:disqus ,

          But he is making sense to me! Can we have a deaf and dumb president inside this economic destruction or is it recession they call it, that President Buhari brought to the head of the common man like myself? I don’t think Nigeria can survive a deaf and dumb president in this kind of situation.
          It is fr our journalists to go the hospital treating President Buhari to ask Chief Medical Doctor there if President Buhari can still hear word and sing “Bah bah black sheep”. If he can’t do either of the two,
          it means we will need a new president in a hurry because a deaf and dumb president cannot hear anything the people are crying for. Nigeria is dying in darkness and hunger under President Buhari.

          • Julius

            He made sense to you on a topic of a young man doing something positive but, he jumped into Buhari ?. By the way, I didn’t get anything from our ‘wise Phd’ president either. You know, the man who didn’t know how $2.1 billion got looted and shared for his re-election. Was he deaf and dumb but educated ?Nigerians were crying and dying of hunger then as well and he had 6 years to make things better, he didn’t. You think he was doing so fantastic and the Nigerian people rejected him because they didn’t want anything so good under your logic ?. It took OBama almost 3 plus years to get the U S economy going and mind you, they have a better system of everything than we do. Critize if you must but, be fair. That’s my toro !

  • Say the truth

    If Buhari is really serious #REVIVE AJAOKUTA/ITAKPE. Now is the time tomorrow may be too late. Now that it is clear that VP Oshibajo was deceived into signing a fraudulent document concessioning ITAKPE to Indians can we cancel and revive the ailing company NOW? Pastor Yemi Oshibajo you are a child of God please clear your name by revisiting the documents you signed about AJAOKUTA and ITAKPE. Set up an enquiry ASAP and correct the wrong. Fayemi deserves to be sacked immediately based on available evidences of corruption against him on the newly signed ‘Ajaokuta/ITAKPE deal’ and if Buhari is serious about the fight against corruption KAYODE Fayemi should be showned the door without further delay. Premium Times over to you, you are one of the voices of the battered masses please and please take interest in this project. Let us REVIVE AJAOKUTA/ITAKPE.

    • Apostel

      Ajaokuta, Itakpe, Warri steel plant and Alscon aluminium plant are money graves and completely unprofitable; it will gulp trillions of Naira with no benefits to the people.

  • Say the truth

    What about our famed science village. A good way to start I think. There many more like him.

  • emmanuel

    While I commend the boy for his dedication I want to make it clear that there is nothing special about what the young man is doing. There are younger boys and girls in Gbaramantu Kingdom in Warri South born with worse learning conditions who have overcome those conditions and it was one of them who invented a novel technology called ‘Electric Refinery’ – a technology that uses fuel efficient methodology to refine crude oil to varied products at low cost and in a most environmentally friendly way. Instead of recognizing the young man, the criminal Nigerian Army invaded his workshop and destroyed the technology calling it an ‘Illegal’ refinery. But you are here promoting another boy because he is Yariba and a Muslim. This is nonsense.

    • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

      Yeah i heard about that kids invention being destroyed my the Army. The reason that happened is because he is in an occupied Nigerian Illiterate Military zone. It would happen to any Nigerian citizen who lives where the Nigerian army operate. They Nigerian Army personnel are dumb and dont have the quickest wits at the best of times. I dont think tribalism played a role in his innovation destruction. You are right, there’s nothing special about what the kid did. A lot of kids are doing more ground-breaking work but we have to applaud this kid for his ability to create existing items from his backyard.

      • Odianosen

        Its not what he built that matters, as honestly what he built is elementary stuff. Its the zeal and doggedness that matters. That is what counts for me and nothing else. A man with the proper motivation, can do almost anything.

        • VERITAS_ the rock of ages_

          Thats what am impressed with. He is a quick learner. The internet is good and youTube have made skill acquisition education simpler

    • Pawa2

      Warri kingdom is not know for its inventiveness. Even people there without learning difficulties are not known for pursuing education. And, by the way, learning difficulty is not the same as learning difficulty. Tell me one thing someone from Warri has contributed educationally in Nigeria.

  • Okoro

    PT kindly visit Aba in Eastern Biafra and you will see more than enough talent. What dis boy is doing is introduction to elementary innovation.

    • Julius

      wow, that’s what you have to say about the young man ? So, so, typical ! I wish all of those young men/women the best regardless where they come from. In a sane country, some corporation will look them up, fund their various projects and make money later, with the government help as well. This is what they do here. Good luck to them !!

    • thusspokez

      Igbo person, must you inject tribalism into every discussion? And then later complain of marginalisation and other ethnic groups detesting you?

      • Tunsj

        This is exactly what is wrong with Nigeria. What planet is Eastern Biafra? His comment is ludicrous and childish.

    • Malik Isah

      Bros Okoro, wait patiently for your invitation from trump to relocate to America

  • thusspokez

    I am very happy for Ayanwoye and his struggle to overcome dyslexia. BTW, dyslexia is not a disability but makes reading and writing a struggle, and many of us have very mild form albeit we might not know it.. But his so-called inventions are rather primitive by modern world standard and should not be celebrated as ground breaking inventions — to avoid giving him a false sense of achievement. This is why he is unable to raise fund — why would anyone invest their money in (re-invented) antiquated old technology?

    Clearly, the young man is creative and I would like to see major electronics or mechanics manufacturing company to employ him as an apprentice and help him develop his skills; And hopefully he will invent something ground-breaking in the future

    • fadamora

      Really? Maybe you should start by telling us what you have ever created. Be it recreated or novel. I struggle to comprehend how anyone will read this story and sound like this. Who said his creations are first of it’s kind? This is a story of a young boy who is pushing himself very hard against all odds. Lost his only support, faced rejection and now accelerating to the top through his determination and diligence. I am beginning to feel you are dyslexic in recognising and appreciating good things. You probably need to be checked medically. This is the height of pessimism I have ever seen.

      • thusspokez

        Piss off!

  • Equano2016

    Why can’t people just admire this kid for overcoming great odds and building great innovative stuff? The boy has done extremely well. Let’s just leave it at that.

  • fadamora

    Atra, I commend you. I am proud of you. Your story drew tears from my eyes right on my office desk. Very inspirational and extremely ground-breaking (who no like am, make e vex go create him own story. I am personally ready to offer my own little support if only I have a means of reaching you. I hope the publisher of your story will make available your email address or any link to contact you. Once again, brother, keep the fire burning. I am proud of you. Many young people have been pushed out of the success race just by dyslexia, unknown by many to be a medical condition.

    I will not fail to commend and appreciate your teacher, Mr Abdulkabeer, who against all odds, believed in you and gave his all. The world owe people like him a massive appreciation. Thank you very much sir. May God bless you and your seeds.