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There is a saying that if you give a hungry man a fish you will feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for life. This is so true for eight teens from northern Nigeria who are making science fiction movies using a broken smartphone.

No doubt, they love watching sci-fi movies but, unlike other teens their age, the Critics Company, as they call themselves, are determined to make their own. They came together 2016 and started creating short films with special effects they learnt from YouTube videos.

Using a broken tripod stand to hold up a smartphone with a cracked screen, they shot a 10-minute film called Redemption.

This short caught the eye of international media organizations like Reuters and Aljazeera which celebrated them for making Nigeria’s first sci-fi movie. According to one of the young filmmakers, Godwin Josiah, their aim was to show that kids in the north are doing something different.

Support has since started pouring in. Veteran film maker Kemi Adetiba tweeted enthusiastically about them in June and helped them raise $5,800 to upgrade their equipment.

Imagine what they could do with a formal training in sci-fi movie production.

Ironically, the same medium (YouTube) that can create porn addictions that wreck the lives of other teens, is empowering these eight youngsters to acquire skills in movie production. This shows that it is not the media as such that are to blame for youths getting hooked on internet porn, but the lack of focus and motivation among young people.

Serious minded teens can sift out the best and most useful things in social media and use them to advance themselves without falling prey to harmful content, as these eight teens have aptly demonstrated. Still, it takes guts and drive and thinking outside of the box. It demands  finding a dream, pushing forward and following that dream to its logical consequences.

In life, honest and productive work is usually rewarded with fame and success, and Godwin Josiah and his cousins are making themselves useful with a broken smartphone

Nigeria has over 70 million teenagers, but youth productivity is still too low. Experts say this is due to skill deficiency in the Nigerian school curriculum, which is shockingly theoretical rather than practical, so that many teens leave school ill equipped to earn a living. Hence the high rate of youth joblessness, resulting in political unrest, economic instability, drug abuse, crime, prostitution, human trafficking, terrorism and kidnapping.

The Critics Company have alerted people to the possibilities of digital media like YouTube to tutor themselves in skills that can fetch money or jobs or even help them start their own businesses.  

Many handy skills can be learned via YouTube, from air-conditioning repairs to fashion designing and computer programming, and there are countless free online tutorials on software development. Furthermore, an average low-end smartphone is chockfull of useful apps, such that average owner uses barely 1 percent of their capability.  There are apps that can transform a smartphone  into a math lab, reader, and multimedia learning platform, among other things, and most are free.

The triumph of these teen is good news for a region of Nigeria considered by most as educationally backward, and where teens are often school shy. The Kaduna state governor, Malam Nasir El-rufai has praised their creativity, invited them to the statehouse for a special visit and is generally making a fuss of them. He has also offered the government’s support and set up a team of senior officials to work on the details with the boys’ family.

Josiah and his cousin are blazing a path for other African teens to follow, and confirming that with courage and determination, any African teen will not only survive, but actually thrive by creating  a pool of clear water around them through hard work and unrelenting focus.

Their fame and success has even wider relevance. Teens the world over should cease being passive consumers of social media content and become innovators, leveraging these platforms to create and market their own ideas and become creators and contributors to human progress.

They are an indictment of those Nigerians who engage in online scams, popularly known as “419”, that have given our country a bad name.

They are also showing up so-called Nollywood, stuck in its abysmally low quality films with poorly written scripts and stale story lines revolving around the time-worn themes of sex, money and power. They may yet give the Nollywood oligarchs a run for their money and possibly break their stranglehold on the industry.

With sci-fi movies like Star Wars and Avengers grossing over US$900 million and $800 million respectively, a sci-fi skill set is not a bad investment, and the team of eight could be pioneering a new export that could bring a surge of foreign exchange flowing back into African pockets. Time will tell.

Chinwuba Iyizoba lives in Nigeria and blogs at Authors Choice. Republished with permission.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is a New Zealand journalist with a special interest in family issues. She began her working life as a secondary school teacher but always fancied the life of the scribe. Too late, she realised that the latter is even more work than teaching Shakespeare to 15-year-olds and the pay is generally less. Being a reluctant geek, she has never quite got over the surprise of finding herself the deputy editor of an online magazine -- a pleasant sensation for the most part. She once wrote a book -- the history of New Zealand’s own anti-porn movement in its heyday -- for which she got mixed reviews and no awards. She lives in the country’s largest city, Auckland, which is three hours by plane from Sydney -- the hub of MercatorNet -- and too far for comfort from anywhere else of importance. Still, it is a very nice vantage point from which to meddle in the affairs of the world.