By Tope Templer Olaiya

ImageYoung people take charge


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The main auditorium of the University of Lagos came alive recently. The 5,000-seater auditorium, famous for hosting social engagements, was crammed with young people. The size was probably bigger than that witnessed at The Future Awards, a few weeks earlier. The occasion was not a musical show, an award night, or a sports event; rather, it was First Bank’s aptitude test that brought thousands of youths together, for one purpose – the unending search for an employment.

  By noon, when the test commenced, hundreds of youths who could not gain entrance into the already filled-to-capacity hall, clustered into small bands around the hall to wait patiently and join the next batch of fresh graduates looking for the opportunity to prove their mettle and brilliance. From their strained faces, it was obvious they were disillusioned with the trite cliché that brands them the leaders of tomorrow.

  Since the earliest civilization, the young, virile and resilient members of the society had always borne the burden of giving a fresh start to an already disenchanted hope, for on their shoulders lie the dream of restoring hope and lost opportunity to the next generation.

  But Omoyele Sowore, former student leader of the University of Lagos, and now publisher of Sahara Reporters, must have spoken the minds of many Nigerian youths when he said, “in my home country, the elders gathered together today, they looked at the young people and decided to grant them only one day; they choose tomorrow of all days for the youth to lead, then they called the youths leaders of tomorrow, knowing that tomorrow is just a day that no one will ever see.

  The most treasured and potent strength of any community or nation is its youth. Unfortunately, this strength could manifest in destructive tendencies, if not well managed and tapped.

  Challenged by the startling story of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, Nigerian youths are gradually shedding the toga of ‘leaders of tomorrow.’ Each day, young people are vividly demonstrating their ability to address some of the most difficult and complex challenges facing the nation.

  Yet, while today’s youth have the passion and idealism to change the world, and many are already doing so; even the most highly motivated among them can feel isolated and discouraged.

  And while a young person may have a great plan to launch a project or campaign to address youth unemployment, he or she may not have the requisite knowledge or skills to take a very good idea to the next step of implementation, which is why some organizations such as LEAP Africa and The Future Awards, among several others, are playing invaluable roles in helping to plant the seeds of change in communities across the country.

  Ms. Ngozi Obigwe, chief operating officer of LEAP Africa, identified part cause of the helplessness of many youths today, saying African education system and cultures do not encourage the youth to be productive thinkers, creative or enterprising.

  “Some schools including universities can use a single textbook for generations, yet in the developed world, books change every semester. Also, some culture elements in Africa do not promote self-esteem and open venting, which is why most African youths are not given a chance to explore themselves to bring the best out of themselves.”

  Linus Okorie, president of Guardian Of The Nation International (GOTNI), said the beauty of entrepreneurship and leadership education is that the more people stay in an environment where they have quality leadership education, the more it begins to motivate them to dream, “because in such society where people are encouraged to dream, you don’t drive them, they drive themselves, look inwards and discover their purpose for existence.

  “Leading your personal life,” he continued, “to wake up when you are supposed to and do things at the right time requires leadership (instincts). If you succeed in leading yourself, you can succeed in leading other people, because that is where it starts.”

  The Future Awards, now in its 8th year, has established itself as a truly national event that has a proven capacity for real and lasting impact. It is a celebration of youth and achievement, which has become a major item on the cultural calendar. It honours young Nigerian achievers between the ages of 18 and 31, through the keenly sought-after awards in 20 categories.

  One important feature of the event is the fact that everything about it is handled completely by young people. Attendance is strictly by invitation, with the idea that every year, young people will work hard to qualify for the event.

  The aim of the awards is to inspire young Nigerians by showing them others as young as they, who have managed to conquer the difficult Nigerian environment, to show them through the nominees who are presented as role models that there is hope for the nation and push them into concrete attainments such as building new businesses and creating new ideas.

  Uche Nwankwo explains that young people are trying as much as they can to come out of poverty. “Basically, there are two categories of youth in Nigeria. One group strives hard to be enterprising, but their efforts are thwarted by unequal access to capital and opportunities.

  “Another group is not as enterprising. They are possibly weakened by the political-economic structures and they prefer to sit idle, engage in nefarious activities, while channeling their youthfulness into illicit acts. The way out is for every young person to look at Nigeria with the eye of what is possible and decide to take personal responsibility.




WITHOUT minding the presence of The Guardian, pupils of the nine public primary school in Ejigbo area of Lagos State whacked the meal of bread, butter, milk and chocolate provided for them by chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Kehinde Bamigbetan. Incidentally, it was the last free meal for the 2010/11 academic session that Friday.

The meal was served in medium-sized bowls and most of the pupils were through with it within 15 minutes. One of them, Jamiu Musa, said he had come to school without money for lunch.

“Whenever I eat in the morning, my mummy does not give me money for lunch in school. She tells me that I will eat when I return home in the afternoon. But if I do not eat in the morning before coming to school, she will give me N10 to buy food during break,” he said.

Asked what he usually buys with the N10, Musa said, “I always buy rice from Iya Olounje (the food seller) and my teacher gives me water to drink. If I did not buy rice, he would buy popcorn and groundnut,” he said.

Jamiu is not alone in the poverty ring. Another pupil, Risikat Agbaje, who said she enjoyed the meal given to her in school, said her mother did not give her the usual N10 for lunch that day because she had learnt from her teachers that free lunch would be provided for the students.

Investigations revealed that unlike their contemporaries in private primary schools, most pupils in state-owned primary schools in Lagos state do not go to school with their lunch packs or money to buy snacks during break. The few of them who go to school with money do not have more than N10 to spend on snacks.

This raises the issue of the school meal programme, which has been used as a publicity stunt by few governments to show that they have the interest of the pupils in their schools at heart.


Although the school meal programme has been used as a tool to encourage increased enrolment in state schools in other parts of the world, it is yet to be seen as a veritable means of boosting enrolment and nutrition needs of pupils in Nigeria.

Therefore, most pupils arrive school hungry and teachers are left to impart knowledge into boys and girls, who spend the whole day daydreaming about good food.

Aside the once-a-week feeding programme by Ejigbo LCDA, Feed-A-Child is a private initiative and social responsibility project of The King’s School, Gbagada, Lagos. The school in collaboration with well-meaning individuals and corporate organisations organise a series of feeding programmes for children in selected public schools within Gbagada and Bariga.

Previous administrations had in the past tried in vain to kick-start the programme. In 2004, the state government inaugurated a plan to provide free meals to children of less-privileged parents, who do not enjoy balanced meals at home. The government had said it allocated N1 billion for the programme in all its 913 primary schools and it was part of the state’s school health scheme.

The government said it would collaborate with the United Nations International Children Education Fund and other world donors, who had shown interest in the programme. The pilot phase was to begin with primary one, while pupils of other classes would follow. In fact, a visit to the website of the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that school meal scheme is listed as one of the poverty alleviation programmes of the state government.

“Primary and secondary school pupils are the targets of the school health initiative, which encompasses immunization, de-worming exercise, public education and provision of First Aid kits to schools to be added to free meals for every school child,” it says.

However, many of the pupils are still hungry and malnourished, and to some of them, clean uniform and new notebooks are no longer a priority, but good food to stem the constant hungry pangs in their stomachs.

Inaugurating the School Feeding Programme in September 2005, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said “I foresee a day when Nigeria will be a nation with well nourished and healthy children, happy and eager to attend school and complete their basic education in a friendly, conducive, attractive and stimulating learning environment.”

Sadly, even the federal government’s initiative has not stood the test of time. The school feeding programme, which was inaugurated in 12 states across the country in conjunction with UNICEF, was aimed at providing one meal per day for all pupils during school days.

It was expected to improve the nutritional status of school children, as well as increase their enrolment, retention and completion rate in primary schools, and therefore contribute to the Universal Basic Education Programme (UBEC).

In a chat with a teacher at the Fadu schools complex in Ejigbo, Mrs. Aderonke Iyabo said it was unfortunate that most pupils go to school hungry as their parents cared less about ensuring that they had food in their stomachs before leaving home in the morning.

“It is only teachers who can tell you what they face in caring for these children. They are so hungry that you cannot even force them to learn anything in class. It has reached a level that teachers sometimes have to give these pupils money, especially the bright ones, to at least buy snacks to hold their stomachs until school is over.”

Iyabo urged government at all levels should take up the initiative of implementing the school health programme, as it would eventually lead to better grades.

However, researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that learning may be best on an empty stomach. They found evidence that a hormone produced in the stomach directly stimulates the higher brain functions of spatial learning and memory development, suggesting that we may learn best on an empty stomach.

Speaking with The Guardian, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said government was still working on the logistics for the implementation of the school meal programme.

“The cost implication is high and the population of the pupils too is high. This is why the programme is yet to materialise. It is also why we started with the school milk programme. The main problem is the cost but we are collaborating with the Ministry of Education and we have contacted other international agencies. We hope we will get a favourable response from them,” Idris said.

Why I Am Sending Nigerians To Canadian Universities


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Mobo Oresegun is a graduate of International Development Studies at York University, in Canada. Brimming with the resolve to make a difference in the lives of the younger generation, the CEO/Managing Director of Comfort Zone Educational spoke to TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA about her pet project – Luz Neema Foundation, which is offering scholarships to five Nigerians to study in Canada.
What is Luz Neema Foundation about?
  The literal meaning of Luz is a Bible word from Genesis 28:19 and it is translated to mean God’s abode. Neema is a word in Swahili language that means mercy. Fused together, it means God’s place with abundant mercy. For anybody to be able to excel and impact in other people’s lives, it is the mercy of God. To think of paying the tuition of a child in the western world comes from God. This is the basic idea of the foundation and it is tied to the programme I went for, which is International Development studies.

  Canada offered me great opportunities in life and I should in turn give back to my local community, through the
foundation. This is the maiden edition. We intend to do a publication calling for entries from candidates; where the candidates would be selected via their performance in the WAEC and NECO examinations. We will then narrow it down
to the best 50 who would be given the opportunity to compete for the five slots available.
  Most people are of the opinion that selection would favour those known to me, either from my own local community, or friends and family. The process of selection however transcends beyond any personal relationship. It is of little importance if one bears the same surname with me, all shortlisted students will have the opportunity to prove their worthiness in an open forum both in simple written and oral test. This process thus ensures that the best students are selected.
What are the details of the scholarship?
  It comes to $40,000 over a period of four years or six million Naira per student, to cover tuition alone. Living expenses is difficult to estimate as this is dependent on an individual. So, you cannot really put a figure to the cost of the overall study, but it is a joy to see some of these young people achieve their
dreams and I believe by the time they are through with their studies, they would be able to return home and affect the lives of other people.
  Usually, it takes six months from the period of commencement to the time where the study permit is issued. Given the fact that documents need to be verified. We are not limited to a particular university in Canada, if a student has preference for any school, we process the admission and handle all embassy procedures, including test and medical.
What is the attraction in Canadian institutions?
  Initially, Canada wasn’t very popular with Nigerians probably due to the sobriety of the Canadian economy in comparison to Europe and the United States. However, due to the publicity created through the educational fairs that the Canadian Deputy High Commission has been embarking on, it has helped to create awareness about Canadian universities to Nigerians.

  Furthermore, Canada is a multicultural society. In other words, every individual comes into the society with a unique culture and set of values. Thereby creating a welcoming environ to all and sundry. It is a beautiful society indeed to be, where all forms of discriminated is frowned against. For Nigerian students studying at these universities, they are guaranteed the best of tertiary education.
  The most prominent province or state as we call it here in Canada is Ontario and within Ontario alone, especially the Toronto area, we have well over hundreds of thousands of students, without reference to other provinces. There are some provinces where there is low population of blacks. However, if you do see some, there is 90 percent chance that such a person is Nigerian.
Why didn’t you consider sponsoring the indigent to school in Nigeria?
  To a large extent, that is a logical way of reasoning. However, the issues bothering Nigerian universities transcends beyond money. There are policies guiding the Nigerian universities of which the academic staff are still fighting to uphold which is a major change to be addressed. If on the other hand we are meant to donate some money to Nigerian universities, there is also the criterion of what value is appropriate to which school. This process needs to be thought through if we were to engage in it.
  Subsequently, the only way we can make a success out of the programme is for the students to come back home on completion their studies. By that, we would have plugged the brain drain syndrome. Their return ensures a trickle down effect of acquired knowledge into our society. It is just like the process of refining gold. The original form is usually very rough and ugly, the only time you add value is when it is refined and doesn’t remain where it was refined. Same with the students, if they stay back in Canada they are just one in a million and a part of those competing for job opportunities: but their impact would be
felt more with their return.
What are the problems with our educational system?
  There are quite a number of things I think are wrong with Nigeria’s educational system and it goes beyond just scratching the surface. The technique is important. The Canadian schools run a system whereby students can be admitted into school three times a year if they so choose. The most popular period is the Fall, which is the September period. There is another for Winter, which is in January and another for Summer, which is in May. Not every institution run all three. Some run two admission schedules in a year. That is a working system. If it runs like that in Nigeria, we wouldn’t have the backlog of students wanting to get admitted every year. Therefore, the admission process is not rigid but fluid.
  Secondly, technology around the world has become mind-blowing. You can actually engage in courses online from the comfort of your room; you don’t have to be physically in class to complete a lecture.
There are complaints about government’s low funding of tertiary institutions, is this also a problem?
  Government must be financially committed to education. In Canada, if you need to go to school, you can secure a loan from government only as a citizen or permanent resident of the country. Parents or relatives only guarantee your personhood but the student is held responsible to pay back such loans. It is the
government that issues the loan not the banks and when you pay back, you pay back into the coffers of government. But in Nigeria, the wherewithal at tuition payment is dependant on parents. Where one cannot afford it, all hopes at excelling career-wise becomes doomed. These are some of the things I
recognize as the issues and it goes without saying our common problems of electricity, infrastructure, corruption and creating a conducive learning environment.
What can be done to encourage learning?
  You can make learning exciting in which all students with different learning skills and abilities have various opportunities at excelling academically. In a situation where students are made to carrying mountain of textbooks; one becomes too tied at the end of the day, to take a look at the prints. Visuals aid help commit a topic to memory. As a matter of fact, students are made to read for a discussion session in order to earn marks, which count towards a student’s total marks.
  The basic mode of testing should not only be dependant on an exam at the end of the semester where one is made to write a long sheet of answers. Answering questions intelligibly in class from previously assigned texts should earn you marks, as well as being able to contribute sensibly in class. This method encourages attendance and participation. These are ways of making learning fun, which can be adopted to deepen our educational system.
Nigerians are reputed to be good students abroad, what is the reason for this?
  For you to be able to study in a new environment, it takes the whole of your wellbeing. Nigerian students are always well behaved abroad. They are hardly caught involved in anti-social activities, they excel better in their studies because they have their focus on the objective. Socializing becomes secondary. While a Nigerian student is intent on how to complete his education right on time and within budget. The Canadian economy empowers their citizens with bank credit. You can actually spend beyond your means and acquire material things
for yourself, but sometimes, because of the age, the values get mixed up, which is most times at the detriment of their education.
  While a westerner can always earn a living with or without a standard education, but because we have been taught of the importance of education, Nigerian students tend to take their studies seriously.
Why are you doing this?
  The motivation for me is experiencing two worlds and making a choice of the two. It is of culture transference, where the most important of either culture is continually adopted. It is of presenting a new image of Nigeria and Nigerians to the world. It is of empowering the next generation. It is of ensuring that the hopes and aspiration of one more youth is kept alive. It is about our culture and tradition. All of these exceed the superficial.
  Most developed societies have their culture and belief in technology. We might not have the technology but we have the values. They have the technology, but have lost the values. For me, I want an infusion of technology with lots of values.