Students Are Developed to Become Change Agents – Olufunbi Falayi
What could make a fresh graduate of Computer Science and Economics develop so much interest in empowering the younger generation and becoming an advocate of entrepreneurship? Could it be passion, a sense of duty or even a chosen vocation? Well, whatever it is, Olufunbi Falayi, a young graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, Osun State, social entrepreneur cum Commonwealth-trained youth empowerment ambassador, has made a mark in the lives of the first set of Project 4 students with a programme he designed to empower Nigerian youths. He also initiated Mentoring through Career Guidance, a platform which provides an avenue for selected positive mentors with high flying career profiles in different academic fields; to educate and guide students at the Senior Secondary 3 level on the right career path. The initiative has since its inception benefitted over 700 students. Falayi discussed the future of Project 4 Club with Eunice Nze-Peters, staff writer. Excerpts:
What is Project 4 Club all about?
Project 4 Club is an intervention project targeted at public senior secondary school students to help correct the defect our education system has exposed them to. The project engages and invests in capacity building of these students by leveraging on four key elements: mentoring, career guidance/vocational skill acquisition, leadership development, and basic project management. We equip them with leadership capabilities, human capacity and entrepreneurship skills; therefore, preparing them as change agents, future leaders, potential business owners and subsequently reducing the prevalent unemployment rate in the country. Instead of whining and nagging on issues, they are being developed to become change agents where they can begin to take responsibilities and not wait for the government to do things for them. The students we are dealing with are disadvantaged children because they are from poor backgrounds. They don’t have the opportunities their contemporaries in private schools have.
What do you want to achieve with the project?
The education sector is a critical pivot on which the Vision 20:2020 rests. According to the vision’s blueprint; modern and vibrant educational system, which provides the opportunity for maximum potential, adequate and competent manpower, will be the only way to achieve that vision. The aim of the project is to intervene and make the vision a reality. We devised a structure that will help develop public secondary school students, through their admission into the university, to the point when they graduate.
Basically, we are solving the problem of capacity building from the grassroots.
How do you intend to go about this?
Two models are being used in the implementation of the project. One, training of trainers, TOTs, where eight resident teachers and eight youth corps members from each of the schools will be trained rigorously on all the modules for two weeks to equip them effectively and thereafter, they train the students periodically. The other one is extra-curricular period. For easy access to the students, we decided to make use of their extra-curricular periods. During these periods, the resident teachers/youth corps members will bring all Project 4 students together and train them on the modules accordingly. So basically it’s a club in the schools.
What is the idea behind this project?
This idea is born out of the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, there were 16 million unemployed people as at the end of 2011. The current unemployment rate is estimated at 23.9 per cent. This number has risen and many of the unemployed seek jobs in contemporary companies where there are limited opportunities. Project 4 seeks to give alternative solution through vocational training, entrepreneurship enlightenment and sustained mentorship. A recent World Bank report on Nigerian graduates also states that Nigerian graduates are not employable because they lack work place experience, ICT skills, team quality, communication skills, innovation and creative skills. Project 4 is currently solving these problems from the grassroots. For a start, eight public secondary schools and 320 students in Agege Local Government have participated in the first leg, which ended January 22, 2013. Project 4 Club seeks to live the maxim: ‘catch them young’ and offer our future leaders an opportunity to choose rightly in a system that can cater to them.
What have you achieved with Project 4 so far?
The pilot project was launched in October 2012, with eight public secondary schools and 320 students participating. Those first few weeks have been a life changing experience for the students participating in Project 4. The testimonies we have gotten so far have been overwhelming. Many of the Project 4 students have never had any form of capacity building, training on ethics, leadership development or project management training. Today Project 4 students have developed these important skills and are preparing their lives as leaders in society.
What modules did you employ in training these students?
We are in partnership with LEAP Africa and Pro-Training Centre, who provided us with the leadership development and basic project management curriculum respectively and they also trained the teachers and youth corps members (TOTs). The trained teachers and corps members subsequently train the students effectively. Also, a seasoned career consultant, Temitope Olasupo took charge of the career guidance module. The curricular were developed into training manual and each student was given a copy of the Project 4 training manual for free, to make the training an interactive session. The students were also trained on various vocational skills of their choice, which was facilitated by friends with such skills, ranging from bead making, garment making, decoration, make-up and gele tying to shoe making.
How far do you intend to take this?
The first phase of Project 4 came to an end recently and all the students implemented a change project in their respective schools. The aim of the change project is to help students practice everything they have learnt during the training. Also, these change projects will help instill a sense of responsibility among the students. The broad range of projects our students have decided to pursue is quite impressive. These projects range from equipping libraries, renovation of classrooms, to renovation of water systems. It’s going to be a wonderful experience. Also, the activities and accomplishments of Project 4 students will serve to inspire other students many of who could be future Project 4 participants. Project certificates are awarded to all Project 4 participants. We also distributed JAMB and GCE forms to some of the deserving students based on their participation in the project and their academic improvement. The second phase of the project is the implementation of the six-year sustainability plans going forward for all the students. Some of the plans we have for all the students are career mentorship, guidance through their university admission process, enterprise/employability training, vocational skills acquisition, internship and scholarships. We are already in partnership with Sesewa Support Services, Work Bees Foundation, Book Vendors International and 500naira Project in making these plans a reality. Lastly, it’s amazing the response to the call for mentorship from young practising professionals. As we speak we have over 80 young people from a wide range of professions ready to help mentor these kids to help guide and direct them across their chosen career paths. Lastly, Project 4 would be implemented in Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government in April 2013.
How to do you source funds for the project?
Well, I have personally financed the project thus far, with massive support from friends, especially a great partner, Taiwo Ajetunmobi and my family. Also, we got massive support from GSK and CWAY. UNICEF, and E-Green Services have also been with us from the very start via technical support.