Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to cope before graduation (3)

Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima is currently studying for a Masters in Development Studies and looking to commence a PhD in the same field later this year. His involvement in the youth movement was inspired by a genuine personal concern about the rate of unintended pregnancies in his community. “That concern fit properly with my career goals because I wanted to become a guidance counselor.”

Growing up in Nigeria, he was actively involved educating community about sexuality issues, which was like practicing group counseling sessions. “It was quite challenging to travel for so many days within semester period as a student. However, I tried to keep up pace by traveling along with textbooks and relying sometimes on online tools to study.”

The new media enabled him develop useful tools for online counseling service using instant messaging to target those who would not ordinarily want to talk to a physical counselor due to the gravity of their problems. “What this did was that it allowed anonymity and clients could create pseudo email accounts for the sessions and thus use pseudo names. It was quite a useful tool and I effectively enjoyed both the school world and the work world through this medium”

“I do not know if I qualify as an activist, but I suppose it was. Looking back one just laughs. But I would think that the difficulty was also as a result of the approaches we intended to use. We wanted to reach so many people at any one time, and this created difficulties, because it meant we needed a lot of resources, which were not readily available. But with experience, one appreciates the need to take it one constituency at a time, one group at a time, one community at a time and one school at a time.”

Dabesaki stayed in school because he needed school to be effective in his community work. “They were both pursued with the same amount of vigor and commitment. I have tried to achieve some balance is by making sure that the goals of my work align with my studies. As a student of Guidance and Counselling, my work focused a lot more on sexual reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and education.

My current work is focusing on economic policy, youth development policy and broadly the analysis of poverty because I am taking a course in Development Studies. In the end these come together quite well, with an effective economic development policy, poverty would be tackled and off course people’s susceptibility to disease would be reduced and off course education and health services would be improved. Therefore for me the goal has always been stay in school- do the job, use the school, do the job and it has worked quite well so far.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reading the Onion...

I used to be an avid reader of the Onion. I find their story very interesting. And yeah, I believed every story I read there too when I first moved to D.C. for Atlas Fellowship. Until I read one edition that featured a story about President Obama cursing at some teenage girls. I was horrified. “How is this possible?” I asked my colleagues. It was then I was saved from my ignorance. One of my colleagues told me that it was a not real… the content of the newspaper was all a joke.

Important and news worthy events are riddle with unusual humorous writing style-the Onion drips with sarcasm in every of its report. The stories are not for the faint heart. No wonder they state it on their website that the newspaper is not intended for people under 18years have to be mature enough to digest the content right. As Cuthbert Zweibel, VP of Client Relations of The Onion explained in his PR release: “… please keep in mind that the Onion is not like other newspapers. We do not bow to ignorant and self-righteous notions of censorship. We don't knuckle under to pressure from the community unless it is sufficiently profitable. In short, we refuse to be manipulated, and we absolutely refuse to be stupid. There is also an excellent chance we harbor intense hatred for our readers.”

The Onion newspaper is “America’s finest news source”. With 2,251,643 followers on Twitter, you have no argument about how much people actually read it.

It is a newspaper for the sad eyes. When feeling depressed by CNN news burst and the almost non-stop trickles of bad news on the normal media, pick up something unusual- read a copy of the Onion newspaper and celebrate the Press Freedom in the US. But remember, you are not to fall for the stories hook, line and sinker. But allow them crack you up. As you flip from page to page, you might find tears welling up your eyes because of the ridiculousness of the stories. Like a cut onion, it will bring tears to your eyes. And yes, the copies are FREE!

Don't substitute it for your regular news source.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How we cope before graduation 2

Doing a brief research on how young people whom I have known for many years are coping academically, I found some really inspiring stories about their experience.

Dayo Israel started advocacy when he was in High School. He recently completed his Masters program in International Relations after his LLB in Law. He shares his experience on how he has combined advocacy activities with studies. “From a tender age my mother was paramount on education. One reason I dont like football today is because my mother never let us watch football, we just read books. To the Glory of God I have had so much fame and stardom for my activism and advocacy but I beleive that the opportunity to have an education have given me the most joy and have influenced my effectiveness in advocacy and other areas of my life so I had to combine both.”

From the an early age Dayo said he defined his purpose to enable him aligh it with his education. “I studied courses that I had interest in and enjoy most. As a result of my passion for development and Good Governance, all my education have been aligned in that area. I did a Diploma in Business and International Economics, then an LLB in Law, a Masters in International Relations and I am about to begin my PhD in Government and Politics. Those are my areas of interest which I have continued to work for over 10years. “

“I remember visiting my Masters Supervisor for my dissertation and this Professor kept saying ‘You know too much about this area’. My Masters Dissertation is on Nigeria’s Foreign Policy in Africa and these are areas I am very passionate about- the hegemonic roles Nigeria played in Rhodesia, Liberia, Congo and other parts of the world. My LLB Dissertation was on International Child Rights Legal Instrument such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which I have worked on with UNICEF for over 10years and even sit on the National Child Right Act Implementation Committee.

The knowledge of education have just empowered my passion. When you study in the area of your passion, it all fall into place and you would find joy doing it.“

Studying in the UK also made it easy because of the standard academic calendar with no barrier of strike like there is in the Nigerian education system. “I know when my Holidays are so I do less travelling during school period, I do more of Europe and UK Midlands during school period and I have a NEVER MISS CLASS policy. It helps a lot because even if you don’t read extensively, you would always remember the lectures.”

Monday, June 07, 2010

What being an Atlas Corps Fellow means to me :)

My goodness! How the time has flewn. How did it get to be June so soon? Time flies when you are living! Goodbye May, Lets springforth June!

When it is June and you are on Atlas Service Corps Fall Fellow in D.C., many things start flying through your mind... starting with big time reflection… (of course you don’t have to wait 10 months into your program to do deep reflections).

The tenth month reflection is a bit different. When I stare into the mirror and ask myself “has this fellowship been worth it?" I respond differently. And my response? Long story! But it has been one of sharpening my axe and rediscovering myself... a good opportunity to learn, unlearn and grow! Well, this is how I share my experience. Others will tell their story differently, that is what makes the program unique-- you learn to create your experience and tell your own story.

I came into the program as a passionate Journalist with strong interest in youth development. As the program progressed and is still progressing, I am experiencing my own share of paradigm shift. As Emily Dickinson writes: "We never know how high we are, Till we are asked to rise. And then if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies. The Heroism we recite would be a normal thing. Did not ourselves the Cubits warp for fear to be a king--" Being an Atlas Corps fellow and working in One World Youth Project (OWYP) has been a very life altering experience for me. The experience has been really challenging, fabulous and remarkable. I do not mean to sound like I’m counting my chickens before they are hatched, but ten months into the program, I look back with a heart full of thanks to God for this opportunity to grow.

I have had my shares of ups and down. But the challenges totally increased my perseverance and tenacity. In most cases, I learned to see the cup as half full instead of half empty; you need a good doze of optimism to maximize this experience. Also, I have learned to be humble and teachable. Sometimes it is very easy to want to jump on your high horse and prove your point. But, to be honest, I have learnt it pays off to stick to the high road and choose integrity over reputation.

Professionally, I have learnt a lot just working at OWYP. I was really blessed to serve in the area I’m most passionate about. Youth development and fostering mutual understanding between cultures is something that excites me. The short stint I had to work in DC Public school also reaffirmed the sense of urgency I have always felt—an urgency for people to realize classroom education is not enough and for organizations working with youths to focus more on directly building capacities at grassroots level instead of limiting efforts to conferences and summits.

This experience also exposed me to various development style, and criticism of the development sector, especially those working to build Africa. It got me doing some serious soul-searching on the value of ‘development’ I’m told "Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits" by Rasna Warah and "Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa’" by Dambisa Moyo- are two books I must read to better understand this trend. Now I’ve to start saving up to buy these books. With the meager stipen we live on as fellows, you get to learn how to manage your finances…prioritizing what to spend on and what not to spend on. It is also part of the excitement of volunteerism.

I count the months gone by and count my blessings. I thank God for the grace to stay on course and not chicken out at the slightest challenge. If you are signing up to be an Atlas Corps fellow or know someone who is selected to be a fellow, encourage them to maximize the opportunity and stay true to the course—and never give up! As Jim Rohn once said "Some people plant in the Spring and leave in the Summer. If you're signed up for a season, see it through. You don't have to stay forever, but at least stay until you see it through”

Being an Atlas Corps Fellow means rising up to be the best and for me, the best is yet to come, by God grace!

How we cope before graduation

Some people think young people who are actively involved in activism or volunteering are bums or dropouts. But there are actually successful students who are actively involved in youth activism or volunteering. Recently, I interviewed some of these youth on how they are coping academically and found some inspiring stories about their experience. Thus this month, I will be sharing these exciting stories about individuals who have consciously applied themselves to their passion to be distinct in their field. I hope you will be inspired not to allow your schooling interfere with a quality education.

Education and Youth development are areas I developed a keen interest in, mostly as a result of my volunteering experience in the sector and of course reading up and watching interesting presentation like that of Sir Ken Robinson’s School kills creativity (on TED Talk) which focused mainly on the need to revamp the system into one that nurtures instead of undermining creativity. "In the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history." He said.

Reports like this is enough to cause us to do some serious soul-searching on the value our education system is providing and how prepared the sector is to step-up the game. I used to think everything wrong in education was only in the Nigerian system. However, I just realized education reform is something even the developed countries strive to achieve. Nigerians are not the only people on earth frustrated with the decaying education system.

The short stint I had to volunteer in DC Public schools in Washington has reaffirmed the sense of urgency I have always felt—an urgency for stakeholders: to make quality education accessible and affordable to all, to realize classroom education is not enough and for organizations focused on youth development to channel their resources towards directly building capacities at grassroots level instead of limiting efforts to conferences and summits.

I am a strong believer in extra-curricula activities and hands-on job experience to complement the theories we are taught in the classroom. Thus, one of the reasons why I am keen on finding out what other people think. Should our education system focus mainly on the traditional form of education? Is there any value in cooperative learning programs within the education system? Feel free to contribute your valuable opinion to the discourse.

The Nation newspaper