Friday, December 30, 2011

Just Relax… #2012

Ojota bus stop, Lagos. Photo taken on Dec 24th 2011

 It is a New Year. As you sit to count your blessings, take stock of last year and launch into the New Year, remember to punctuate your goals with plans to celebrate and just relax.
I sent lunch invitations to friends and acquaintances last week. Some of the first responses I got asked, “What is happening?”
Really? Does something have to happen for everything? Including a friendly lunchtime? Are we forgetting how to relax, without any strings attached?
Okay, I have to admit it is my own fault. Most invites I sent out last year was a lot about serious events. So the invitees easily stereotyped all invitations to such nature.
This year, I am going to learn to take things easy and also encourage all my very hard-working and smart-working friends to relax and learn to let their hair down. Once in a while, let down the pressure from the rat race, feel the earth under your feet and be aware of other things around you, like the color of the sky.
It might be very difficult. Thinking too much about the gloom and doom predictions of Nigeria’s economic and political landscape might mar an initial attempt of learning to be. So keep your mind clear of those.
You can take some time off and draw a side list of fun things to do every day, draw a map of safe recreation spots unwind.
We are often told to celebrate every success. I think we should not wait until big or small breaks to celebrate. When we fail, it is important to give ourselves a pat on the back for the attempt. And then, sit to reflect, re-strategize and learn from the failure. To do this, you need to be relaxed :-)
Here are some sports to re-kindle:
·      Read a book or Listen to good music :-) My friend, Chioma, is excited to join me in blogging on The idea is to make reading a fun habit by writing one-page response about every book we read this year. Reading is a fun sport. If you don’t like books, try e-books. Or good music.
·      Take walks on the beach. Many of us who live in Lagos sometimes take the beach for granted. But honestly, it should top our list of places to unwind. Taking a short day-walk on the beach can be really therapeutic.  
·      Talk with friends and families, over lunch or dinner. Chat (online or face-to-face) with your close friends and family members. Share, learn and unlearn things about one another. Sometimes, the rat race and ambitious goals we set to achieve keep us from really knowing those around us. But, don’t allow familiarity diminish your ability to appreciate one another. Treat your relationship well and see your value appreciate.
·      Travel to new places or re-explore places you have been to before (in-country or out of the country).
·      Develop a healthy Cinema culture: a movie with friends (or alone) is also fun.
·      Or just do other outdoor activities that won’t put a dent in your savings (or wallet).

If you have been doing all these in the past years, well keep it up! Happy New Year!!
Image via

Jahan Choudhry Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Youth Bloggers asked and Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, answers! #UNESCOYouth

Interview of Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of Q&A with the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum youth bloggers and delegates!
At the closing ceremony of the 7th UNESCO Youth forum, the youth bloggers were given the opportunity to ask Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, some questions affecting young people and/or the theme of the forum "How Youth Drive Change."

Unfortunately, due to time constraint and other logistics, the DG could not answer our questions :-). But we asked all the same and we were told she would definitely answer the questions.

I guess she is a woman of her word because today we have just been informed that the answers to the questions asked by the bloggers at the 7th UNESCO Youth forum is available! Thanks to everyone who made it possible and of course to the youth bloggers (especially Laura and Martina) who were persistent in ensuring that our voices were heard.

Click here to download the questions and answers:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I just got a thank you letter from UNESCO for participating "as a youth blogger in the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum which took place from 17 to 20 October 2011, in Paris and was an integral part of the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference." :-)
About 210 youth delegates of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum, representing 127 Member States met at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, from 17 to 20 October 2011, to discuss “How YOUTH drive change”.
Because youth represent a significant proportion of the world’s population they heavily influence and, equally, are affected by social, political and economic conditions and the well-being and livelihood of current and future generations, we are resolved to ensure that youth is included as one of UNESCO’s global priorities.
Click here to download the full report on youth recommendation to government leaders >>>  Final_Report - 7thUYF

Jen (me), Kounila and Hend

Friday, December 16, 2011

Video: CrowdOutAIDS team presentation at #PCB2011

CrowdOutAIDS team made a presentation about the online and offline collaborative crowdsourcing process during this year’s PCB!

Watch the short video of the presentation below! Enjoy and please pass it on!!

Resource you can use:

Jen (me), Michel Sidibe Executive Director of CrowdOutAIDS and Aram Barra

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 Influencing decision makers online and offline

Bonjour! Warm greetings from Geneva! I’m currently attending the UNAIDS Board meeting called Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) 2011 as a CrowdOutAIDS representative with Aram Barra, the Latin America forum moderator (follow the conversation on twitter @UNAIDS and hashtag #PCB2011).

While at PCB, Aram and I will be speaking on our experiences on CrowdOutAIDS project. We will also serve as bloggers :-), reporting on the PCB process the commitments and support raised during the meeting. We will generally be keeping you informed on how PCB work and how high level decision makers shape policies.

You might want to check out our first blog post on:

Other reports will be published on CrowdOutAIDS Blog as we progress.

Meanwhile, today, the CrowdOutAIDS team held a session themed “Strategy development 2.0: How UNAIDS is crowdsourcing its new youth strategy.”

In case you missed the session! Read my presentation below- okay just a talking point, it changed a bit! :-) (

As CrowdOutAIDS blog-editor and online content curator

My name is Jennifer, I am the blog editor and online curator for CrowdOutAIDS. I am Nigerian journalist with a keen interest in youth development issues.

When I first heard about CrowdOutAIDS and the process of crowdsourcing new UNAIDS Strategy on young people and HIV, I knew I had to be a part of the project. The whole concept of developing a UNAIDS strategy on youth and HIV online and offline looked timely and innovative.

Over the past 5 weeks, I have been working in the capacity of spreading the word about the project online. Reaching out where young people interact on different social networks and professional forums.

My job has been to pass on the message to one group and encourage and trust them to in turn disseminate it to other networks they are active on. This way we have been able to reach thousands of young people around the world as you saw on the crowdmap.

Such networks include: Facebook and the different groups within Facebook, online interest forums such as Youth Making Change group on Yahoo, Blogs focused on youth audience and of course Twitter.

We also have a CrowdOutAIDS blog where we communicate the process of the crowdsourcing as well as issues affecting young people in relation to the project. I think this is really important because it creates a feedback loop where we can keep participants up to date about what goes on in the project.

Every week, writers and journalists are invited to guest blog and share their perspective on different themes, such as HIV and youth, youth leadership and engagement, How NGOs, the government and the UN agencies can better work with young people etc.

We have published some really interesting articles with authors from Tanzania, to Tunisia, Nepal and Chile, all sharing their unique perspectives and experiences.

Offline forum
One of the critics I heard at the beginning of this project was why we were only reaching out to the elite youth; that is young people who are mobile or connected to the internet. Many people wanted to know what we are doing in terms of engaging youth offline/youth at the grassroots.

It is interesting to see how CrowdOutAIDS team have been able to integrate an offline twist to the whole process of crowdsourcing. Thus, no youth are left behind.

A tool kit was created for young people online to adapt to their local communities and take the lead in hosting offline forums with youth at the grassroots. Young people were given the tools and were empowered to take it upon themselves to organize and lead– they didn’t have to wait for an invitation from anyone.

I had the opportunity of attending one of the Offline forums that was organized by Kikelomo Taiwo, a young Nigerian advocate and peer-educator. The Offline forum took place in Abuja and had young male activists in attendance.

It was interesting to see the high level of energy and strong sense of ownership expressed by the participants.

The usual sense of detachment that can often be seen among young people in HIV-related seminars was absent. It was like the youth participants saw the need to really share their views and ideas on how UNAIDS can better work with young people. It was seen as an opportunity to influence global policy. They understood that this was a youth driven project and their stake in it is high.

Personally, I also think that model of engaging people in conversation, rather than just throwing information at them is truly empowering.

You can also see this in a quote from a CrowdOutAIDS forum hosted in Lesotho, were the participant said:

“I strongly believe that this strategy is going to work.  This must be the first time the UN and its Member States are trusting us completely regarding addressing challenges brought by AIDS particularly amongst the YOUTH! Big UPs UN!”

Resource you can use
For more information on how to participate or connect to the project, FREE of charge, please visit
Follow on Twitter: @CrowdOutAIDS Hashtag: #CrowdOutAIDS
Put yourself on the crowd map for possible future collaboration with UNAIDS:

Thank you for reading! :-)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

“Preserve My Saltiness,” I savoured every piece... - Chioma Chukwuneta (@Cheeomarh)

A review:
From the catchy red face to the picture of a young lady who appeared engrossed in her thoughts (though having savoured the book I realized that lady was actually listening to everything happening around her from the wisdom of the old/aged to the words of her Creator, whom she describes as the “Lover of her soul," and the cries of her society), I was convinced that I was holding a book with a beautiful content. If “judging a book” and “judging its cover” were synonymous, books like “Preserve My Saltines” would break the gravel.
 For the first time I come across poems that tell my story to the world, my love story, my daily struggle between desires and the expectation of the God I serve, my environment, my dreams and prayers.
Each time I pick up “Preserve my saltiness,” I savour every piece with reflection. It's a collection of poems full of wit and wisdom written with so much simplicity and creativity.
Jennifer certainly has grey hair, these words of wisdom certainly didn't come from a woman with hairs as dark as mine.
Thank you Jennifer for sharing your thoughts, thank you for standing for young women and for Christianity and thank you for believing in our generation.
By Chioma Chukwuneta,
Follow on Twitter: @Cheeomarh
  Thanks for the review Chioma! May God be praised! His grace is ever sufficient!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Profile of the five winners of the 8th Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards

On Thursday November 24, 2011, LEAP Africa celebrated five young leaders at its 8th Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards at MUSON Centre, Lagos. The winners:  Oladipupo Ajiroba, Babatunde David, Babafemi Oyediran, Tolulope Sangosanya and Priscillia Usiobaifo were showcased for their exemplary efforts to creating positive social impact in communities across Nigeria.

Every year, LEAP solicits applications and nominations of youth who have initiated social change projects in their local communities.  After a rigorous selection process, ten nominees are chosen by an independent panel of judges and the five winners are announced at the annual awards event. 

At the 8th Awards, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, Minister of Youth Development, in his keynote address, encouraged the winners to remain committed to their positive initiatives across Nigeria.  He also enjoined Nigerian youth to be more positive, optimistic and involved in change efforts. The second speaker, Mr. Tonye Cole, CEO, SAHARA Group Nigeria, challenged the youth present to be prepared to strive for the change that they hope to see in Nigeria.

LEAP also celebrated beneficiaries of its Leadership, Ethics and Civics (LEC) Programme in public secondary schools in Anambra, Lagos and Ogun States at the event. Outstanding schools and student groups were recognized for their commitment to improving the lives of individuals within their local communities. 

The evening ended with a thrilling live performance by Chydinma, who was joined on stage by the LEC students in celebration of their awards. Over 800 guests were at the event.

Established in 2004, the Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards is a means to formally acknowledge the difference young Nigerians are making all around the country and to let more youth know that they have the power to address the nation’s most pressing issues.  The youth are not the leaders of tomorrow; they are the leaders of today, and increasingly young people are starting to recognize that through dedication, creativity and accountability they can create powerful change. 

The Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards is always one of LEAP’s most highly anticipated events of the year bringing young people from across the nation together to learn from inspirational stories of young change agents, gain insights from experienced leaders.


Oladipupo Ajiroba
Age: 24
INITIATIVE: The Environment Advocates/Managers TEAM
Ajiroba Oladipupo is a young environmentalist, climate change activist and youth advocate. He graduated from Olabisi Onabanjo University with a degree in Botany. He also holds a diploma in Youth & Migration from the World Bank.
His interest in environmental issues was born from challenges he faced as a child, when he was diagnosed with acute bronchitis due to air pollutants. This challenge ignited his passion to learn more about ecological issues and to safeguard his natural environment. More specifically, it inspired him to establish The Environment Advocates/Managers (TEAM) in 2010.
TEAM utilizes interactive youth-to-youth workshops, quarterly forums and field-volunteerism to build youth awareness and understanding of environmental management. Over 500 University of Ibadan students have benefited directly from TEAM workshops. 1200 secondary school students in Ibadan have also benefitted from TEAM’s environmental clubs and environment protection activities such as - tree planting exercises, gardening practices and more.
Given his interest in the natural environment, Ajiroba facilitated TEAM’s partnership with International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)/Leventis Project to supply high-yield seedlings to local farmers in Apete, Ibadan in an effort to boost their productivity. In addition, the partnership has provided the farmers with access to markets. As a result of the intervention, the framers have recorded increase in productivity and revenues. Working in partnership with TEAM, IITA and Leventis has also reduced the challenges that the farmers face interfacing with middlemen.
Oladipupo was nominated by African Union at Addis Ababa, as one of the 67 Young African Professionals to pioneer the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC) scheme. He was also appointed Chairman of the newly formed Youth Wing of Nigeria’s oldest environmental NGO, the Nigerian Field Society.
Following his track record in community service and development, Oladipupo was recently invited by the Special Adviser on MDG’s to the Ogun State Governor, Mrs. Hafsat Abiola-Costello, to serve as a Project Officer in the State MDG office.
Oladipupo currently serves as Founder and Programmes Director of The Environment Advocates/Managers (TEAM).
For more information about The Environment Advocates/Managers (TEAM), please contact Oladipupo at

Babatunde David
Age: 20
INITIATIVE: Youth for Generating Change (YGC AFRICA)
Babatunde David is a 2011 Electronic and Electrical Engineering graduate of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State.
Though an Engineering student, he realised in his second year that he was inclined to Motivational and Public Speaking. His love and passion for Nigeria inspired him to create an avenue for his peers to contribute positively to the development of Nigeria. This led to his founding of Youth for Generating Change (YGC) Africa in 2008. He currently serves as its founder and Team Leader.
YGC Africa’s core focus is to provide a platform for getting young people in Nigeria and Africa, to actively participate in national development and collectively developing the continent.  YGC Africa believes that young people can inculcate the moral and family-oriented values required for personal development and nation-building. Consequently, it has adopted an approach that utilizes activities that interest and actively engage young people. These activities are executed in four different forms: workshops, essay competitions, social media and printed publications. Some of the programmes include: Biannual Youth Discussion Forums which seek to inspire and involve youth in governance and the nation-building process; the Annual Change Summit which gathers young people to listen and learn from the experiences of positive role models; Rebuilding the Walls-Nigeria Initiative- an initiative that provides solutions to the challenges affecting the positive advancement of Nigerian youth; and Transformed Magazine- a publication which inspires youth through feature-stories on the experiences and exploits of youth who have surmounted challenges to achieve the incredible.
To date, YGC Africa has successfully reached over 5000 young beneficiaries through its various programmes and activities, impacting them with social skills and information to engage in good governance in their sphere and proffer solutions to the challenges peculiar to their country. The initiative has received a lot of support from Channels Television, Farafina Publishing, HIIT, Mediamore Limited, Microsoft, Nestle Nigeria, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and UAC.
In 2008, Babatunde was appointed the Youngest Microsoft Nigerian Ambassador. In the same year, he was nominated for the prestigious Nigerian National Youth Awards (Gold category).
His leadership skills earned him selection as Nigeria’s representative at the 2010 William J. Clinton Global Initiative University meeting in Miami, USA.
For more information about YGC Africa, contact Babatunde at

Babafemi Oyediran
Age: 28
INITIATIVE: Rural Enterprise Development Project (Project RED)
Babafemi Oyediran is a graduate of Architecture from the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nigeria. He is currently pursuing a Masters Degree at the same institution.
He is the Founder of Rural Enterprise Development Project (Project RED) and Co-founder of InterSynergy Consulting (ISN Consulting).
Though Babafemi is from the South Western part of Nigeria, he has lived most of his adult life in Niger State. In his interaction with the rural inhabitants in the North Central region, he observed that though they were industrious and enterprising, they were terribly marginalized and lived in abject poverty. Given his passion for entrepreneurship, he decided to channel his energy towards equipping and empowering the rural inhabitants with skills necessary for self-sufficiency. He believes that the war against abject poverty and hunger can be conquered by developing, encouraging and supporting Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in the grassroots.
The organisation takes its beneficiaries, who are artisans through a training workshop which includes role-playing and other practical and interactive activities that facilitate efficient learning. The workshops are designed using the Competency-based Economy Formation of Enterprise (CEFE) model - a practice-oriented training methodology used in over 40 countries in the world. Given the unique language dynamics of the beneficiaries, training programmes are conducted in Pigeon English or the local dialect of the participants.

To date, 29 small-scale business associations, four of which were set up as a result of Project RED’s training, have been trained. in Abuja, Borno, Nassarawa, Niger and Kano.
Babafemi strongly believes that with proper guidance, social enterprises, cooperative bodies, women and youth groups in the rural communities can use their limited resources to contribute immensely to the economic development of Nigeria. His experience with Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in rural communities has given him the unique opportunity to partner with several organizations that work with business owners.
Babafemi Oyediran was nominated by World Bank as one of the two Nigerian youth to participate in the World Bank Global Youth Against Corruption, GYAC Forum April 2011, in Nairobi Kenya. His pioneering project on business ethics and anticorruption got him selected as a Global Changemaker, 2011 by the British Council. He was also nominee of the Top 12 Awards by Youngstars Foundation.
For more information about Rural Enterprise Development (RED) Project, contact Babafemi at

Tolulope Sangosanya
Age: 28
INITIATIVE: The LOTS Charity Foundation
Tolulope Sangosanya is a graduate of Mass communication from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State. She is also a graduate of the Social Sector Management Programme of the Pan African University Lagos.
While in her final year in the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Tolulope was deeply disturbed by the sight of a young street girl that she observed on her way to her campus. As Tolulope prepared for her final examinations that year, she kept wondering about the physical and emotional abuse the little girl must have suffered. Having grown up in a broken home, Tolulope was well aware of the importance of love in a child’s development. She also realized that she could have ended up like the girl if she had not been given the opportunity to have an education. This realization and strong desire to give love to vulnerable street children, gave birth to The LOTS Charity Foundation (LOTS) in 2006.
Since 2006, Tolulope has focused her efforts and energy on providing this often neglected group with the support they require to fully develop. Unlike orphans in orphanages who are provided with the basic necessities of life- food, clothing, medical care and shelter, street children do not have access to basic amenities and are often victims of abuse. The LOTS Charity Foundation was set up to fill in this gap. The initiative, which started off as a medical outreach project, has evolved into a more comprehensive empowerment and leadership organisation. It currently promotes education and socio-economic empowerment with the aim of transforming disadvantaged youth into productive members of the society.
LOTS  is presently focused on a literacy programme, which it started in Dustbin Estate, Ajegunle, in 2009. The programme has 125 registered children and 980 unregistered children who attend the literacy classes.
In 2009, LOTS Charity Foundation was formally registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission [C.A.C]. In 2010, Tolulope partnered with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Jubilee Parish and community members to raise funds for LOTS’ Multipurpose Resource Centre. Through a musical concert, the church and its members raised over N2million, which was used to establish the facility in January 2011.
Tolulope was the recipient of the “Best Use of Advocacy” Future Awards in February 2010 for her work in Dustbin Estate, Ajegunle.
For more information about the LOTS foundation, please contact Tolulope at;

Priscilla Ikos Usiobaifo
Age: 26
INITIATIVE: Brave Heart Initiative
Priscilla Ikos Usiobaifo holds a National Diploma in Public Administration from Federal Polytechnic Idah, Kogi State. She is currently a final year student of Political Science at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State.
Priscilla’s concern for the high prevalence of teenage pregnancy in her community in Akoko Edo Local Government Area in Ondo State motivated her to start the Brave Heart Initiative (BHI) in 2007. She found it very disheartening that young girls were expelled from school when they got pregnant. In addition, they were ostracized and were not reintegrated into school after childbirth. Their families and communities no longer recognized these young mothers as adolescents in need of nurture and guidance; rather they abandoned and expected them to fend for themselves and their children. This unfortunate trend violates the right of teenage mothers. BHI seeks to empower and develop youth between the ages of 10 and 25. It provides them with the information and skills required to make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive rights. BHI also engages in advocacy and intervention on sexual abuse issues in Akoko Edo L.G.A. It partners with the Judiciary, Police and Medical Practitioners to protect, treat and seek legal redress for disadvantaged youth exposed to sexual exploitation.
BHI is currently working in twelve (12) Secondary Schools in Akoko Edo LGA. Through collaborative efforts, it has trained 36 teachers in Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to educate and counsel the children on sexual education. The training strategy was adopted as a valuable tool for preventing unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and STI’s among youth.
To date, Brave Heart Initiative (BHI) has empowered over 4000 youth with sexual and reproductive health information through their outreach activities in these 12 schools. Through their practical and interactive workshops, youth learn to protect themselves from sexual abuse. They also make informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health behaviours.
So far, over 90 rape cases in Akoko Edo have been reported to BHI, 27 cases in 2011 alone. However, due to family denial and fear of stigmatization by parents, BHI has only been able to act on 18 of these cases. BHI is funded yearly by the International Women’s Health Coalition, New York, U.S.A.
 Priscilla served as a panelist at the Guttmacher Panel on Reproductive Health at the 54th CSW, New York, USA. She was also invited as an African Youth Delegate to a consultative meeting with policy makers at the White House, Washington DC, March 2010.
For more information about Brave Heart Initiative (BHI, please contact Priscilla at

Are you attending Ezniras Clothes Swap (Christmas edition)?

I just got this info and thought I should share :)

Ezniras Clothes Swap will hold on the 18th of December, just in time for you to swap and get fabulous clothes for the holiday!

How it works:
1) Each person drops off a minimum of 5 items from their wardrobes at our drop off spot which is at FALOMO SHOPPING CENTRE, BLOCK B, SHOP 2A, IKOYI before the 18th of Dec.
2) You get to swap as many items as you bring, so if you bring 10 you swap for 10
3) For this edition swapping is just for girls.
4)You will definitely find clothes that fit you because I already have people from size 6 to size18 who will be swapping
5) Items are 'interswapable', so the fact that you brought only bags doesn't mean you can't swap them for tops.
6) Please ensure that the clothes or items you bring are in very good condition I.e have only been worn once or twice or still have tags on them.
7) If you can't get your things to us before the swap date, we will still accept them on that day. But you would have to come early
8) On the day of the Swap clothes will Hung up and arranged just like a boutique.
* we reserve the right to reject clothes which are torn, faded, dirty or generally in bad condition.
Date : December 18th, 2011
Venue: Falomo Shopping Centre, Block B Shop 2a, Ikoyi Lagos NIGERIA
Time: From 12pm
Gate Fee: #500
For more information call Uchechi on 08033791809. Zainab 08099285661 or send an e.mail to

Opportunity for youth age 18 to 30years! Apply for LEAP Africa's VLSP!!

LEAP is set to launch a Values and Leadership Skills Programme (VLSP) funded through the support of the UK Government.

The workshop will be held in Abuja and Enugu with 50 youth beneficiaries per location.

Beneficiaries are expected to be youth between the ages of 18 to 30 years, who are passionate about community service and have a strong interest in developing leadership skills.

*All past beneficiaries of LEAP’s youth programmes are not allowed to apply for this programme.

Click link to download a detailed information flier and an application form for the VLSP. Flier: VLSP Information Flier-1 Application form: LEAP VLSP Application Form Final

Application deadlines:

·       Abuja:                 January 18 to 20, 2012               December 14, 2011
·       Enugu:                 January 25 to 27, 2012               December 15, 2011

Programme dates are tentative and subject to change when required.

Please contact Asuquo Asuquo on if you have questions or concerns.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A to Z thoughts on Education Issues

A: At the moment things are looking very bleak

B: But we can’t just throw in the towel and give up

C: Can we think of a more creative ways to tackle youth unemployment?

D: Decisions have to be made, by individuals and government leaders

E: Experiential learning needs to be added to our curriculum to boost employability

F: Failure to realize that classroom education alone is not enough will keep throwing us back to square one

G: Government leaders need to allocate more budgets to Education- formal education and informal education alike  to meet the challenges facing today’s education system

H: How do we ensure that the money allocated for education is directly spent on the right projects?

I: Individuals must take up the watch-dog role of keeping the government leaders accountable

J: Judging by the way things are, we have been too complacent for too long

K: Keep in mind that what affects us today have a rippling effect on generations to come

L:  Lagos state (Nigeria) just adopted a no child left behind policy to ensure all children have access to education. Other states can take a cue from this

M: Marginalized youth, youth with disability and children of the extremely poor must not be left behind

N: No child must be left. This is not a cliché

O: other factors militating against the implementation of such policies must be tackled head-on

P: Policies on education should go beyond paper work. Implementation is key

Q: Qualitative education must never be compromised by government, teachers, parents and students. But what is qualitative education?

R: Remember the changes we want to see in the education system cannot be realized unless we all play our part

S: Several people know what is wrong with the education system. Now is the time to start thinking solutions

T: The bedrock of the development of every nation starts with qualitative education

U: UNESCO should not be left alone to tackle the challenges of universal access to education, it is everybody’s business

V: Verify the education situation in your country to know how to speak out

W:  When we talk about education, it goes beyond classroom learning

X: X-ray the caliber of people who are championing the education system. Are they tired old policy makers and ministers?

Y: Youth empowerment is vital for youth employability

Z:  Zealously seeking solutions to the problems of education is my business, as well as yours. What do you think?

First posted on Youth. Skills. Work 

Nigerians Honor Former Chief, Celebrate Cultural Heritage During Eyo Festival

Photography has always been a powerful vehicle to report news. Last week, I took up the challenge to cover the Lagos Eyo Festival for Global Press Institute Yes, it was a very challenging task :-) Taking over 100 pictures albeit in the hot sun, barefoot (on the street, you had to pull off your shoes/slippers), was an experience! But now that the story is published and people are able to stay well informed about what went down in Lagos Island on November 26th, 2011, I feel the task was worth it! Enjoy the report below:

Nigerians Honor Former Chief, Celebrate Cultural Heritage During Eyo Festival

Nigerians on Lagos Island in southwestern Nigeria celebrated the Eyo Festival at the end of November. Originally known as Adimu Orisha play, the festival is unique to the island and is a tradition of the Yoruba ethnic group. It can be organized to mark various occasions but was traditionally used as a final burial rite after the death of a chief.

In recent years, the festival has honored the late Yesufu Abiodun Oniru, who was the chief of Lagos from 1934 to 1984. He contributed to the development of Lagos state and fought many battles to liberate the indigenous people of the Lagos colony from Great Britain.

The climax of the festival was the public parade on Nov. 26. Participants dressed up as Eyos, or masquerades, wearing white clothing. Each Eyo group wore a hat of a distinct color to symbolize the various ancestries of the island.

Streets were closed off, and everyone had to walk barefoot as a sign of respect. The parade terminated in Tafawa Balewa Square, where people from all over Lagos gathered to watch the festival.

Click here to view Photos on Google+ or Flickr 

Click here to view more Photos on Google+ or Flickr

Monday, December 05, 2011

Volunteering Matters: Light-up our World

As I write this, volunteers all over the world are marking the International Volunteer Day (IVD), celebrating millions of people working hard and smart to advance sustainable development and peace in our world. The theme for this year is Volunteering Matters: Light-up our World.

What is volunteerism? It is simply defined by as the policy or practice of volunteering one's time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one's community.

Volunteering is about giving. It is about rolling up our sleeves to get involved, take action and make a positive difference.

There is no one person who was born with distinct volunteering skills. It is a culture we can all learn to imbibe.

There are many ways for young people to volunteer. But it is crucial to keep in mind that whatever platform you decide to serve on must be a process of service learning. That is, your volunteering must be a process of learning too.

Volunteers are not paid. This is not a cliché. But there are other ways they grow by giving. Most things people learn while volunteering, the experience, the network, the opportunities are worth more than monetary payment.

But in the process of volunteering, we must not allow other areas of our lives to suffer- we must not use volunteering as an opportunity to escape from the reality of making a living and ensuring that we are psychologically and economically stable and responsible.

Recently, I was asked to reach out to a young man to take part in a project we were working on. At first he sounded very willing and enthusiastic about being involved. However, on realizing it was all based on volunteering, he pulled out.

According to him, he was already engaged in a lot of volunteering activities and had no capacity to volunteer on any more. Perhaps if we offer a form of monetary payment, he will reconsider.

I doff my hat in respect for this young man. Some times, the downside of volunteering is that we do not know how to express our interest and worth. As a result we keep jumping from one activity to another, only to feel exhausted and used with no sense of fulfilment. Trust me, there are lots of people willing to use you.

In the process of volunteering, it is imperative, that we consciously give our time and talent but know the limit of how far we can go to avoid the volunteer fatigue that so often drain out the real impact we all make as volunteers.

Volunteering matters. We can all make it a habit to volunteer formally, within an organization or informally, in our homes/community. For example, as a professional, you can make out some hour to share your skills to help an organization grow. As a young person, you can volunteer to teach your younger ones, babysit or clean your neighbourhood.

It is by serving that we build empathy, learn leadership, light up the paths for others and stay connected to one another.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Checkout this Youth Volunteer Opportunity with PEER Group

PEER Group is an acronym for Productive. Empowered. Excellent and Responsible Group. Below is our Mission and Vision Statement.

PEER Group Mission Statement:
An organization that aims to address the prevalent social ills within its locality of operation through;
Increment and change in personal output of participants: PRODUCTIVITY; giving participants more
control over their own life or situation: EMPOWERMENT; achieving unusual goodness: EXCELLENCE; and
to make participants serve as catalyst for our desired change: RESPONSIBILITY.

PEER Group Vision Statement:
By 2031, P.E.E.R Alumni will be known for their reliability, skill, knowledge and principled character
useful in reviving our social and cultural values necessary to improve the country’s image both at home and abroad.

We are restructuring for the year ahead and as such, we need volunteers to fill in our vacant positions. Below is the list of the vacant positions.

(1) Team Lead (Project Co-ordinator, Founder) - Already filled.

(2) Logistics/support Lead (Two personnel; One person for the design of our programs to work effectively and the other for other structural and physical works),

(3) Financial Secretary (Two personnel; one person for maintaining accounts and the other person as a fund raising officer),

(4) Publicity ( Two personnel; one person for internet and other social media and the other person in charge of branding and managing the public affairs of our program and meetings),

(5) Program Manager (One Person; the person is in charge of program management from the first step to the last of our programs),

Applicants must be between the age of  20 - 30years. New applicants are advised to insert in their applications, their personal achievements, strengths and weaknesses as a team member, and their understanding of volunteerism.

Please note that application is not automatic and is subject to ratification by the PEER Group Leadership.

Applicants should forward their mail to Application deadline is on December 8th, 2011.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Run with your heart" Ayo Owodunni

 This story is very inspiring! As the writer said, “read it with the end in mind.” I really want to appreciate Ayo for having the courage to share such a powerful story, one that will inspire our generation and generations to come. In life, we all have the power to change whatever situation we find ourselves, for the better.  Read how Ayo found the courage to change his. I hope you are inspired as much as I was inspired! Read on, Read it with your heart :-)
Run with your heart
Guest writer: Ayo Owodunni

I have been blessed by God to be very talented in running. By the time I graduated from high school, I was ranked 10th in the country in the 600 meters, 5th in the state of New Jersey in the 800 meters and top ten in the state in the 400 meter hurdles.  I was an all conference champion 3 years in a row and I was named one of the top returning track runners in South Jersey twice.  I graduated High School in 2002 and continued my track career at Rider University.   
By the end of my college career, I held the school record in the 500 meter dash and was also part of the record breaking 4 by 800 team.  I am a three time conference champion in the 400 meter dash and a four year 4 by 400 meter conference champion.  I held the fastest 400 meter time in the conference for three years in a row and I was fortunate to attend college for free on an athletic scholarship. 
Reading about all these great accomplishments, one might think, “this kid must have been born with this amazing talent.” I will say it is an honor for anyone to think so well of me but my story does not flow that way. 
The truth is, I was never a good athlete growing up.  As a matter of fact I was very horrible. I was clumsy, slow and lazy. I was labeled a wimp and mama’s boy.  I remember being made fun of as a young boy at Ona Ara Prismoni Children’s school.  I was never one with the crowd, more like ostracized.
When I was 12 years old, I had the opportunity to move to the US.   
One quiet boring day in the valley of the Springs in Sicklerville, New Jersey,  while having a conversation with my cousin, I was advised to join the track team.  “After all,” said my cousin “you are tall and you’re African. You should be good.”
 As it turned out, that random suggestion made a lasting impact.
 Trying out
While in 8th grade at Ann Mullen Middle School, I joined the track team. I tried out for everything.  I ran long distance, short distance, and mid distance. I jumped, threw the shot put and did everything else imaginable in the sport.   
To cut the long story short, I was too slow to run the short distance and too lazy to run the longer ones.  I was too clumsy to make those timed and well-defined jumps yet also too skinny to get better at the shot put. 
 After going through a long list of the things I could not do, I was happy to find out that mid-distance could be very fitting for me.  I decided to join the mid-distance group.
 My first year of track was NOT a joke.  It was not as great as I thought it would be. I recollect running a race for about 700 meters and totally quitting towards the end of it.  With about 100 meters to go, I fall over and lay on the track because I was just too tired to go on.  I also remember running a race in my basketball sneakers that ended up as a disaster.
 The end of 8th grade labeled me one of the worst runners on the team with no potential.  My coach had no faith in me.  I remember watching Greg May, Oorie Gaines, Jacob Hill, Jim Bonnet, Chris Bledsoe and a few other teammates shine.  People rallied around the track when it was their turn to run.  They were unstoppable!
I graduated 8th grade and moved on to Highland Regional High School. Once again, I eagerly joined the track team.  Yes I was one of the worst runners and yes I was told that it might be in my best interest to find something else for myself but I refused to give up. 
 The feeling of being part of a team kept me going.  I enjoyed the friendships, the joy, the fulfillment, the practices and the competition.  I took up another year of track.
 Good mentors, great mentors
Two men changed my athletic life forever- Bill Collins and Bobby Wagner, head coach and assistant head coach of the track and field team. 
Coach Wagner and I immediately connected.  Wags, as we would all call him, was a friendly, relatable, funny, nice, loving and positive coach. He had a great gift of seeing potential in you.  He is known to recognize hidden potential and develop it. 
 Coach Collins on the other hand had a completely different style.  He was knowledgeable, experienced, and also a great coach but his approach was totally different. Collins was tough nosed, strict and very challenging.  He told you things as they were and that was that.  If you ran horrible, he’d tell you.  If you were lazy, he’d say it.  If  you’re slacking, he’ll tell you to get off his team.  Coach Collins was totally amazing, in his own way. 

I recollect Collins saying to me over and over again, “You’re a quitter.  You have no heart.  You will never become a great runner. You might be good but you’d never be great.”  Wags would object and say “Bill this kid is going to be amazing. You watch.” Those two went back and forth on me for a complete year before either of them saw changes.   
My high school career started out just as badly as the middle school career.  I was once again one of the worst on the team and track became more of a social gathering than an actual sport filled with competition.  I was part of the team and going out to track meets but I never saw myself as being good, so I became comfortable at my present crisis. 

The Turning point
I finished my freshman year as one of the bad runners on the team. I had made slight improvement in some areas but I was fed up and wanted to truly make some changes.  I made a decision to actually do something.  I remember sitting with coach Wags and chatting with him.  At this point in time, he had become my personal mentor and we had built a very close and solid relationship. 
I recall Wags telling me over and over again that I would be a great runner. 
I was appalled. I just couldn’t fathom how a runner like me could become ‘great.’ I remember asking him why he thought I’d be great and I was really shocked at his response to my question.
Wags was totally determined and just had a look in his eyes that expressed his determination to make me the runner that he saw in me.  He was determined to make me great! It was from him that I learned that indeed, practice makes perfect. No, more like Practice builds greatness.

Summer of 1999
That year, I made a deal with coach Wags. The goal was to run everyday over the summer and spend time with him.  Wags and I decided to work extremely hard and we picked the perfect time to do it-  Summer of 1999.
Summer of 1999 was historic in South Jersey.  There was no rain for months and the state reservoirs were running really low.  People were asked to conserve water and all kinds of tactics were used to keep things on the minimum.  It was hot and it was sticky. 
The air was humid and South Jersey was absolutely dry.  Wags and I picked the summer of 1999 as our summer to make a difference. 
Wags and I ran for an hour, everyday.  We worked on endurance, strength, heart and commitment.  By the time track season rolled around, I was a completely different runner.  I was stronger and faster.  I had grown into my body and I had some power.  It was time to move!
Sophomore year saw a drastic change from the previous two years. 
I dropped my 400 time by 7 seconds, 800 time by 20 seconds and the mile by an entire minute.  I went from one of the worst runners on the team to 13th in South Jersey and top six in my conference. 
 What a change in one year. 
 I will never forget the shock my teammates went through.  I was that kid who came dead last in practice everyday only to return the next year as one of the fastest. 
 By my junior year, I was the talk of the town.  I was the 2nd best junior (according to the newspapers) and I was ranked top 5 in South Jersey.  Wags and I were excited.  Our dream is finally coming to pass and his words dating back 2 years now are finally coming to pass.  Our excitement and accomplishments led us to set new goals for the upcoming year. 

Setting new goals to beat my last performance
I remember Wags saying to me… “Ayo this year I believe if you put your mind to it, you can become one of the best runners in the state of New Jersey.  As a matter of fact I believe we can compete at the national level.”
 Wags raised the standards so high for me that I completely shut down.  There is no way I’m that good. There’s no way I can compete at a national level. I am just ranked in little old South Jersey. Not even New Jersey but the southern region of a huge state.. I began to lose focus as fear crept in.
 I started off the year not up to par.  I was a disappointment not only to myself but my coaches. I didn’t even qualify for the state championships or the conference championship.  The truth is that there was so much pressure on me that I completely shut down. I wasn’t ready to lead and I wasn’t ready to be the best. 
 I remember doing the best I could NOT to put myself in positions to win during races.  I stayed in my safe haven and rested in my comfort zone.  Even though I was one of the fastest on my team, I didn’t qualify for any post-season races. 
 However there was still hope for me.  In the New year, I made a conscious decision to take the challenge to become the best that I wanted to be. 
 The PRESSURE was on but I was more determined to be the best.  I was older and more focused.  I ran each race with my heart and a sense of urgency. 

Connecting my heart to my race
After the first race of my senior year, I remember having a long talk with my other coach, Collins.  Coach Collins sat with me and spoke of our roller coaster journey as coach and runner.  He spoke of our love-hate relationship and we both enjoyed it. 
 As we spoke that lovely day during practice, his words stuck to my heart, “Ayo all I want from you is your heart.  I don’t want you to focus on what place you come in or what you’re ranked.  I just want you to run with your heart. If you give your best, you’d be your best.”
 By the end of my senior year, I was ranked 10th in the country, 5th in the state of New Jersey and 1st in the Olympic conference. I qualified to run the 800 and 400 meter hurdles at the nationals.  All I did that senior year was run with my heart.  God blessed it. 

About Guest Writer:
Ayo Owodunni is currently an On-Air personality and Programs Director at Rainbow 94.1 FM in Lagos Nigeria. He Studied Psychology at Rider University. He is a speaker, MC and writer. He blogs at:
Follow him on Twitter: @ayotheboss