MY VISION TO CHANGE THE WORLD
MY VISION TO CHANGE THE WORLD
To change the world, I want to create a system where vocational education is recognized and respected in Africa, as much as the traditional academic education. It has been my dream to create an opportunity for women and youth, starting from Nigeria, to gain, build upon and develop specific vocational skills.
Technical education, as I have gathered from graduates of Nigerian polytechnics during my recent interviews, is not valued in our society, which makes it difficult for polytechnic and technical school graduates to get jobs as they are often marginalized in the pool of CVs. The norm is for them to return to a university and complete at least 4 more years of education, for some, the result is earning a degree that is less powerful than their already acquired tangible skill set.
Thus my goal is to transform skill acquisition training, in Nigeria for a start, into a goldmine for the persons involved, individually, and in turn for their communities, and the national economy at large.
Expertise in these skills can create endless opportunities for them. It is my vision that their formation in these skills can be given equal value as formal academic training, of which, most of what is learnt is not practical, and unfortunately, borrowed curriculum, which is not adapted to our socio-cultural and economic environment.
HOW I PLAN TO ACCOMPLISH THIS GOAL.
To achieve this, I have been planning to build a training centre in Nigeria, Delta state specifically, where I grew up, and can speak the language. There are many young people and women who are living below the poverty line and cannot afford to go to school.
Some of whom I grew up with are currently wheelbarrow pushers or tricycle drivers or sellers in the open market and are in turn unable to send their kids to school. The worst case is the set of youths that resort to militancy and pipeline vandalism for survival.
However, with an equipped training centre, I hope to organise three to four months courses in basic computer and IT skills, graphic design, sewing, cooking and baking, hair-styling and makeup, photography and cinematography, animal husbandry as well as music production.
These departments will run simultaneously during the course of the 3-4 months, admitting a minimum number of students for every set, ie, 15 students in baking class, and 15 each in other classes, for a period of 3-4 months, that means, for 5 departments, we graduate an average of 90 students every 3-4 months, and an estimated 360 students every year (if there are 4 sets of 3-month sessions). If we operate two sets of classes per department each day, then we are likely to train almost 700 students a year.
Upon graduation, students will present their final projects:
- Designed dresses and accessories
- Baked goods
- Farm crops/Farm animals
- Movie or short film
- Designed poster
- Online store or buying and selling website
and other skills learned in the institute, for grading. And then an exhibition will be held, where their products will be sold to the public. The best IT students will be given laptops and the sewing or catering students will be given machines or ovens respectively, and so on.
The students will also be trained on
- Business Management,
- Human Resource Management,
- Public Relations
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Basic International Trade
- Networking and B2B
The goal is to create entrepreneurs and not just not just job seekers. These entrepreneurs are a channel that will employ labour or raise other entrepreneurs by transferring the skills they have learned. It will also boost the “Buy Nigeria” campaign that promotes the buying of Nigerian products.
When this centre is successful in Delta, we will establish branches in Lagos state, the commercial capital of Nigeria, and then in neighbouring African countries. The dream is for the graduates of the institution to launch cycles where they in turn become teachers themselves thus transforming the rural cities of Delta state into a production environment and a booming economy.
SUPPORT AND MENTORSHIP I NEED
I would like to win this Toptal scholarship because the situation with Delta youths may get worse if centres like this are not given priority, as the economy is extremely bad in the city now, and with elections approaching, young people may fall victims of politicians who would want to use them as thugs or as instruments to attack opponents.
This Vocational Training Centre will be a torch of hope that I am passionate about establishing. I can already imagine them smiling to the computers in front of them and acquiring IT skills, learning to make movies that tell the African story and champion a cause, as well as gain knowledge on how to successfully run their own business after they graduate.
To do this, I will greatly desire a mentor. The Toptal mentorship opportunity and relationship will be invaluable in the building of such an institution/vocational centre. It would also be great ti have someone who is a part of the process and to whom I am accountable. I specifically would need professional advice on how to run this centre optimally.
For example, to run the centre: Unskilled workers are gradually losing their jobs because of the ease with which they can be replaced with other unskilled workers willing to receive less payment, and this is due to the overflow of job seekers in the unskilled labour market. To avoid this, there has to be a means for upward social mobility and development opportunities for unskilled workers.
I reckon that this Toptal-supported training centre should not be something they cannot afford, since they are at the bottom of the pyramid. However, if they need to pay fees to register in the training centre, what should the rate of the payment be? I would need to discuss this with a Toptal mentor, it is also my wish for the first entrants to be admitted free of charge, and then we raise money during the exhibitions, not only for the smooth running of the centre, but also to test the marketability of these products made by our students, and to give them the assurance that their time at the centre will launch them to both local and international trade opportunities. This is one of the issues upon which I would like my mentor to guide me.
Secondly, I would like my Toptal mentor to advise me on how the quality of training received in similar centres, from her experience have been maintained.
My plan is to invite facilitators and trainers who are already established in the trades we teach. We will have to invite a majority from outside Delta state, the other option is to recruit trainers, because we need full time commitment in order to reach our goal within the time frame of a school session, that is 3-4 months. There will also be an opportunity to give access to well-meaning persons and organisations to volunteer to teach, but apart from this latter category, I would like my Toptal mentor to coach me through this essential financial aspect of getting resource persons for this project, as the quality of the school hinges upon it, and hiring the best is often expensive.
Finally, I would like my mentor to assist in adding flesh to this idea through collaborative research, and by giving me advice on how to make this project sustainable, both environmentally and financially. She would shed more light on whether this should be a non-profit institution and how we can maintain it so that after the fund I will be awarded with is exhausted on buying equipment, paying for the venue, rewarding best students, paying staff, maintaining the facility, the project will still survive.
Seeing this vocational and IT training centre established would mean a lot to me, as it is a dream I have held on to for many years, and I hope that the Toptal scholarship finally brings it to fruition. I am very certain that this will be one of the best experiences of my life, as I more than eager to pursue this goal.