Lubem Mtile (29), Yola
Northern Nigeria has been called the hotbed of illiteracy in Nigeria, with a reputable institution like the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reporting as many as 10 million girls with no access to basic education. It is clear that government cannot alone fulfil this overwhelming need and young pioneers in education like Lubem Mtile have taken on the challenge and become an all-important bridge, connecting disadvantaged girls of Northern extraction to opportunities and prospects through education.
Understanding that it is simply not enough to provide education, Mtile has created a cohesive safety net for these girls that includes BAS-T, a pregnancy tracking application deployed across Sub-Saharan Africa that allows health workers monitor girls with underage pregnancies, (a major stumbling block to education), Health services reinforcement to ensure girls are not kept from school by preventable or treatable disease, the Northern Girls Code initiative which provides access to the internet and beginners education in coding and software engineering to out-0f-school girls and Robotics for kids; and initiative that introduces children to problem-solving through code.
In the intervening years, Lubem Mtile through Northern Girls Code and the Mentor Africa Initiative has provided 321 children access to quality education, collecting and updating a digital database of registered students in public schools, IDP camps and Almajirai. Northern Girls Code boasts 36 girls and 40 young adult women who have graduated its program, five of whom are internally displaced. He also hosts ‘Chess Mistress’, a chess, scrabble and movie screening event for Internally Displaced Children that has engaged 86 children thus far, through games, reasoning and vocabulary training.
Wole Adedoyin (32)
When Wole Adedoyin began to formulate the base plans for his grand idea to create a Community Development Project that would solve the fundamental problem of introducing children and young adults to information technology, he could have scarcely predicted that it would grow into a state-wide initiative that would cater to 7000 public primary school pupils from 30 primary schools in Ibadan North and Ibadan North West Local Government Area. The sheer scope of lives that Adedoyin has impacted through his little idea that could is inestimable.
Adedoyin’s ICT for Community Development Project is only the latest in a slew of achievements that include a co-sign from Professor Wole Soyinka himself through the Study Abroad In Lebanon (SAIL) scholarship programme, for which Soyinka personally nominated Adedoyin. Other initiatives in which Adedoyin honed his ideas include the Read Across Nigeria (RAN) project, the annual Fagunwa Day, the Groom a Writer Initiative. He also helped establish a partnership that allowed digital publisher partner with the public school to provide 2000 e-books to students and established book clubs in Oyo and Osun states.
Through the ICT for Community Development Initiative, Adedoyin was able to combine technology and his experience promoting literacy to create the Database for the Control of Public Primary School Education and Activitives (TEDCODE) which monitors student’s progress, allows teachers streamline education techniques to match a student’s needs and improves the overall quality of education. 30 public primary schools in Ibadan have benefitted from this stunning initiative and as TEDCODE improves, its impact continues to grow.
Brenda McWilson (25)
It is common knowledge that the standards and quality of education in Nigeria have deteriorated drastically, especially at the tertiary level. Students have limited access to contemporary career options and are often underequipped to take on the working world. Many students seek an alternative through foreign study but are discouraged by the restrictive requirements set by foreign universities and the cost of education in first world countries. Brenda McWilson understands that while these hindrances might complicate the prospects of these hopeful students, the value of a guide who can ease the process is inestimable.
She has taken it upon herself to become a guide for neophyte students who intend to study abroad through scholarships. Her focus is on matching students with scholarship opportunities in the world’s most prestigious universities through tailored applications, LinkedIn Profile Optimizations, Grant Prospecting and Writing, Interview tips for Jobs and scholarships and understanding the very nuanced demands of scholarship essays. McWilson harnesses the power of the internet and social media to achieve this, teaching her followers on Twitter, and hosting physical workshops in Winnipeg Canada. Through her tireless crusading, McWilson has amassed an impressive 27,000 organic followers on Twitter.
Since 2017, Brenda McWilson tutoring, coaching and mentorship has helped students gain $600,000 dollars in scholarships, incubators and idea boot camps. That kind of track record speaks for itself.
Gideon Olanrewaju (25)
One of the biggest concerns of educators in Nigeria is the reality that our educational system priorities rote learning and memorization over problem-solving, curiosity and innovation. It is most evident in our dearth of public libraries and facilities dedicated to providing young people access to knowledge through literature and other learning apparatus. But all is not lost, because pioneers like Gideon Olanrewaju works tirelessly to provide tangible, actionable solutions to this gnawing problem. While Olanrewaju’s interests are primarily skewered towards the provision and protection of the inalienable rights of children and young people as it regards access to education, He is also a pioneer in the field, fostering initiatives that directly address these problems.
His first foray into educational activism was through ‘AREAi’, a parent charity that began its life as the Learn to Lead Foundation. AREAi (Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative) worked to create educational opportunities for underserved children in rural communities through peer-based learning. He expanded on this initiative by providing technical and infrastructural support to over 6000 children across 8 schools through the provision of libraries, WASH projects and educational materials. AREAi also conducts early childhood literacy, numeracy and skill acquisition programmes as well as advocating for sustainable improvement in primary and secondary school curricula.
By solving secondary problems like basic hygiene, access to educational materials and safe spaces where children can discover themselves, Gideon Olanrewaju works tirelessly to ensure the future of a generation of Nigerian children.
Itodo Anthony (31)
How do you change education in Nigeria?
You don’t, you start by changing one school. This is what Anthony Itodo has done in his hometown of Otukpa in Benue State. Frustrated by the rapidly deteriorating quality of education in the Gateway Excel College, Otukpa and the unwillingness of its educators to embrace new ideas, Itodo abandoned the access that his degree from the Herriott-Watt University Edinburgh provided him and took it upon himself to revamp the school curriculum. He urged students in the school to abandon archaic theory-based teaching methods and embrace practical inquiry. He was also able to organize community members and members of the school’s alumni network to crowdfund a library and fund a retinue of teachers dedicated to educating children of school age who are forced to work itinerant jobs with the aim of providing them reading and writing skills and equipping them with the tools if they do seek education.
Itodo has seen his hard work pay off through academic excellence in the country and beyond. Under his leadership, the school won the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Beyond the School challenge for two consecutive years 2017 and 2018. He has seen friends, alumni and other well-wishers reward the excellence of his students with private scholarships and endowment funds and seen his students clinch top spots in academic competitions and prizes.
Anthony Itodo is well on his way to changing the lives of a generation of students and his nomination for the Global Teacher Prize funded by his Highness, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Only one of two Nigerian teachers to be awarded this honour; affirms that his impact is global. This is the kind of community-level activism, innovation and enterprise is what this country needs to dig us out of our educational quagmire.