A fresh graduate turned down an offer worth 100,000 naira per month to pursue his dreams. Everyone said he was crazy. In a country like Nigeria that has a low employment rate and a poor economy, it doesn’t seem like a good decision. What was the outcome of his decision? We will find out in the brief interview I had with him.
Can you briefly introduce yourself to the audience, please?
My name is Hammed Kayode Alabi. I am an Educator, SDGs Youth Champion and Peacemaker with over 12 years of experience in active citizenship and volunteering.
It’s good to have you here. We got connected on LinkedIn about two years ago, and I have been really impressed with your journey. What actually led you into that?
I think I just opened my LinkedIn account back then because I thought lecturers are the ones on LinkedIn until I was applying for the Atlas Corps Scholarship and I was told to include my LinkedIn link.
I went through my LinkedIn and I noticed it was empty. I updated it and started to engage. I have always thought that LinkedIn is for Professionals but people like you remind me that humans live on LinkedIn and I started to share my story, talked about my work and rally support for my work.
So for my journey, my background shaped me. Lost my mum at 7, my dad became unemployed, stayed out-of-school for sometime. My dad had to hawk Compact Disc to ensure I go to school. I also did some hawking too and during this time I engaged children whose conditions were worse than mine and that sparked my journey into the work that I do. With the belief that children in rural communities can be solutions to the problems that they face.
My mum died because she does not have access to quality health care. Those children can create solutions. They can change the circumstances they have inherited.
I’m sorry about your loss. Can you explain what you mean by “she didn’t have access to quality health care”?
Thank you so much! So she was being transferred from one hospital to another. So all those hospitals could not treat her. She was transferred to Kwara State for local treatment but eventually lost her life.
The truth is; for people who grew up in the slums such as Makoko, there is a limit to access to basic social services such as health, education and social protection systems.
I can imagine. In one of our discussions, you told me about turning down an offer that was worth 100,000 per month. What actually made you do that?
At that point, I was about to start my Initiative. It was already in the launch stage and I got this opportunity to work as an invigilator/security officer in Saudi Arabia with free accommodation and a lot of social benefits.
However, I didn’t go because I knew what I wanted. I am not willing to pursue a career in that area. More so, I will be there for 2 years, but my passion for my initiative was stronger. I was hungry to create change. It was an audacious decision and I am glad I took it.
Today we have empowered over 2500 children with 21st century skills, won U.S Consul General Award, won African Youth Essay Competition Award, and a lot more. I wouldn’t have done all these if I had left.
Today, I am currently going through a Paid Fellowship with a US-based organization and I wasn’t where I was.
Big congratulations. During the time you made that decision, was life easy for you?
Thank you so much for the congratulations!
Yes, life wasn’t easy because, at that point, I had no job. Though I involved myself in lots of volunteering opportunities and was working in an oil palm factory. I would say I was underemployed. I can’t even buy things for myself and can’t help my family but I am grateful today.
Truth is if we can delay gratification, we cannot achieve greatness.
You are a role model to many young Nigerians out there, including me, can you share a roadmap to follow for many people who want to pursue your type of career?
First, it is not an easy ride.
Working in the development and non-profit space in Nigeria is difficult and serving humanity is what we do with the heart. I think it’s a decision you have to make and build your career through volunteering.
I have been volunteering for many years ago and I had developed skills in the process. So build the skills first and learn from people. So you don’t necessarily need to found a non-profit but you can join one and act as a programs officer or in other capacity, however, if you find a problem, you can create an initiative that fills the gap. And, don’t do it alone work with others. It’s only through collaboration we can create lasting change.
Your experience volunteering, leading a non-profit and those work that you do when you are not getting paid, will pay you when you start getting paid.
More so, develop your skills, take courses around development, non-profit management etc. You experience will create a pathway to work with a top international non-profit and position you as a consultant.
The rate of unemployment in the country is really alarming. What is your take on this?
For me, I think it’s high time the Government should focus on building the Human Capital in the country and this can only be harnessed through Education but the truth is – Education gets the minimal budget.
If you want to lift a country out of poverty, pay attention to Education, but if you want a country to remain poor, pay less attention to Education. Truth is; the education that we have makes people unemployable. So when children go to school, they become worse and that is where the problem is.
People graduate from University and cannot use Google doc, cannot create a free canva design, cannot negotiate, cannot write emails and write simple business proposal. We need to start promoting project based learning that prepares people for the workforce and the future of work.
Also, who do we learn from in school?
The government needs to focus on teachers’ training and pay equal attention to alternative learning such as vocational and 21st century ICT training.
Honestly, a mechanic who doesn’t go to school but have basic education earn better than a banker. This is the reason why we need to rethink our educational sector.
There are some skills we need to develop in school beyond reading and writing. However, if we can read, write and understand, we have all it takes to succeed.
You have actually left no stone unturned. But if I may ask, what can you say about the state of education in the nation?
I think right now; it’s below average as we currently have 10.5 million children who are currently out-of-school. It is reducing with Civil society organizations intervention but we need to do more. More so, teachers standard is low.
According to a research released by ESSPIN composite survey in 2014, it was revealed that out of over 19,000 public school teachers tested in states in Nigeria, only about 0.03% met the standard in analyzing children learning outcomes, utilizing effective pedagogies and major competencies in the use of learning technology.
Now we can see there is a problem. Many students go to school today and they do not learn. Truth is I have heard cries of students, and these are the cries of a failed society. The Education sector needs to be fixed.
Furthermore, when I traveled across marginalized communities last year, I saw schools without toilets, students learning in dilapidated buildings. Students in classroom without teachers. Students wandering around during school hours and some are not even in school at all. And if there is heavy downpour, students are drenched. Learning environment is poor.
The school, should be an oasis that protects the children. A place where they can be and breathe.
That’s really poor and I hope your voice would be heard soon. Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I want to continue with my work at KLCI.
Expand to more communities and create unconventional design spaces where children in rural communities can co-create and design solutions.
I am also looking forward to deepen my knowledge in the Non-profit and Educational space. Deep dive into Global Educational policy and okay greater role in educational policy leveraging the youth demography.
More so, start a role to work with UNESCO or UNICEF.
How do you think the government can help your vision?
I think collaboration to equip students in secondary schools to acquire 21st-century skills needed in the 21st-century economy. This will serve as an alternative education and complement learning deficiency in schools.
Ultimately, giving young people like me voice to contribute to policy development through stakeholder engagement that includes young people working around Education.
I think a Youth Advisory on Education is a way to go, where young people who have knowledge of the 21st-century can share with the Government interventions that work and here, this is not just about me.
What would be your advice for the youths out there?
We need to define ourselves beyond the environment, we are the movers of the world and we should not limit ourselves.
We should go ahead to learn as much as we can. Take courses online, volunteer for social causes, intern even if you are not getting paid. Just keep developing your skills.
Truth is – premium has been placed on skills and if you don’t have those skills, you might likely not get some certain opportunities.
Also, we need to develop our writing skills, research, read and listen more. Some opportunities today are tied around this.
Search for international opportunities, fellowships, scholarships. There is a lot you can get on opportunitydesk.org.
Attend seminars and masterclass and don’t be scared to dare. Start something..It could be volunteering, interning or starting a small business. Just start. Also build relationships and nurture it.
Thank you, Hammed for your time. Wishing you all the best for the future.
You are welcome! Thank you, and Tekedia, for the opportunity to tell my story.