It is no longer news that Nigeria has been declared as the poverty capital of the world. The indices across lengths and breadths of Nigeria clearly invalidate any argument against this declaration in parliament of rationality. The Trading Economics Report indicates that Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 23.63 percent from 2014 until 2018, reaching all time high of 38 percent in the second quarter of 2018. The struggle for job thickens every day. Tertiary institutions turn out graduates yearly with mismatch of graduates’ number against the available jobs. Hence, only few graduates survive the labour market. Amidst this turbulence winding off the balance of Nigeria appears the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation. The NHEF at fifteen years of establishment, has the Nigerian story changed?
Just as a developing country as it is called, the Nigerian story has always been carved around rising poverty, piling penury, insecurity, insurgences, and mass illiteracy which are all worsened by inaccessibility to qualitative education to sustain lives.
The NHEF is an organization created by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2004. The organization is seed funded by the MacArthur Foundation with the aim of developing the next generations of Nigerian leaders by creating a strong, world-class higher education sector in Nigeria providing intensive career training, skills acquisition, internships and employment assistance to Nigerian students. (www.thenhef.org)
The believe of the NHEF is that the trained and assisted students in Nigeria are the individuals who would implement values and changes to rescue the country and project the image of Nigeria with progressive economy, job security, value for human lives, technology based education and professional conduct across disciplines.
I, AFOLABI, Oluwajuwonlo Israel a fourth year student of B.A (Ed) Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan is a testimony of the NHEF philanthropy. I got an amazing opportunity to join the NHEF scholars program for 2019. I was selected out of over five hundred applicants and recognized as one of the most talented and academically diligent students in Nigeria. The program which held in Lagos, Nigeria featured students from selected Universities in Nigeria including University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, University of Port Harcourt, University of Nigeria, Bayero University Kano, and Ahmadu Bello University Kaduna. The orientation program organized by the NHEF for 2019 Scholars gave not only me but forty-nine other scholars the opportunity to learn and equip ourselves with knowledge which is across: appropriate professional conducts at work place, ethics, effective communication, social networking skills, inter-personal relationship tips, group communication strategies, practical interview, how to write employable resume, use of Microsoft office and opportunity to meet leaders of industries in Nigeria and beyond.
The scholarship orientation has given me the career shape that I have always wanted as the facilitators synthesized in me and others adequate information and skills to forge ahead, build a career and life. I will say the NHEF scholars program is a life-transforming and one of a kind.
Of course, the program was facilitated at no cost for us scholars. However, the “no cost feature” is the candy ice brushed on our teeth motivating us to work our ways diligently to success in our endeavours and charitably contribute to the progress of the society. This view is supported by the saying of Mahatma Gandhi that “the simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand head bowing in prayer.”
So, the NHEF at fifteen, has the Nigerian story changed? Of course yes. It is changing on a gradual basis. It cannot be changed overnight as it is rightly said that Jerusalem was not built in a day. Just like Mr. Wale Adeosun- the Chairman of NHEF said that his plan was not to start the scholarship program but only to donate to Universities in Nigeria but Usman Farida the Executive Director of the NHEF influenced the decision and brought the initiative of building and training students from tertiary institutions in Nigeria as a way of giving back to the society and building generations. The scholarship program has remained instrumental to success of many Nigerians including the 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 scholars and beyond.
The NHEF scholarship orientation which held between 8th to 11th July, 2019 involved the use of a planned curriculum which relates with the saying that if you want something in the society, take it to the school. The NHEF has not only brought success and progress to individuals but are committed to it with utmost responsibility, effective preparation, conducive environment, top-flying coaches, technological materials, human resources, and financial resources on a timely basis.
The NHEF in entirety deserves kudos and appreciation. Tertiary institutions in Nigeria should emulate the curriculum in use by the Foundation and modify their curricula to accommodate a practical and technological instructional facilitation. Individuals, co-operate bodies and the governments are implored to support the NHEF on the journey of transforming Nigeria to that of our dreams. It is a collective task.
Taking from the words of Sam Levenson, I will say to all NHEF scholars, and individuals that “The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete. People even more than things have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Never throw out anybody. Remember, if you ever need helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm. As you move on in life, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.
The NHEF has labored for fifteen years and still committed to bringing values and building generations. The Foundation cannot do it alone. This is a clarion call to us all to contribute our quota to making and building the Nigeria which we all are proud of.
AFOLABI, Oluwajuwonlo Israel
B.A(Ed) Communication and Language Arts,
University of Ibadan