Project of the month: Young Humanitas Network

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 31 August 2008

Young Humanitas Network, Nigeria Trains Ibadan youths on HIV/AIDS and Malaria Prevention 

An idea is nothing but mere abstraction until such is turned into something meaningful, an action that can serve the goal of the initiator. It is therefore always a thing of joy to see an idea turned into action that has meaningful impact on others’ lives. Like any other project, the YHN/VI Youth Leadership Training started as an idea in November 2004. It was initiated by two young men, Olusegun Olowu, then an International Youth Partner, Oxfam Youth Parliament, Australia, and ‘Yemi Ademowo Johnson, then Secretary General, International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation, Belgium, who had both visited Europe and decided to do whatever they could do to contribute to the betterment of Africa.

With that impetus for change, the first edition of the project on “Leadership for Active Citizenship Participation in Governance”, which was sponsored by the IYP, Australia, was organized in July 2005. This was followed by the second edition on “Leadership and Peer Educators’ Training for a better Africa”, which was supported generously by Kim and Anne Skaara and the Concerned Kpambo Indigenes, in February, 2006.

Unfortunately, the program could not hold in 2007 due to paucity of fund. After surviving some teething problems and challenges that came with the first-two editions, it gladdens our hearts that the Young Humanitas Network, Nigeria was able to organize its third annual youth leadership training on 30 June 2008 at the Students Chambers, University of Ibadan. The theme of the training which was sponsored by the Human Etisk Forbund, Oslo Section, Norway, was “Build the Leader, Kick the Scourge!” It was a ten-hour event specially packaged to offer secular leadership skills, Peer education skills on HIV/AIDS and Malaria prevention, Community Development Advocacy Skill, and Career Building counseling.

Being the third edition of the project, the program was targeted at 100 students, who are newly elected officers, or prefects, from 10 selected Secondary Schools in Ibadan (specifically the schools that have been identified as prone to barrages of religious HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns), within the urban and rural areas, in order to surpass the achievements of the past years.

As the newly appointed officers of the schools they are expected to start building their leadership abilities that will be invaluable to the country in the nearest future. Empowering them with these skills and encouraging them to establish peer network, we were convinced based on our experience, will be invaluable both to them, their followers and the community at large.

Their training was therefore planned in such a way that the trainees’ will be able to have meaningful multiplier effect on their peers in their schools and in their communities. The key activities of the project were advocacy seminar, peer education training, prevention methodology and career counseling sessions. The key impact was the leadership roles the young people would play and the knowledge they would acquire both as beneficiaries and channels in the transfer of information to their peers through peer-led education. The technique adopted for the project was Peer-Led Education while the needs addressed by the projects were the dearth of effective and efficient knowledge of the prevention of the diseases most especially that of the malaria which most of its prevention are targeted at women and very little children, leaving out the youths.
The project was also planned to show that these students could be a source of change if they could be empowered with the necessary skills and methods of preventing the spread of the diseases.

The project mobilization started on 8 May 2008 after series of meetings and logistic planning based on PRINCE2 project execution strategy. It was without hitch at first but was beseeched with some unexpected problems later on, most especially the nationwide teachers’ strike which was rumoured to be commencing on 4 June 2008 but which eventually commenced on 11 June 2008, two days before the d-day. We kicked off with the distribution of the invitation letters on 12 June, 2008.
The following schools were invited for the program: Abadina College, Abadina; Orogun Grammar School, Orogun; Emmanuel College, U.I.; Humani Alaga High School, Sango Ibadan; Community High School, Mokola; Saint Gabriel, Mokola; Methodist College, Bodija; Mount Olivet High School, Bodija; Bishop Onabanjo High School, Bodija; St. Loius Grammar School, Mokola; Bashorun Ojoo High School, Bashorun; Islamic High School, Bashorun; St. Patrick Grammar School, Bashorun; Shesaya High School, Eleyele; Bashorun High School Bashorun; Ajibode Grammar School, Ajibode; Oba Akinbiyi High School, Ibadan; Polytechnic High School, Poly Ibadan and Aponmode High School, Moniya.

Although the authorities of these public secondary schools gave their word at first, the strike changed the tempo of the planning. Anita Akpan and Yemisi Oje, the two volunteers charged with contacting the schools worked extra mile in ensuring that the target pupils are released for the program. In fact, we had promised to arrange for three 14-seater buses to convey some of the students to and fro. Again, our first booked venue was cancelled due to some perceived faith problems.

We had to book the second venue, where we eventually held the program in the name of a partner group, Volunteer Initiatives, Nigeria, to avoid die minute disappointment. With most of the preparations sealed, venue arrangement, snacks, tea breaks and lunch bookings, IEC printing, participation jackets printing among others, we were stunned again with the news that of the serious illness that befell one of our key resource person, Eno Gift, an Adolescent HIV/AIDS prevention expert with Development Concern, Ibadan. We had to arrange for another trainer seven hours to the program. Thanks to Remignus Chibuzor who arranged for the trainer at short notice.
On the d-day, despite out transportation arrangement, only 78 pupils from nine schools attended the program that commenced at 9:15 a.m. The mood of the participants present, however, prevented us from seeing the short of target as a barrier rather we were glad that the attendance got better compared to the 47 pupils of 2005 and 51 pupils of 2006. Five papers were presented to guide the training by the resource persons: Leaders as Servants: Ingredients of Quality and Responsible Leadership; HIV/AIDS Prevention and the Youths: Your Role as Leader; Malaria: Causes and How to be active in ‘Rolling it Back’; Careers: Problems, Prospects and Possibilities and; Skilled Leaders, Healthy Followers: Volunteering for Change in the Community.
The welcome address/opening remarks were read by Mr. Yemi Ademowo Johnson, the National Coordinator of the Young Humanitas Network, Nigeria.This was followed by the first paper presented by Mr. Temidayo Oladipo, a political scientist and motivational speaker on ‘Leaders as Servants’. In the paper, Dayo explained the core ingredients of leadership using Zimmermann Leaders’ Compass as a guide. Mr. Oyeyode Tola, a humanist and UNICEF Peer Educators Trainer, took over from Dayo after the questions and answers session. He spoke extensively on the essence of a planned future that is not allowed to be chequered by unnecessary exposure to dogmatism and demonisation of contemporary reality of life. He trained the pupils on the facts of HIV/AIDS and how they could influence those around them positively if when those persons are HIV-positive. After this paper, we took our lunch break.

The third training session was handled by Ms. Ojoawo Toyin, a medical anthropologist and public health communicator. She explained the causes of malaria and the effect of the disease on youths, children and women. She ended her class with a ‘pass-the-card’ demonstration on how the environment and joint effort could help in mitigating the continued spread of the disease. By the time she was through, the participants were ready for tea break during which a ‘figure-it-out’ informal discussion was conducted by the speakers with the support of four volunteers, Anita, Daniel, Imabong and Yemisi. David Olali, a teacher and associate at Emma Olali & Co, a consulting firm, led the session on career.

Through live case studies, David, discussed with the pupils on how they could choose a career that would not be just a job but that which they would be happy with. He concluded with his ‘Dance to your Goal’ competition after dividing the participants into three to show how exciting it could be to live in a career that one freely chooses. By the time David ended his long but exciting discussion, we were just a few minutes away from 4:30pm; leaving us with only 1:30 minutes to round-off the program. Yemi Ademowo Johnson took over the stage almost immediately after to present a summative paper on “Skilled Leaders, Healthy Followers: Volunteering for Change in the Community”, which was meant to serve a pre-cursor before the participants break into groups to evolve project ideas based on any of the trainings. The groups, Love, Excellent and The Chosen, as they nicknamed themselves, discussed and chose a leader to present a project idea which was assessed. The discussion and the presentation chopped-off another 45 mins of our time.

The Chosen Group won the best project idea. The proposed project they tagged “Choose and Live Your Dream” was an HIV/AIDS prevention and career advocacy project. With only 20 mins to the destination time, 6pm, the assessment test sheets were circulated and collected after 15 mins. The last minutes of the program was devoted to address exchanges. The effect of the training as well as their knowledge of the theme based on the result of our assessment will have a multiplier effect in the environment. In approximation, the bits of the acquired prevention knowledge and skills impacted on these trainees will affect close to 10% of their school population, which is about 1500 student. Unfortunately, we have not been able to do a-three schools assessment visits due to the continued nationwide strike embarked on by the secondary school teachers. But we are confident that we have been able to contribute our own little quota in the quest for better leadership in Africa and the battle against the two diseases, HIV/AIDS and Malaria that have held Africa to ransom. 

To conclude, we would like to thank the Board and members of YHN and VI, and above all the Board of Human Etisk Forbund, Oslo Section, for the grant, and also to Anne Skaara (Oslo) and Moa (Akershuse) for making this edition a success and for coming to our rescue when the ships were almost down. We hope to continue with the training, and maybe internationalize it, in 2009; then, we hope at least one of our project alumni will be one of the trainers. Compiled by ‘Yemi Ademowo Johnson and Zeloyi Moekeme of Young Humanitas Network, Nigeria and Volunteer Initiatives, Nigeria respectively

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