57 years gone…but the story is about to change…if only…

October 1st 1960 the story officially began,

Oh happy day, the unlikely marriage of three regions now free from the grip of the colonial masters,

Or was that a dance too early, 

Tafawa Balewa took the helm of affairs alongside Nnamdi Azikiwe.

All was well until the first military coup sabotaged the government, then a rapid succession of governments began,

From military to military with a couple of democratic spells. 

In the process, that once hopeful new baby born, started to grow but with some major deformities, especially in its character.

Corruption, nepotism, terrorism, weak institutions, etc. 

Was the crude oil (black gold) causing more evil than prosperity that it was expected to bring? 

Or was there something inherently wrong with the way the baby was formed in 1914 by Lord Lugard?

But it’s not all gloom and doom with this grown “baby”, it has happy days and reports. 

Image credit: Sharemyfame through Google

Since May 29, 1999, it has run a democratic government. The people can air their views though time and time again there’s that temptation to squash their voices;

But the people that form the nation have to always remember they are the majority and they can’t afford to sell their destinies on a platter of cooked rice and other stomach infrastructure. 

What do I see when I think of this “baby” at 57? I see a nation so so blessed, I am grateful to be born in it. I see the boundless potentials yet untapped and my mind thinks of what can be done.

I see a nation with a choice, a choice to remain together and win together or to fall apart and become many insignificant parts.

I see a people that are much stronger than they think but that need to redefine their value system.  I have met countless Nigerians whose lives inspire me and give me hope. These people make me to continue to believe in and work towards the greatness of Nigeria from my own little corner.

Oops I forgot to tell you that I was referring to was Nigeria. The Greenland. The land of promise. The land of hope. 

On this 57th Independence day celebration, I salute her and reaffirm my faith in her. 

Happy Independence Day Nigeria!!!

Photo credit: Google
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Solving the African Education Jigsaw Part 1

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Participants at #LETBootCamp1 thinking through what and why they spend on in the Financial Literacy Class

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Knowledge is defined as “facts, information and skills acquired through experience or education, the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject”. While it says that information is facts provided or learned about something or someone. To gain better understanding, I checked out synonyms of both words. Words synonymous to information are – details, particulars, facts, figures etc. while those for knowledge are – understanding, comprehension, grasp, grip, command, mastery, etc.

It can be inferred from both definitions that information is a building block for knowledge. Information is just a foundation, it is knowledge that connotes mastery or grasp of a subject matter. Using an analogy, as a student, I received information from my textbooks, teachers, etc about Biology – the study of living organisms but honestly, I can’t boast of knowing biology given that I don’t have a grasp of how for example an amoeba functions the way it does or why the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. I most likely have to refer to my notes before I can share anything on that subject.

In this information age, where information is at everyone’s finger tips and we are constantly being bombarded by information, it is pertinent to then ask what is the usefulness of schools/education. What exactly does going to school give us? We are in an era where education should provide us with more than information. Yes we gain literacy and numeracy skills and learn other subjects – these should only be the basic but not the sole focal areas of schooling.

Education (I will be using it interchangeably with schooling in this article) should give knowledge and even take it further than knowledge. It should equip with other skills that are required to thrive in the 21st century. Top on the list of the additional skills is Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking does not happen by listening to long lectures or classes, or reading big books.  It is “the ability to analyse, connect unrelated areas, and apply technical information to complex problems” says Ms. Shahida Saleem, Team Lead, Pakistan Education Innovation Fund. Critical thinking is the ability to stop and ask why. After the first response, we still ask a further why. It is the ability to challenge the status quo till a better discovery or solution is found.

For example, we shouldn’t just teach 1+1 = 2 and expect students to take it hook, line and sinker. We need to encourage them to ask why, we need to help them analyse the reasoning, question the origin till they reach their own “aha” Eureka moment. Is 1+1 = 2 because someone just felt like it or because we place objects besides each other and they “increase”? In the course of asking why, they may discover that it is based on something called “Peano axioms” which works on succession theory (that would be information) or they discover that it is based on the principle of value/quantity definitiveness (this might be more tailored to secondary/higher education students as an example but critical thinking can be developed in multiple ways).

To avoid getting bogged down by debate of proofs, critical thinking is more keen on what the discovery is used for, it is not knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Most times it is easy to take things as they are but we can never have a true or relevant lasting change if we don’t stop to ask why and think through the why. It can be daunting or unpleasant but school should reinforce in students the courage to ask, to think and to discover.

Bringing this closer home, growing up as a teenager, I would ponder on why there were not many “familiar” faces as inventors (the Einsteins, Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, et al) that I read about. Was it a western thing only to invent or was it a case of these individuals been given room to fail and opportunity to keep trying? Does our quest for “don’t be seen as a failure” limit us from discovering “endless possibilities” that have the potential to transform lives and communities or are we just plain lazy (mentally lazy in most cases)?

I admit that I have been mentally lazy at one point or the other. But mental laziness never produces successful people.

Back to educational system, it is clear that it owes us (speaking from a Nigerian and African perspective) this critical thinking skill amongst others which we would proceed to explore in subsequent articles. At the end of it all, we need to fix this education jigsaw because the true wealth of a nation lies in the quality of its human capital. In conclusion for this part of the jigsaw, I would say the education system has to be disrupted to ensure that students learn not only to read and write but to read, write and THINK!

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What are your thoughts on the above? I look forward to reading your comments.

Thank you!

I want to walk in your shoes…my thoughts on EMPATHY!

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How can we develop videos that would help people develop empathy? This is the question that popped up in my mind after watching this video.  A quote in the video I just watched caught my attention: “It doesn’t matter what race we are, people would respect you for overcoming adversity”.

I believe teaching empathy comes from how the story is told. The same story in the video above could have been shared in an informational way that would not steer any empathy whatsoever. Most times we watch videos or read stories in our local context (now speaking as a Nigerian) but from observation of the comments on such videos, I realise that some/most people at best are only sympathetic while some just find away to deride or find faults.

Thinking back to the beginning of the year, I realise that the subject “Empathy” has been tugging at my heart. I was sharing with the teenagers at our last boot camp in August the need to be empathetic as leaders, I believe empathy is a missing component of the Nigerian society and it explains why things are this way. I have been asking myself, “how can I be more empathetic?” I think most of our societal and economic problems would be solved if we all became empathetic.

Empathy & Sympathy Quote

Last month out of curiosity, I did an analysis of this blog. I haven’t been a consistent blogger but out of curiosity, I realised that at least in a week, I always had at least 3 days of someone in some corner of the globe reading my blog. I wanted to find out what they were reading and who they were. I discovered that the posts that had the highest views were written in 2014 and 2015 and they were on VALUES – showing care and respect, displaying integrity and honour, etc. The other interesting fact about those blog posts is that the readers are mostly non-Nigerians (or should I say not resident in Nigeria since I can’t be sure), searching Google for the word Values, care, respect, etc and thankfully Google is kind enough to send them to read my thoughts on the subject. What’s the point of the above you may ask, I deduced that there is a part of us as humans seeking to receive care, respect, etc hence why people are asking about values.

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The video above made me think of the possibility of developing local content to build and teach empathy in our children and youth. Real people, real stories but told from the dimension of empathy. I am not a fan of the cultural belief that deriding others or making fun of them would toughen them, in my brief years on earth, I have come to learn there is a better way.

Empathy is not about making excuses for people’s weaknesses, rather it is about walking with them in their shoes/or an attempt to, in order to discover with them ways to overcome those weaknesses. If anything else, this is one value that I am actively seeking to imbibe. Again I say to you – I want to walk in your shoes and empathise with you!

 

P.S. If you are interested in exploring with me the idea of building local content to teach empathy, let’s talk. Please send an email to info@steertogreatness.org or message me on social media.

Also if you haven’t read my blog posts on values or you need a good reminder (*winks*), here are the links – one, two, three.

Thank you so much for reading and I look forward to your thoughts on the blog!

 

Out of the ashes

There’s a song I used to sing a while back, a line in that song goes “out of the ashes of my dying today, I see the breaking of a brand new day”.

Those words resonate with me today because it reminds me that when a seed is thrown into the ground, out of it’s death, comes a new 🌲 that would bring forth great beneficial fruits. 

Same thing, the dying process doesn’t always mean gloom and doom especially if it is death happening in good soil. It may seem to rot, on the surface it may seem nothing is happening and the rain and sun are just added punishment, however, remember, they are bringing about growth. 

This post is a reminder to self and to you who may be reading tonight. You are a GOOD SEED! Trust the process and keep your joy. Take the lessons and keep your smile on. 

I am planted in Nigeria, a good soil and regardless of what external conditions may look like, out of the ashes I will rise! Out of the ashes Nigeria will rise. 

This is not wishful thinking, remember as the seed is in the ground, it is working…taking roots deep into the soil.

A brand new day is here!

Nigeria my beloved country…

I’ve been professing my love for Nigeria a long time coming, on Monday that love was reignited as I had my first ever adult road trip experience in Nigeria. This road trip took me through Keffi, Godo Godo, Gidan Waya, Riyom (forest road) to Bauchi in (Nassarawa, Kaduna, Plateau and Bauchi states respectively in Northern Nigeria).

The sights and sounds of this trip has so inspired me I decided to share with you all.

The beautiful hills and rocks of Jos and Bauchi

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(forgive my in-motion poor images)

Cactus and other lovely flowers and plants
Very red and sweet strawberries grown in Jos… so affordable, my enterprising wheels in my head couldn’t stop turning (I didn’t know we grew strawberries in Nigeria).

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As we drove into Bauchi State, the magnificent hills beckoned to me, I asked myself “why don’t we consider mountaineering and hiking this part of the world?”.  The shrubs and mango trees all testifying to a simply beautiful country. Baskets of fresh tomatoes, onions and yams makes me wonder why we have food shortages.

Countless security checks, I stopped counting (counted on my way back – 21), that helped me learn a few words of Hausa – “Sanu, yaya aiki” “sai godiya” – which means “Well done, how is work?”, “We thank God”. These security checks where testament to the insecurity that exists in those parts of the country.

Indeed tribalism, nepotism, corruption, terrorism and bad roads have stolen a lot from us as a people and it’s high time we changed the narrative. We have a lot to offer in tourism and agriculture if only we (leaders and followers do right by ourselves).
The landscape through Jos from Kaduna is simply breathtaking, my heart could only wish things were different so my children can be taken on such beautiful roadtrips through the country.
I wouldn’t change my nationality because I know my being Nigerian was not a mistake… the land of promise is truly beautiful and blessed.

Musings from an IDP camp

As I sit in the cab heading home, I wished I had the words to describe how that morning’s experience made me feel.
I spent my Saturday morning at the Area One IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in Abuja, Nigeria to commemorate with the girls at the LitClub, the World Read Aloud Day.

Below are my musings from Saturday:

“Today I wish I understood and spoke Hausa given my experience, nonetheless, I was still able to connect with the girls as I was given the opportunity to read to them. While our session was on, two groups came to perform their philanthropic activities. The first group brought items of clothing and blankets (which are very essential given the cold and windy weather) while the second group brought jollof rice to share with the children (which is equally important and commendable).

However, what shook me was how the two scenes revealed our heart conditions about good deeds and how giving out aids might not result in sustainable development and progress for the members of that IDP community as well as our nation at large.

I’ll explain what I mean.

As you may have clearly guessed, as soon as the first group arrived, all looking nicely dressed with their expensive phones, taking pictures, selfies and videos, the beautiful girls in the LitClub were distracted, they no longer paid attention to the volunteers who were teaching them to read and who were explaining the importance of being literate.They were interested in the gifts being shared outside which was expected.However, the group left as soon as their giving was done though they spent some minutes to ask some questions.

The scene reminded me of how I tend to feel good with myself after visiting an orphanage or even contributing to send provisions to  an IDP camp. But today I realised it should go beyond the feel good factor. We feel good about our kind acts and are eager to share on social media to get praises but beyond that meal or clothing or money, I realised from observation today, that we tend to miss an opportunity to interact with a beautiful girl or smart boy, an opportunity to inspire and encourage them, an opportunity to empower the young men and women to be self sustaining because they have great potential as you and I to also make a difference and the only difference between us is that we had a safe environment and we had opportunities.

In spending time listening to the girls I realised they are all so smart and when one of them broke down crying my heart broke… she had lost her father to the insurgency and as the second group arrived with their rice, that scene must have triggered memories for her… but in all they left me with special gifts, the gift of hope, smiles and laughter. They also reminded me of the importance of not abandoning the boy child in all our intervention plans.”

So what’s the essence of the post you may ask? My experience on Saturday made me realise three things that I thought to share with you my dear reader:

  1. We urgently need a sustainable plan for the people in the camps to transition them back to normalcy.
  2. Aids should not be only about food and clothing, lets start working on better housing/living conditions for them and entrepreneurship/employability programs that will help those lovely people I met earn a living and enjoy the dignity of labour.
  3. . This crisis needs to end. We can no longer be detached from the crisis, especially those of us in the South. We need all solutions that we can come up with.

Thank you for taking time to read through. My heart has been burdened since that experience and I just had to share.

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When you hit rock bottom…

Over the last week, I have come across different posts online about the need for people to share the process of their story and not just the success. I even saw a video on Facebook that encouraged we shared the process as it occurs and not until after the results where we focus on the results and barely describe what was at the core – the process.

Initially, I simply read and watched those posts and nodded in agreement without really giving them much thought. Until yesterday when I seemingly hit rock bottom. (P.S. This post is about authenticity and sharing the process as it occurs because I may forget some of the details when the result/success occurs).

'I know it doesn't seem possible right now, but trust me, it could be worse.'

Cartoon source: https://humoresquecartoons.com/

So what rock bottom did I hit?

Sometime last year (April, precisely), I quit my job as a tax consultant. It didn’t make sense at all and yes I was going for the Mandela Washington Fellowship but that was not a strong enough reason to quit a job in one of the “Big Four”. My bosses tried to persuade me to just take my annual leave/study leave instead of resigning. But I was sure of the end result then as I am sure of it now and I knew I didn’t want to start that journey of purpose and passion and return to routine. So I was adamant and I quit!

However, I didn’t have the step-by-step execution clarity of the process that would get me to the end-result that I am so confident of. All I knew was that I was walking on water as my Saviour bid me come (biblical analogy). Since then, I have been privileged to run 2 leadership, entrepreneurship and technology workshops and 1 more detailed boot camp. You can tell I absolutely love what I do. There’s this pure joy I experience working with young people and introducing them to concepts and activities that would make their education more relevant.

You may be wondering, so what rock bottom did she hit? Stay with me, we’ll get there in a bit.

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Anyway, since returning from the fellowship, one key thing on my mind has been how to sustainably run this social enterprise that I have found myself working on. How would it generate income? How would I sustain myself while it is still in the growth stage? I am not used to waking up in the morning and not going to an office, how do I keep myself motivated to keep working on the vision without slipping into depression?

Thankfully, I have a great support structure but guess what made me hit rock bottom, explaining the “how” of the vision to the people I care most about. One question I get asked is so where is Steer to Greatness going? How will it make money? Before you conclude, I have written the vision, the plan, the goals and the operation plan so you may still wonder why I am not articulating it well.

The vision scares me sometimes, it is that big.

When you are walking on water, some if not most of your actions are inexplicable. Looking around, trying to understand how it will work out after you have done all you can is what makes you hit rock bottom. When you have bills coming up but your vision can’t fund them yet.

But do you know what I did – I cried for help. Yes, you heard me. Literally, cried for help. At 1 a.m., alone in my room, feeling overwhelmed and clueless, I cried to the only one I knew could help me out. Then I wiped my eyes and got to work. Yup! Feed your focus. Hitting rock bottom is not an excuse to stop trying or to give in and jump on the next available easy way out. Rather it was time to restrategise and refocus. It was time to think of other skills I had that I wasn’t putting to use yet that can help me while I work out the end-result.

In conclusion, I found out that hitting rock bottom is not an issue in itself, there are stories of many people who are household names today but failed a lot of times before they hit success. The main takeaway for me was to stand up and keep going even when I hit rock bottom. Fear of what people would think or say should not stop me from persevering. At least even if it doesn’t work out, I would know I tried and not have to guess what if.

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My friend when you hit rock bottom, cry if you must, but stand up and keep walking, running till you are soaring.

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Have an awesomely amazing 2017!

 

Not so picture perfect

I really wish there was someone here to take a picture of my not so picture perfect self right now. But I can help create the image in your mind.

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There I lay on the bed, legs folded, hands on my tummy, eyes swollen, laptop at my legs – open but now joined me sleeping.

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So what’s the issue and what am I about to rant about?

It’s simple! Girls, Women, Menstrual cramps and productivity. In other technical terms, gender and productivity. I am not about to give excuses for being a woman, but wait a minute, this menstrual cramp is a real deal.

I wouldn’t normally take to writing about something so personal or using it as an example, but as I abandoned work to give my tummy attention, the wheels in my mind went to work. I remembered on October 11, the international day of the girl child, at Badagry, the speaker before me asked the girls if any of them wanted to change their gender and why.

A few of them raised their hands and one of the reasons was – “monthly menstrual cramp”. Then my mind went to the days I worked as a tax consultant and my monthly friend showed up angry (I hope you get the metaphor). Those days, I won’t be really useful at work till about afternoon.

You’ll either see me restless, touching my stomach every minute, walking back and forth. In summary, I was completely unproductive for the better part of the day.

But then the question is, does this make me as a whole, less human or of less value than my male counterparts?

I can’t really determine whether my monthly friend will come in angry or not but I strongly believe as a woman, I should not be judged because of how I am once a month for something out of my control.

I am not saying cut us some slack, or maybe I am.

I am saying cut the stereotype about women in the workplace or girls in school. Yes life cycle affects our performance on those days, but eh (as my Zambian and Namibian sisters would say), we are on top of our games despite it.

You don’t believe me? See I just wrote this article on a whim and with the pain and weak feeling.

Not all females at work or in class would get the chance to call off work because they just are not in the mood, that would be sacrilege but organizations should not make women feel less of themselves or doubt their abilities because they have to be a woman once a month.

So yes, I will get up from my not so picture perfect state and post this for everyone now. Hopefully you get the call to action embedded therein!

Cheers!

Opportunity is knocking on your door!

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Today’s post is focused on opportunity!

I remember as a child and teenager being told that success is when preparation meets opportunity. I even had a personal example to buttress that point. When I was studying for my A’levels (which I did in about 8 months), I worked pretty hard (wanted to have a result at least as good as my brother’s and was tired of JAMB’s antics) and believed God for success.

Just before the last day of my exams, an opportunity showed up. It was an opportunity that shifted the focus of my exam from just getting into university to the possibility of attending my dream school – The London School of Economics and Political Science. It was a scholarship opportunity!

I was able to seize it because I had just finished my Cambridge A’levels exams and could use the results when they were released to seek admission in the United Kingdom. Hence, my easy agreement to the saying preparation plus opportunity is success.

9 years plus down the line, I would like to modify that saying at least from my vantage point. The experiences of the last 9 years, the people I have met along the way have all made me realise that we actually don’t need to just work hard and wait for opportunity. We can and should create opportunities…not just for ourselves but even for others.

The next question then is How. How do I create opportunities?

First – Identify a problem/challenge in your immediate environment
Two – Select the one you can solve
Three – Come up with an approach through which the problem can be solved (strategy, roadmap)
Four – Implement the strategy

In trying to solve that problem/challenge, you learn along the way and must be willing to ask for help or collaborate with others.

These days there are also sites like Opportunity Desk that you can regularly visit and apply for academic and job opportunities.

So cheers to no longer sitting around waiting for things to happen! We create the opportunities because the Creator has given us creative abilities to make things happen!

Values – Live a life of integrity and honour

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Hello there!

I realised it was time to continue the values series. I have not written on them in the order in the GEMSTONE creed but according to inspiration.

Today I would like to share my thoughts on the above value and hear your views an practical ways to imbibe this value with personal experience.

To begin with, what is integrity and honour? I have observed that many organisations use the word integrity as their core value. The question then is does everyone understand the meaning of the word? or is it just a nice to have value?

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During my research for this post, I discovered a lovely write-up on living a life of integrity that I would recommend you read too. You can find it here. That blog post kind of echoes my thoughts for this post. But I won’t be lazy. I will still share mine.

There are two definitions of integrity. One is the “quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” while the other is “the state of being whole and undivided”. Integrity is an extremely important attribute which is essential for a successful life. In my own understanding it is simply ensuring daily that my “yes is yes and my no is no”. No compromise.

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Is it easy to achieve? Initially no, but it is easier than deception and it has lasting importance and implications for the individual. I have had people favour my cause or choose me because from their experience I would not deceive them. Daily, I strive to be whole and honest because the one I represent is “the Truth”.  Are there temptations to tell an occasional lie? Sure. However, I would rather face the consequences than try to remember the last lie.

Living a life of integrity in my opinion is linked to a life of honour. It is knowing and doing the right thing. If everyone in every relationship, community, workplace did the right thing and not waiver or compromise, our Country will definitely be better for it.