Christianah Abe is a student of the Department of Anatomy at Osun State University. She won a sum of $350 dollars from LEAP Africa alongside her team to execute a change project within their community. Christinah’s team with 99 others were shortlisted by a youth-focused development organisation in the second phase of the LEAP Africa’s Youth Leadership Development Programme (YLDP).
The YLDP is an initiative of the Nigerian-based Non-Governmental Organisation and through the initiative, LEAP Africa is reorienting and positioning youths for a leadership role while also making impacts in their society. LEAP African has over 1 million direct and indirect beneficiaries with footprints in about 26 Nigerian states and eight African countries.
According to the Programme Coordinator of LEAP Africa, Catherine Busari, the YLDP started in 2004 as a physical Youth Leadership Programme; she added that the programme had since been reviewed to reflect the evolving needs and priorities of Nigeria’s undergraduates.
“Young people constitute a significant portion of the Nigerian population and are substantial economic contributors to society. LEAP Africa recognizes the value of young people and has recognized a leadership gap among them. As a result, the YLDP was created to bridge that gap by educating, strengthening, supporting, and enabling young people under the age of 30 to become self-leaders who bring long-term change to their communities.” Busari stated.
During the first phase of the programme, participants took virtual courses on 21 topics that focus on the three pillars of the YLDP – Leadership, Active Citizenship, and Community/Sustainable Development as well as, on the organisation’s Learning Management System. The self-paced lectures were spread over a period of 5 weeks with live review sessions at the end of each week.
Course facilitators were chosen based on credibility, expertise, and experience working on the selected topics. These topics are from a carefully curated curriculum which is inferred from the baseline survey shared with programme participants and the trending needs and priorities of youth across communities in Nigeria.
For the 2023 cohorts, the YLDP recorded 4596 undergraduates in 400 tertiary institutions across the six geo-political zones in Nigeria. The programme also recorded 2.4 per cent representation from the persons with disabilities community in Nigeria.
At the second phase, participants can opt for the sustainability pathway or the advocacy pathway. The sustainability pathway involves a team of three to 10 participants collaborating on the execution of their group project within their environment. In the advocacy pathway, participants form teams of two participants each. The teams engage in debate where they argue on topical and trending issues in the country.
While commenting on the sustainability pathway, the programme officer, Towojesudun Odede, said LEAP Africa recognizes the need to empower more young people to accelerate social impact through inclusive funding of projects and activities that foster long-term community and national development.
“We believe that by sponsoring more projects and initiatives, we are creating a pipeline of changemakers who will go on to build lasting initiatives that will solve some of Nigeria’s pressing social issues. This year, we received a total of 252 proposals from 252 teams, and 100 projects were selected and funded. This year we hope to reach up to 50,000 people directly and indirectly as a result of the projects.” Odede stated.
Christianah Abe opted for the sustainability pathway after she completed the first phase of the program, she is the Deputy Team Lead of Team Know Your HIV/AIDS Status (KYHAS). Team KYHAS will the embarking on a free HIV/AIDS testing and advocacy with support from LEAP Africa. Christianah like many other participants in the programme have not had an opportunity to take actions at addressing the various challenges facing their environment prior to their enrolment in the programme.
According to her team’s project proposal sighted by the BONews, about 29,936 people live with HIV/AIDS in Osun State. In the proposal document, the team added that their decision to carry out free HIV testing in the community was based on a desire to address the high rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence and to promote awareness, prevention, and access to care. The medium scale project is being supported by LEAP Africa to the tune of $350.
In the interview, Catherine Busari said the Youth Leadership Debate of the advocacy pathway is about giving confidence to the voice of students in Tertiary Institutions, so they can leverage their voice as an effective tool to bring about a transformed Nigeria. The goal of the pathway was to provide capacity building to select young people across tertiary institutions and support them to critically evaluate information, advocate from the point of knowledge, and to collectively shape their vision for Nigeria, hence equipping them to be active citizens.
“There are currently 168 teams in the competition. They are currently undergoing the Accelerator Courses, where they are being provided with training on policy, critical thinking, communication, research, and public speaking to build their capacity to advocate for change. Upon completion of the Accelerator Courses, they will proceed to the First Elimination Round.” She stated while commenting on the advocacy pathway.
Lectures Provide Valuable Information About Leadership
In an interview with BONews, Abe, who got to know about the YLDP through her friend, said the virtual courses have the potential to positively influence participants to be better citizens in terms of knowledge and awareness on the various topics.
“I will just say informative, and engaging. The lectures are rich in content and provide valuable information about leadership theories, principles, and practicals. The instructors, who are often experts in their respective fields, share their knowledge and experiences to offer a solid foundation in leadership development,” Christianah stated.
She continued: “My expectations were met. I learnt a lot about the importance of effective communication in leadership roles, strategies for active listening, persuasive communication, conflict resolution and building strong relationships with team members.”
She also added that she learnt leadership principles, decision making and problem solving that deals with critical thinking.
Mwanret Pwaspo, a final year student of the Department of English Education at the University of Jos said that LEAP Africa surpassed my expectations with 21 very educative and inspiring courses. “I believe it can positively influence people to become better citizens, we have courses like self-leadership, transformative leadership, civic education, effective communication, ethnicity, diversity and inclusion, and many others all of which teaches you to be a better individual and better citizen to the country.” Pwaspo stated.
“The virtual course was very educational and life-changing. I was able to broaden my knowledge, some of which I already knew and some of which I’m learning for the first time. So far, it has helped me become a better person to myself and society and now I know ways in which I can improve my environment.” said Mwanret Pwaspo.
Aliyu Ibrahim, a Computer Science student at Kano State Polytechnic, who came across the YLDP program on Google News, while speaking to BO News said he learnt a lot from the programme. “For example, through civic education, I was able to understand myself as a citizen and the duties I ought to carry out as my responsibilities in the society. I also learned how to manage myself and my resources to trigger a change in my society towards a positive transformation.” He stated while commenting on what he learnt.
Leap Africa is Empowering Youths to Make Impacts
Hussaini Saraki, a student Gombe State University who is also a participant in the YLDP and Team Lead while describing his team project named ‘educating and empowering female Child to lead’ said the project aimed at training and empowering female students on how to be self-reliant in order to support their education up to secondary school level. He added that part of the goals of the project is also to educate female children to read, write and communicate with English.
“The target of the project are female children between the ages of 10 to 17 years old. Our focus is on teenagers.” He concluded.
While talking about his project, Aliyu Ibrahim said his team project our change is a collection of some educational interventions designed and mapped out to be carried out in the rural areas of the Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano State, Nigeria.
“It is a proposal set to be a solution to the prevailing problem identified in the rural areas of our locality. The problem like we earlier mentioned, is the poor turnouts of the female students in our rural societies.
“Many of the female children are on the streets, hawking petty commodities, or are engaged in some agricultural activities by their parents instead of going to school,” said Ibrahim.
While describing the scope of his team project, hee noted that LEAP Africa is providing his team with monetary and moral support to execute the project.
Musa Ahmad, a student of the Department of Economics at Bauchi State University, who is also the Lead of Team ‘Bye to Slum’ agreed with the opinions of other participants in the programme when he said “I learned a lot from the leadership courses, project management, transparency and accountability. Leaders are actually not born and everyone can be a leader.”
Musa while commenting on his team’s project said the team will campaign and create awareness on the importance of environmental hygiene and the consequences of an unhygienic environment. He explained that part of the objectives of this team’s intervention is to prevent the outbreak of diseases which are caused by water pollution and refuse.
He said at the end of the project, they hope to see a cleaner community free from indiscriminate refuse disposal. LEAP Africa is supporting Musa team project with $150, the project falls under the small scale subgrant.
Government Should Invest in Youths
Rasheed Ajao, who facilitated a course on research and report writing in the first phase of the programme said the big gap in having quality leadership in Nigeria has made the need to train Nigerian youths to become transformative leaders to become imminent.
“This is one of the key things that LEAP Africa has been working on across its programmes. The Nigerian youths are doing well and there are still gaps to be filled.” Ajao stated while commenting on the readiness of the youths to be the next generation of leaders,” he said.
Ajao said the YLDP was designed to equip young undergraduates with skills and knowledge to become self-leaders while supporting and empowering them to become changemakers in their communities. She charged the government to invest in youths.
“I hope that the new government will prioritize the youth such that the ministries of youth and that of sport can be separated. Sport is business and investment in youth is for national growth and development hence should not be lumped up.” he stated.
While commenting on the poor research culture among youths, Ajao said the issue is prevalent across Africa.
“Not just in Nigeria but Africa generally, we are poor in writing and documentation. While we struggle and do a lot of things in terms of researching, there are more things going on around the world about thought leadership. While some Nigerian youths are doing well in terms of research, many are still lagging behind in terms of quality research,” he said.
He asserted that there was need for a lot of efforts to be put into reorientating Nigerian and African youths to become readers, thought leaders and researchers.
He blamed limited access to the internet, inability to interpret data from research and lack of mentorship for some of the challenges facing youths who are interested in research.
“What we have seen from data at LEAP Africa is that young people are interested in having research skill because when we conducted baseline survey for participants of the YLDP, 35% to 40% said they are interested in participating in the programme because they want to build their research skills, so this is to say from our data, young Nigerians are really interested in becoming researchers and thought leaders but are limited by resources, mentors and data,” he said.
In his advice for research enthusiasts and young researchers, Ajao advised them to come together and form a community where they can get things done together.
“They should also leverage the internet. You can conveniently research and get data from the internet. The internet makes you borderless in thought. Young people should leverage the internet to do as much as they can because with the internet almost anything and everything can be done.” he concluded.
Other Leap Africa’s Intervention on Youths
Catherine Busari in the interview clarified that while the YLDP is only for higher institution students, her organisation has other programmes that cater for other categories of youth.
“LEAP Africa caters for young persons across various transition areas. Our work is hinged on two pillars – making secondary education work and raising talents that will achieve the SDGs, because of this, we interface with secondary school students in privileged and underserved communities, teachers, NYSC corps members, SMEs, social innovators and entrepreneurs among others through programmes like iLEAD, Lead The Way, Transformative Leadership Programme and Social Innovators Programme,” she stated.
Participants Decry Lack of Support For Data To Access The Internet
Notwithstanding the impact of the programme, Emmanuel Salako, a student of Ekiti State University, who is on the advocacy pathway decried the absence of data support for participants in the advocacy pathway unlike the first phase of the programme.
“One of the challenges is the cost of data as we spent at least four hours in every virtual training session we had in preparation for the debate. The virtual training sessions were for about three days before we started the debate competition,” Emmanuel stated.
He continued: “There was no data support until the semi-final, though it was stated in the document shared with us,” Emmanuel added that the virtual debate was a good one and a way to show that there was no limit to what they could do to build young people and engage with activities like this. As a result of this, he rated the programme 8/10.
Meanwhile, winners of the advocacy pathway would go away with the sum of N1.5 million as well as a laptop for each team member. Runners-up would on the other hand go home with N1 million prize and a tablet for each team member while the second runners-up would walk away with N600,000 and a phone for each team member.
This story has been made possible by Nigeria Health Watch with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.