By Moses Nosike
In order to identify social, environmental, cultural, leadership and economic challenges militating Africa’s development and as well proffering solutions to mitigate it, a Pan-African digital payment company, Interswitch, as part of giving back to the society has identified with Nigeria’s leaders of tomorrow in a mentorship masterclass of about 100 school children who gathered at the STEM Innovation lab in Adekunle Primary School, Makoko community, Yaba a suburb of Lagos.
The mentorship masterclass with the theme: ‘Turning Problems into Opportunities; The African Narrative’ was handled by a senior employee of the Interswitch Group. The programme is a flagship initiative of the ‘Employee Volunteer Network’ under the Interswitch Foundation, and it is dedicated to raising young people who will solve Africa’s problems.
The children in attendance were beneficiaries of the Slum2School programme, a non-profit initiative aimed at improving access to quality education for children in hard-to-reach slums in Nigeria.
Head, CSR and Events, Interswitch Group, Emuobosa Akpene in her opening remarks urged the children to emulate other young people who had been in their shoes but had believed in themselves and their abilities.
According to her, your steps and decisions would determine your future. Interswitch Group strongly believes in your ability to identify and solve problems not only in Nigeria but Africa and beyond. “We believe you can create value that will benefit all and that is why we are reckoning with you”.
The programme was more lively and interesting as the Group Head, Business Transformation and Excellence, Interswitch Group, Ehia Erhabor, the mentor for the day started showing the children some slides on problems and opportunities with a video of a young African, Richard Turere who solved the problem of wild animals in his community in Nairobi.
However, Ehia Erhabor asked the children to define problems and they responded that problems are difficult and unpleasant situations, even as they said that opportunities are the opposite of problems.
Ehia explained to them that opportunities come to people every day but many fail to recognize it. He also stated that every problem presents an opportunity for them to solve the problem and make situations better.
Driving the topic closer home, Ehia decided to focus on Africa and her peculiar problems. Making it very interactive and fun session, Ehia proceeded to show the children some graphics including a picture of the world as photographed from outer space. “He noted that Africa was known as the Dark Continent and in the picture, all the other continents were bright with light except Africa”.
When he asked the children to outline the problems facing Africa, the students gave various responses including warfare, malnutrition, HIV / AIDS and poor-quality education. He urged them to take responsibility of solving these problems, challenging them to personalize their responses and resolve to tackle Africa’s problems head-on.
At the end of the Mentorship Masterclass session, the children had learnt many lessons. Goodluck, one of the students said that he learnt that if you have an idea, you should share it with people and join hands to execute it. Another student, Abdulmalik said that he learnt not to let his circumstances determine his future, while Alimi determined to turn his problems into opportunities and to never give up.
As children who were born and bred in Makoko, they have noticed a number of social problems in the community, even as they highlighted the major ones as, child abuse, unemployment and lack of healthcare facilities etc.
Ehia told them to assume the responsibility of solving those problems identified without relying on others to solve it. Using more images and slides, Ehia tasked the students on how they perceived different situations. He taught them to cultivate the habit of seeing things from different angles and points of view.
“My message to you today is this: ‘Always be determined to find solutions to problems you encounter and believe that you can do it. No matter how much knowledge you have, it would be a waste if you don’t take action with it.”
The founder of Slum2School, Otto Orondaam, thanked all the students for the wonderful time and also appreciated Interswitch Group for their support in making the STEM Innovation lab a reality. He said that he would love to see more of these kinds of engagements and hoped that this was the first of many others to come.
On behalf of the students, Abdulmalik thanked Interswitch Group for the wonderful experience and for pushing them to do greater things and making them believe that they can really make a big difference in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Interswitch Foundation is the vehicle which the Interswitch Group uses to drive its CSR initiatives. The Mentorship Masterclass is an initiative of the ‘Employee Volunteer Network’ under the Foundation and will hold on a quarterly basis. Each session will feature employees of Interswitch Group volunteering to engage, inspire and motivate these students to achieve their dreams.