Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday told youths in the country not to allow anybody to tell them that they are leaders of tomorrow, warning, “you are leaders today.”
He urged them to be ambassadors for change and to also drive the movement for freedom and justice in the country.
He advised them to remain resilient in the fight for educational equity, not relenting on the strides of deploying solutions to tackling the myriads of problems confronting the nation’s education system.
“Please do not let anybody tell you that you are leaders of tomorrow, you are leaders today,” Obasanjo said.
The former president spoke in Lagos at the virtual 2020 Fellowship Graduation Ceremony of the second cohort of ‘Teach for Nigeria Fellows.’
He noted that in Nigeria today, over 14 million children that should be in school are not in school, and are thereby deprived of education.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that ‘Teach For Nigeria,’ an NGO, graduated 161 fellows who had impacted approximately 9,660 students in 80 schools across Lagos, Ogun, and Kaduna states.
‘Teach For Nigeria’ focuses on developing a movement of leaders across Nigeria who are committed to putting an end to educational inequity.
In his speech, Obasanjo said the 14 million out-of-school children “are deprived of opportunities that will allow them to develop their abilities and become useful to themselves and their communities.
“It is evident that at this point, to transform our education system in a sustainable way, Nigerian youths must take up leadership positions.”
According to him, Nigerian youths must champion different innovative solutions at every level of society and across different sectors.
“It is inspiring to see the work that ‘Teach For Nigeria’ is doing to equip promising future leaders with the skills and experience to drive the change that we need,” the former president said.
He added that the leaders had dedicated their time, energy, and resources to inspire a love for learning, improved educational outcomes, and enhanced life opportunities for children in the classrooms.
“As a result of your commitment, your pupils have succeeded at various academic and non-academic competitions.
“I recently learned about pupils of ‘Teach For Nigeria Fellows’ who came second in the National Lafarge Competition and other scholarship opportunities.
“They also initiated actions by working with stakeholders such as parents, community members, heads of schools, and other teachers,” Obasanjo said.
He, however, advised the fellows to continue to leverage their acquired skills and experiences to advocate for educational excellence in the country.
He noted that the outbreak of the raging Coronavirus pandemic had put the world at its knees as the whole world strives to develop a vaccine and successful treatments to fight the disease.
“So far, the damage in Africa has been moderate; but if we relax, the African continent can become the worst affected by the economic fallout of the crisis,” Obasanjo said.
He said the nation’s education system was already in crisis before the pandemic.
“The outbreak has exacerbated the ever-widening gulf between the learning opportunities of our most privileged children and our less privileged children.
“To close the dangerous gap as a nation, we require prompt action from well-meaning Nigerians imbued with courage, patriotism, commitment, foresight, and love,” Obasanjo said.
Also, Folawe Omikunle, the Chief Executive Officer, Teach For Nigeria, said that graduating fellows had spent the past two years improving the academic outcomes of their pupils.
Omikunle said that they ignited the love for learning in the pupils, instilling self-belief, successfully galvanizing parental and community support to aid pupils’ learning process.
“The graduating 161 fellows are joining our maiden set of 44 Alumni members, thereby bringing the number of our Alumni network to 205 members.
“Teach For Nigeria is a life-long commitment in the fight against educational inequity.
“We are positive that our Alumni will continue to work toward ensuring that one day we have a Nigeria where every child can attain an excellent education,” she said.