Nigerian education advocate explains out-of-school issues to the UK royal family
Gideon Olanrewaju, founder of Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi), met the members of the British royal family to discuss the challenges within the Nigerian education system, especially as it concerns out-of-school children.
The roundtable, which held on Friday at the royal residence, Windsor Castle, was part of programmes for the One Young World Summit in the UK over the week.
At the roundtable, Olanrewaju, who recently concluded his masters at the University of Sussex on a Chevening scholarship, explained what his organisation is doing to reduce the number of out of school children especially that of girls dropping out of school in Nigeria.
“Our organization designs and implements alternative but effective interventions that bridge the gaps between education and employability for school-aged out-of-school girls, youth and women that are not in education, employment or training,” Olanrewaju said.
He explained that the organization started off by providing technical and infrastructural support to under-resourced schools in rural communities but decided to scale the impact to facilitate access for more girls.
Responding to a question about the effectiveness of educational systems, particularly in South-Saharan Africa, Olanrewaju said there is a widening gap of educational access in many countries.
“We are at a crossroads with a quarter of a billion young people and children out of school,” Olanrewaju told the couple, who doubles as the president and vice-president of the Queens Commonwealth Trust.
“If we do not urgently address this, then we will fail a whole generation who wouldn’t have the necessary skills to build their future or engage within the community as active citizens,” he added.
“AREAi’s mission, over the next 10 years, is to create alternative learning and empowerment opportunities for school-aged out-of-school girls, vulnerable women, and youth to equip them with skills that will better prepare them for the workforce even before they come of age.”
Prince Harry: “I hope to visit Nigeria soon.”
Prince Harry, who was said to have crashed the meeting, which was initially meant to be between Meghan Markle and the young leaders, said he hopes to visit Nigerian soon.
“I hope to visit Nigeria soon, would look to see how your organization is growing,” he said in response to Olanrewaju’s presentation.
Meghan Markle, who spoke on her drive for gender equality and education for girls, said she suffered abuse in her first marriage, and said to herself: “I’m tired, this needs to stop.”
“In terms of gender equality, which is something I have championed for a long time, I think that conversation can’t happen without men being a part of it,” she said.
“So, for this reason, it made complete sense to let him [Harry] join today. So thank you for letting him crash the party.”
Education in bottles
Through Education in Bottles, AREAi says it is currently constructing informal community learning centres with plastic bottles to provide educational infrastructure for the unreached and ensuring environmental integrity in the same vein.
“The Education-In-Bottles program has a bi-dimensional learning model that emphasizes the need for developing a blend of entrepreneurial, vocational, life, cognitive and technological skills and we are deploying this as a school readiness program through an accelerated learning experience,” Olanrewaju explained.
He says AREAi has worked with over 6,000 children in the past, enriching their learning experiences and outcomes through various programs.