On Sunday, August 11, 2019, the gates of Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, Nigeria, were swung open to receive 250 girls to camp for the next two weeks as participants at the annual BEMORE Summer Bootcamp for girls.
The boot camp convened by BEMORE Empowered Foundation, a Non-Governmental organisation founded by the First Lady of Ondo State, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, was designed to impact on young girls between the ages of 10 and 18 skills in solar, ICT and entrepreneurship, as a means of securing their future from this present moment.
The three areas of focus of the camp, according to findings, were borne out of the desire to prepare these young girls for a future that is technology driven and renewable energy compliant. Currently, the boot camp which admitted its first set of girls in the year 2017, has graduated over 1000 girls in three years.
The programme which is designed as an empowerment and investment programme for girls in Ondo State has seen the discovery of talents and trail blazers who have, for a long time remained unknown. It is a known fact that summer holidays in Nigeria have been ‘high jacked’ by school owners who want their students to continue their classes while on holidays but BEMORE has served as an answer to the clamor of many who believe that summer holidays are meant for these students to learn new skills and engage in extra-curricular activities.
The 2019 boot camp also witnessed the introduction of taekwondo into the boot camp which the girls practiced every morning for 14 days.
According to Mrs. Akeredolu, taekwondo was added to the curriculum in response to the increase in number of rape cases of young girls in the country. She believes the sport will help in promoting confidence and self defence against rapists.
The girls, while in the camp, also receive care and support more than they paid for. Each girl receives a new laptop while they are attached to mentors who will be responsible for guiding them on and off the camp.
The camp which has more of practical trainings than theoretical has caught the attention of well-meaning members of the society in and outside the state who now sponsor girls to be a part of the programme.
Marvelous Jegede, a 15-year-old girl from Arigidi Akoko was a part of the 2018 group and now a BEMORE Ambassador. She came to the camp with no knowledge of solar energy and its importance and while in the camp, took an interest in the solar energy lessons owing to the fact that her community has been in darkness for almost two years. After the camp, she discussed with her parents on how they need to have a solar facility to help power their house.
With the support of a philanthropic media organisation, Marvelous got the solar panels, installed it and now powers her father’s house.
Four other BEMORE ambassadors: Oladele Faridat, Ebiseni Oluwatosin, Michael Ogochukwu Esther and Oluwagbamila Ebunni, who were at the camp in 2017 and 2018 came together to build Nigeria’s first birth registration application called BCReg.
The application which has gotten the approval of the National Population Commission, will soon be uploaded to Android Playstore and iPhone IOS. It is designed for midwives and birth attendants at rural and urban centers to document the birth of new babies on-the-go. Their interest was spurred by the impact of the ICT classes at the boot camp.
While the camp is taking place in a remote Ilara-Mokin in Ondo State, Nigeria, just like the proverbial golden fish which has no hiding place, the Globe World Energy Conference in Iran in the year 2018 awarded the Solar For Girls Naija, a project of the BEMORE Girls a World Energy World Globe Award in Iran and was represented by Tolu Ehimosan who received the award on behalf of their group.
These little stories apart from being a source of encouragement to the girls and motivation to members of the Public should also serve as a wakeup call to political leaders to contribute their quota to political development by providing platforms for self-development of their citizens. As Dr Akinwunmi Adesina the President of African Development Bank (AFDB) stated at the 2019 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum, Political leaders must move from social empowerment to social investment as this is the only way of fighting poverty to a standstill.
It is also important for political leaders to tackle the menace of poverty from the tap roots by investing life changing skills in young citizens as BEMORE Is doing.
This will help to reduce the burden of individuals relying on government for handouts as a source of living but rather increase the number of individuals who have the capacity to create jobs and add value to themselves and to the society. Also, Nigeria as a country must start to invest in alternative energy as the world is now thinking beyond oil. Solar, a widely acceptable alternative means of energy needs to be invested in by the federal and state governments.
We can start by reviving our technical colleges, our numerous universities of technology and government owned skills acquisition centers. This is important for Nigeria as a country to gain its place as a giant of Africa not only in words but also by action. Just like it is happening at the BEMORE Summer Boot camp, we need to build our today to secure our future.
While Ondo State has pioneered this, it is advised that other states in the federation take a cue.
Nathaniel, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Ikorodu..