In a brightly-lit room, a group of students engage in an interactive education with the computers provided by YTF in Owerri, Nigeria. For nine years and counting, current teacher Peace continues her story with our organization from student and participant in her first three years to an employee inside many other rooms in the last six years. This Girls in ICT Day, we want to share her story with a Q&A session geared specifically towards her experience as a Program Manager throughout Nigeria and empowering young girls to pursue their passion in science.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I am a mentor to dozens of girls and young women with the focus of inspiring them as the next generation of innovators. I believe that we make a living by what we get and get a life by what we give. I love reading about new inventions, mentoring, and travelling. I have served in various capacities implementing STEM projects especially with the focus to foster girls’ interest in STEM. I have always loved technological inventions. Technology makes life easier and connects the world. We can see the relevance of technology in every aspect of human endeavors and how it has relieved people of so much tension and stress.
How did you hear about YTF?
I heard about YTF while I was in the university (Imo State University, Owerri) in 2007. YTF had trained my faculty (i.e. faculty of Engineering) on the use of computers. After that training, I enrolled in YTF’s Tech Teens program because it was very affordable, almost free compared to what other computer institutes charged. When I resumed my classes, I found that YTF was not just a computer institute, but a family that is there to nurture youths towards achieving their goals in life. I received not just computer skills but also life skills.
Describe your current position.
As Program Coordinator, I have planned/implemented various programs that have impacted thousands of lives of youth, girls, and women throughout Nigeria. I also liaise with schools in YTF communities to develop partnerships and train students/teachers on appropriate technology, and I provide training on life/leadership skills for youth enrolled in YTF Academy and women in YTF communities. I worked with rural women farmers in YTF’s Agric-P.O.W.E.R. program to educate them on best farming practicing and access to agricultural information using technology: 60% testified that their crops were yielding better.
I implemented YTF’s Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs and Mobile Value Added Services program. This program has equipped over 10,000 women entrepreneurs with the necessary financial, business, and technology skills/capabilities needed to excel in their business. The program includes planning, recruiting participants, training staff, and delivering training to women entrepreneurs. Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs program resulted in 40% increases in participant income after applying the principles they were taught—this actually made me very proud.
I’m actively involved in Girls in ICT Day program—connecting over 400 girls from 30+ secondary schools throughout Nigeria. The girls were connected to female STEM mentors to encouraged them to pursue STEM careers and participated in 3D printing.
What’s your philosophy in teaching technology?
Technology is an integral part of our lives and few can imagine living without it. As technology continues to advance and direct even more easiness in our lives, it is imperative that we equip today’s youth with the necessary skills so that they can be employable.
Tell me about a difficult circumstance you handled. What action did you take? What were the results?
My role is to oversee the implementation of various gender-related programs. An unexpected obstacle occurred while implementing YTF’s She Will Connect program. We had already strategized with secondary schools and universities throughout Nigeria to meet the program’s goal of training 12,000 girls/women in basic ICT and entrepreneurship skills and had worked with them to implement the program. Then in the middle of the trainings, the universities went on strike and many students vacated—you can imagine the frustration. The program had a timeline so it was evident that if I didn’t do something about it, I would be in trouble. So I had to put on my thinking cap. I had to conceive another approach that would help us achieve our deliverables. Instead of universities, we partnered with faith-based organizations and community leaders to recruit participants. Fortunately, we were able to train the required number of clients with impressive results.
Who has most influenced you, and how did they influence you?
I have been influenced by so many people, but the two people that have most influenced me are my parents. My parents taught me to be diligent, courageous, and optimistic; and most importantly to put God first in everything I do. They are generous and always eager to help others, their love, care, and motivation has brought me where I am today. Another person that has influenced me is my boss. I am inspired and motivated by her leadership style, commitment, creative and innovative ideas. Her dedication to work has made very dedicated to my duties at Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF). Through her mentorship, I have been able to achieve a lot. She brings out the best in me.
What if a student/participant doesn’t “get it?” What do you do to help them understand?
If a student doesn’t get it in class, I arrange a private class for her where I will try to teach her at her pace and also use examples that she is familiar with.
What’s the difference in teaching ICT to the different age groups?
Each age group has a unique way of assimilation. It’s a lot easier for younger participants (8-30) to understand ICT than it is for the older participants (35-55). The youths are eager to learn, enthusiastic and do not have much distractions, while the older participants are occupied with family, work etc. It requires a lot of patience to teach them.
Which student/participant has most inspired you and why?
The student that most inspired me is Edward Rita. She is 19 years old and she is from Imo state, Nigeria. She loves drawing and designing and has always done them on paper until she enrolled in YTF Tech Teens program where she was taught how to appreciate technology and use it as a tool for change. Her light bulb moment was her ability to design on the computer and also emailing her design to her aunt. She felt very elated when her aunt showered her with praises. She loves designing and technological tools like the computer has made it more fun, easier, and interesting
With this ICT Girls Day, what’s your takeaway with the discussion happening in Empower Women?
Being part of the moderators on the e-discussion on science, technology, and innovation (STI) is a great opportunity to brainstorm with others on the future of STI. Let’s #stepitup by moving from teaching young girls STEM to taking young girls to STEM. Let them see real life application of science, technology, and innovation. It’s time to take a more proactive approach towards gender equality such as changing STEM education. Let’s step away from teaching STI to a more practical approach thereby creating an enabling environment for girls to see STI in action such as what YTF does on Girls in ICT day Celebrations.