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How Paradigm Initiative’s LIFE programme is filling employment gap in Nigeria

By Abisola Olasupo
15 December 2020   |   2:46 pm
Before quitting his job as a teacher in a primary school in Ajegunle, a sprawling low-income community in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, 17-year-old Oritsemisan Enemigin used to wonder about what he could do next to prepare him for the life ahead. The teaching job was a stop-gap measure to keep busy before he could get…

Before quitting his job as a teacher in a primary school in Ajegunle, a sprawling low-income community in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, 17-year-old Oritsemisan Enemigin used to wonder about what he could do next to prepare him for the life ahead.

The teaching job was a stop-gap measure to keep busy before he could get admission into a university. Like many young people in the community, Enemigin did not expect opportunities to come knocking at his door. If anything, they are probably in short supply.

But LIFE, a digital inclusion and capacity-building initiative by Paradigm Initiative, designed to improve the lives of under-served youth in host communities, is giving Enemigin and many other youths in the community a better chance at life.

Enemigin attended the Ajegunle centre located in Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government area of Lagos. Ajegunle in the Yoruba language means “A place where riches dwells.” But the situation of things in this community contradicts its name as it has metamorphosed into a mega-slum and reeks of neglect over the years.

LIFE is an acronym that stands for Life Skills, ICTs, Financial Literacy, and Entrepreneurship.

The community houses residents from many of the ethnic groups in Nigeria. Ajegunle is home to the lowest class of the cosmopolitan city hence the reason why the LIFE centre is located in this community.

Despite growing up in a community like Ajegunle Enemigin instead developed his skill and is currently the the lead Front End Developer at DrinkWater_Tech – an IT company founded by him and two of his mates at the LIFE program.

The 17 years old is also a lead developer of an AI project (‘Learn with Andy’ – An Artificial Intelligence bot that serves as it’s user’s personal tutor learning its users interest to aid best interaction) while also furthering his training in graphic designing and Java at the National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT).

“I believe that with my growth pace, I would be a known tech nerd in the nearest future definitely greater than Tony Stark,” Enemigin said.

Enemigin’s story is similar to that of Anita Atulobi, a 20-year-old coding instructor who was also a primary school teacher in the same community but was not earning as much as she wanted and yearned to learn new skills that will improve her finances.

“In 2017 a friend told me about the LIFE training and all the amazing things I will benefit from the training. So, I applied for the training in 2018, and the day I was notified that I have been selected, was a very happy day for me.”

Atulobi said after the programme her life really improved from what it used to be before applying.

“I got new skills, “ she said.

For Whitney Tony after losing her job, she said her life was a “little mess” until she got to know about the programme through a family friend.

The 22-year-old digital marketer said she was impacted with a lot of skills at the AjegunleLIFE office where she learned how to set goals and pursue them

“The facilitators encouraged us to push hard and this brought out the best in me,” Tony said.

“After the programme I was opportuned to volunteer at Paradigm Initiative’s LIFE@School programme.”

Apart from upping the chances of the beneficiaries becoming better persons, the initiative is helping, in its own way, reduce unemployment.

One in every two Nigerians in the country’s labor force is either unemployed or underemployed.

Africa’s biggest economy with a labor force of 80.2million, recorded a rise in unemployment rate from 23.1% in Q3 2018, to 27.1% Q2 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic was of no help as many companies laid off their employees while some have been underpaid. Nigeria’s unemployment rate indicates that about 21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians remain unemployed while underemployment rate stands at 28.6%.

The country’s unemployment and underemployment rate combined together in total is 55.7%. Over 13.9 million people aged between 15 and 34 years remain the hardest hit by unemployment with about 2039 youths already trained. To fill this gap the LIFE is one of Paradigm Initiative programmes which provides access to web-enabled technologies, digital literacy training, entrepreneurship and life-skills training, online work training, connection to short-term internships, and supporting youth between ages 12 – 28 years to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Gabriel Odunsi Paradigm Initiative’s digital Inclusion program officer said participants have been able to use their acquired skills to get jobs/internship placements, and start businesses of their own and this has helped improve their financial status.

He further stated that the organisation is planning to expand the digital inclusion programme to more states in Nigeria and other African countries), so they can be able to reach more under-served youths.

Odunsi also stated that collaborating with the government has also proved abortive due to several hindrances and protocols.

“Several times we’ve tried getting permission to expand our work to public schools in Ajegunle but all efforts were not successful (Moving from the District to the Ministry of Education),” Odunsi said.

He said another major challenge they have encountered is gender equality issue, where they have just few females apply and participate in the program.

Although limited female beneficiaries have been recorded, Odunsi noted that this is improving gradually as the organisation launches special digital inclusion workshops for girls and encourages female alumni to get involved in the program as volunteer facilitators/ assistant facilitators, so as to motivate more young girls to join.

Tosin also mentioned that financial constraints of most participants is a challenge too as some of them find it hard keeping up with the ICT skills they have learnt, due to the fact that they do not own devices to practice with.

“So, after the programme they struggle for some time to save up money and buy a device,” Odunsi said.