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‘It is quite disheartening to see smart, young, vibrant Nigerians unemployed’

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Funmilola Olorunfemi is a lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria. She has a first degree in Political Science at Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife and a second degree also in Political Science with a major in International Relations at the University of Ibadan. She is also the founder of Scholarships and Opportunities (www.sando.org.ng) an organisation that provides information for people seeking for scholarships, fellowships and jobs. Olorunfemi’s love for young people led her to set up a drug sensitization forum tagged, Codeine, Tramadol, Shisha and Pop Culture. Why Not, So What?, which is an interactive forum, where students are informed on the dangers of drug abuse using arts, comedy and entertainment to drive home the points. She speaks to IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on her passion for helping young people get jobs as well as impacting on the society positively.

What influenced your decision to start helping young people to get jobs?
It was a myriad of factors, one was while I have never been unemployed before, I once worked somewhere for a year and I wasn’t paid; it was a bad time for me. After I got out of that situation, I developed serious empathy for those who were in that shoe, I just felt the need to help people who needed to get out also, and it’s a terrible thing to be unemployed. That’s essentially what I have been doing since then. There was also a time I was trying to get scholarship for a Master’s degree abroad and I found a lot of information online, which I begun sending to my friends who I felt would need it, this culminated into a Whatsapp group dedicated to that purpose, but it filled so fast, so we had to create more, later resorted to getting a website where people all over the world can access. We still maintain the Whatsapp groups which keeps burgeoning daily. The groups have given opportunity for assistantships applications and we bring former recipients and awardees to help applicants in their applications.

What are the steps you are taking to achieve your goals?
One of the things I do is that when I decide to do something, I just do it. I have since found out that when you are foot dragging and delaying, you do not get to do it eventually. I try to focus on my goals and have a mental picture of it, I kind of carry it around and focus my energies on it, I say it, I confess it, I visualize it, it becomes my driving force and I make sure I am daily taking steps that will bring me closer to it.

Are there challenges?
There are challenges of course; a major challenge is the issue of poor Internet connectivity, as what should be done in five minutes maximum would drag into hours including electricity and the cost of data. These challenges we have managed to find ways to mitigate it though. This is me also saying a heart-felt thank you to my volunteers on Scholarships and Opportunities.

What has kept you going?
The fact that I cannot stand idly by and do nothing, If I don’t post, I feel bereft, like people just lost golden opportunities because of me. I feel a lot of people are counting on me; I wouldn’t want to let them down.

What is your take on the unemployment situation in the country? What options are there for young people?
The unemployment situation has taken on a monumental proportion, I must confess it is quite disheartening, to see smart, young and vibrant Nigerians unemployed. In the midst of these, however, there are amazing opportunities waiting to be tapped especially for the ones that are not afraid to get their hands dirty and start small. For me there’s no point leaving your fortunes to the vagaries of Nigeria’s economic situation, this is the time to take charge and be in control on your own fortunes, find something to do, there is always something you can do, no matter how small, even if it is a dry-cleaning business or a cleaning agency, then start something with it. I must also mention that you must make it a point of duty to stand out, just add excellence and be innovative.

Are you encouraging young people to take up skills and become entrepreneurs?
Yes, I am encouraging young people to take up skills. What recourse is there, except a life of crime and vice. The formal sector can definitely not employ everybody; young people have to take up 21st century skills. Social media for example has gone way beyond uploading pictures and getting likes, it has become a veritable tool by which you project yourself and your brand and business and make tons of money from. These days you can learn to do anything practically on YouTube and be whatever you want. Despite the prevailing economic situation, you can be anything you want to be.

What is your advice to young people especially women who are trying to find their foot and carve a niche for themselves?
My advice for young people especially women is for them to realize that their dreams are valid and that starting out is usually the toughest, so things will definitely get better as you go along. Stay focused, be determined, always bring your A game on. I want to encourage every young person toiling and striving to make ends meet. Keep fighting; we will all get there.

Tell us about your growing up?
Growing up was fun for me, we are a family of eight; six kids, two parents, I am the fifth and daddy’s girl. As a child I was given freedom of expression. I could, was actually encouraged to speak my mind and have an opinion without fear of beating. I was also a voracious reader and was averaging four novels per day in high school. I think that’s why I am bespectacled, nearly read myself blind and opinionated. My mom growing up was super strict, while my dad was more of live and let live, I think that created a balance.

How do you relax?
I read novels, watch movies and surf the Internet.

What keeps you going?
The fact that I believe God has invested a lot in me and there’s so much of me to give to this world.


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