Ajegunle. Located in in the southwestern part of Nigeria, specifically in Lagos State, the commercial hub of Africa’s most populous country.
Admittedly, far away from the many high rise and corporate floors that accomodate local, regional and global conglomerates, further from the polished floors, plush lifts and conference rooms from which the high and mighty interact.
There in Ajegunle, a famed Lagos slum, there is a conscious effort to grow some of the people who will occupy the plush offices and corporate chambers in upscale parts of Lagos and the world.
The mission is a program named LIFE, targeting under-served communities like Ajegunle. Leveraging on digital inclusion and youth development; hundreds have gone through the LIFE program run by social enterprise group, Paradigm Initiative, PIN.
So what is the LIFE program about?
According to PIN’s website, the L. I. F. E. program is an acronym for:
- L – Life skills
- I – Information and Communication Technology
- F – Financial literacy
- E – Entrepreneurship
“The program focuses on youth who do not have the financial capacity to acquire relevant ICT, entrepreneurial and life skills that can make them compete in the workplace” the site adds.
So for all the young people, usually aged between 12 – 28 years who are pooled from these underserved communities to receive training, the package is set out in broad terms before they begin the course – which lasts between eight to 10 weeks on average.
“The LIFE center serves as a knowledge hub where youth from the community can be empowered for the world of work. It also serves as a center for the advancement of work place preparedness for the program beneficiaries,” the website adds.
According to PIN’s Communication Officer, Emmanuel Vitus, the entire process from application through orientation, training, examination, graduation and evaluation is robust and structured.
It in fact extends beyond the graduation with the evaluation stage involving the tracking of progress made by beneficiaries and also continued support to their strides where need be.
The LIFE school triangle across Nigeria – AbaLIFE, DakataLIFE
But the activities of the LIFE program has long gone beyond Ajegunle, the programme is now in three of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones. Aside Ajegunle, there is a center in southeastern Abia State (AbaLIFE) and in the northwestern Kano State (DakataLIFE).
AjegunleLIFE started from cyber cafes in 2007, where beneficiaries were trained with public facilities, that has since changed with a dedicated center and boosted curriculum running the yearlong training of multiple batches.
The AbaLIFE training center opened seven years after Ajegunle when in 2014 after a successful baseline study across four cities in southeastern Nigeria.
Two years after Aba, DakataLIFE center was launched, operating from Dakata, Kawaji in the ancient city of Kano. As in the case of Aba, a baeline study across the Northwest led to that office being opened.
Key ICT topics and insights to AbaLIFE operations
In an interview with Ihueze Nwobilor, the Program Officer leading the Aba office of PIN, we looked at the major ICT topics taught, the peculiar challenges of operations and the impact that COVID-19 has had on the 2020. The center runs three sessions a year with a total of 103 beneficiaries – 35 students per stream.
In the area of challenges, Ihueze noted that the high running cost for the office, access to volunteers, the paucity of internship opportunities for graduates and the lack of community and government support, continued to impact training.
For a year that has seen a global health issue cascade to local levels, the 2020 training was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It disrupted our training at the centre, it affected our LIFE@school and digital readiness workshop because of closure of schools
“It also forced us to be working from home affecting our activities that required physical contact,” Ihueze said in an interview.
About Paradigm Initiative
Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems and advocates for digital rights in order to improve the livelihoods of under-served young Africans.
The digital rights advocacy program is focused on the development of public policy for internet freedom in Africa, with offices in Abuja, Nigeria (covering the Anglophone West
Africa region); Yaoundé, Cameroon (Central Africa); Nairobi, Kenya (East Africa) and Lusaka, Zambia (Southern Africa).
Paradigm Initiative is also the convener of the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF), a pan-African bilingual Forum that has held annually since 2013.
Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
Digital journalist, Africanews