Last week I told a short story of our community life while growing up as a kid. The fears, the love and the joy we spasmodically shared at some seasons. Then I told you that we were expecting something – a program that is aimed at impacting on our community once again. As at the time I ended that story IOLED was still veiled, infact it was still an imagination and we were looking forward to Wednesday, the 4th of October when IOLED will be unveiled so that we can all bath in the rays of the new beam ALERT Nigeria brings.
Before I continue, let me share a story with you. I come from a community that was privileged to own a technical school as early as the mid-sixties. What I do not understand is why the school added community to the technical that was the initial name. I grew up to school in this Community Technical School while some of my big brothers were already making waves in my community and its environs as products of this school.
In the eighties and early nineties, graduates from this school will come out to own workshops. Most of them who could not further their education were able to get a little polishing by the famous oil company – Mobil, and were absorbed by the company as artisans. The trend continued and in the 90s we joined our brothers as the future old boys and girls of the community (technical) school.
Unfortunately, when we arrived the school in the 90s, the paradigm had really changed and the lost honours the school had gathered from its inception seems irreparable. One machine that fascinated me while in Primary School was the lathe machine. “This machine can do everything,” – my elder brothers and their friends will discuss as I drew near to enjoy the stories while anticipating when I will be through with my primary education so I can join them in the secondary school to operate a lathe machine.
As one of the brightest students in my class, I came out with distinction in my common entrance examination and in no time my ‘blue and white’ school uniform was ready. Throughout the long vacation that followed I counted the days during the public holidays like an expectant mother. The last Sunday night that dawned my first day in my secondary school seemed longer than all other nights as I turned in my small bed listening to the huge wall clock in our sitting room and any other movement indicating the dawn.
The day finally arrived and I joined other kids including my cousins and other excited kids as we raced down the path to the school that will determine our futures. The school gates were wide open to receive us and it took us little or no time to identify our classes. My Dad had dropped my green locker the previous Friday with a bold inscription “U. S. N.” on it and I found little or no time identifying my locker. Throwing my bag into the locker, I led other kids who were early enough and maybe hopeful like my poor self as we raced down the path to the workshop area.
The workshops were arranged in a single file from the path. A huge sign hung on a pole “Workshop Area, No Games,” I quickly took notice but continued on my adventure nonchalantly. The first workshop was the Motor Vehicle Technology (MVT) Workshop. I quickly ran to the Auto Mechanic Pit. Down the stairs I was inside the pit imagining my first Thursday on Auto Mechanic Practical. The woodwork workshop seated next.
Few machines decorated the woodwork workshop and the cleaners were not friendly as we were driven out to avoid staining our whites with greases. We went to the metal workshop where we were warned by the workshop attendant never to come to the workshop again without our coverall. This however, marked our first instruction which we were to carry out throughout stay in the secondary. But gladly, in a corner of the room lay the gigantic lathe machine and some iron filings on the floor indicated it has been recently used even when the school was on holidays. I took a second look at the lathe machine, then the drilling machine, before dashing out excitedly.
Space will always be unfriendly, needless bothering you with the disappointment we faced a few years in school as none of the machines were functioning. People no longer brought their cars to be repaired in our school. The lathe machines now lie uselessly while we struggle with few non-functional jack planes in the wood working workshop to complete our various assignments.
As at the time we graduated, none of us in our set was able to set up a workshop. The inadequacy of our knowledge came to the fore when we struggled to survive in the real world as technical students. Mobil then seemed to be shutting her doors on the technical students of our generation and the future of my alma Mata became bleak.
Just last week I revisited my alma Mata. To my greatest surprise, the workshop was overgrown with grasses. I rushed to the mechanic pit where we used to play during our break time. Rather than step inside to enjoy the flush of my childhood memory, I only watched a snake wrestling with a rat as the later gave its last fight before succumbing to the poisonous bites of its prey.
The lathe machine that once gave young graduates a leeway to what the future hold in the mechanical industry lie on the heap of its rusts. Surveying the environment, I bowed my head in sorrow and gave up all hope of bringing back my alma Mata. Definitely, no student graduating from this once prestigious institution can boast of fabricating even a screw not to talk of the different part of a complex machine. The school PTA and authority seems to have bowed also to the change that time has offered the school and grasses overgrew everywhere. I walked away.
This grieve seems to be temporal however, as an Akwa Ibom born entrepreneur brings a new hope. Iboro Otu is the Director, ALERT Nigeria which is the acronym for Ambassador for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Responsibility for Tomorrow’s Nigeria. Presently, Otu seems to understand the plight of some of us who still have hopes for our various communities, therefore on Wednesday, 4th October, 2017 he came home to Uyo to unveil a program tagged Iboro Otu’s Leadership and Entrepreneurial Discourse (IOLED).
The Discourse, according to him will help us move out of the present situation we have today in our education system. Our youths will be more employable after graduation through the IOLED program. “Our program is designed to crystallize community engagement and development through entrepreneurship and effective leadership. We have put in place several strategies, which include quarterly essay competitions, one where indigenous students can participate for free in finding local solutions to local problems. We encourage this by incentivizing and funding the solution process and celebrating our participants. We believe this will go a long way in celebrating education like it is happening in other areas like politics and entertainment.” Mr. Otu emphasized.
Now the portal for the essay competition is open. As earlier published on this platform, you don’t need an excellent English to express yourself in the essay. All you need is the originality of the content. i.e help us see the problem with you, bring it alive, let us feel your pains. I promise you that with the co-existence in our ecosystem presently, we have techies and entrepreneurs who will bring solutions to that problem.
Finally, the first essay topic you will contest for is “Challenges Debilitating Youth Entrepreneurship in Akwa Ibom State Communities: Insights and Solutions.” I will like to encourage you to read the instructions on the essay competition page, before clicking the ‘submit button.’ There is more in our communities. We can do more together finding that missing link. I am a testimony of the power of entrepreneurship therefore with the spirit of entrepreneurship sweeping through our ecosystem, every youth should key in asap into this DISCOURSE. Click the button below to join the essay competition.