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Hammed Kayode Alabi is a recognized African social entrepreneur from Nigeria, and a former regional manager at Peace First Organization. As a regional manager for Peace First, Kayode Alabi has supported over 1300 projects in over 30 Sub-Saharan African countries impacting the lives of 60,000 young people including other beneficiaries.

He is creating opportunities for the younger generation, and has distributed tens of thousands of dollars in mini-grants.

Under his Kayode Alabi Leadership and Career Initiative (KLCI), he has created scholarship opportunities for children in rural communities, and continues to equip them with innovative skills for the future. He was recently selected as one of the 2020 Opportunities Hub’s 100 Most Influential People.

Interview With Kayode Alabi:

It’s a pleasure having you, Kayode.

How are things with you in the UK today?

With Covid-19, we’re on lockdown. It’s just like a normal day now. Everyone is  indoors. Though you can go out and meet people once in a while.

You’re studying African and International Development at the University of Edinburgh, what are your challenges considering the lockdown?

I’ve been studying online as well as connecting with people outside studies. And I will say it’s been really difficult because you don’t get to meet face-to-face or interact with them. For me, there’s a motivation when the classes are physical.

But on the other hand, it’s also an opportunity to adapt to new learning by coping with online learning pressure. Despite the virus, we’ve had a workshop in one of my courses where we came together. For me, it’s all about adapting to new learning because you get to do a lot of independent learning and research these days.

Sometimes, I just take a breather. Chat with a coursemate, and go for a walk discussing issues observing social distance. I think that’s another way for me to connect with people.

Recently on Twitter you reached out to African youths to discuss the Universal Basic Education act, looking into the implementation since it was introduced in 1999 and passed into an act in 2004. So, what was your conversation with the youths like?

The Universal Basic Education has policies designed to enable school-going children to have access to free basic education from primary to secondary level. So, it has to be free and compulsory. Every school-going child should be in school. And everything has to be free from uniforms to textbooks.

But that has not been the case, which led to the need for us to have that dialogue. It was all about how we can support individual states in increasing their capacity in order to meet the goals of the initiative.

Each state in a country is responsible for educating its indigenes. Therefore, the federal government has a limited role to play. So, the state government and local government have a greater role to play in education development.

The federal government then supports through the Universal Basic Education commission and with a percentage from consolidated revenue funds. Out of the consolidated revenue funds, 2% was allocated for education.

But for any state to be eligible for the funds, 50% of the allocation has to be internally generated from the states which becomes problematic as states’ power of generating income are not equal.

So, it’s necessary to have some social justice approach where individual states can earn the allocation based on the revenue they can afford as compared to other states. At this point, we’re looking at equity and not equality.

I found so many aspects of the act problematic. Also in the act, parents are responsible for ensuring child education is attended to, and if they’re unable to do that, they’re charged with a fine or go to jail for a month. And if they’re unable to continuously ensure the child goes to school, the fine and jail time increases.

Why I think the policies are very weak and not considerate is that the financial status of the people are not considered. So, parents who can’t afford their child’s education will settle for domestic farming or force a female child to early marriage in some cases to make money.

So how do we create a system that will encourage parents to send their children to schools?

Same time, most public schools are not in good shape. Thus, private schools are usually the best option. There are a lot of issues on ground when it comes to Universal Basic Education and when people don’t have access to basic education, there’s really a problem.

This deprives children from building cognitive and advanced learning skills, as well as key 21st Century skills for the workforce. If one cannot read and write, how do you even think of applying for a job? Or pass an interview or get a scholarship?

Using several theories when analyzing the policies, reveals a lot of shortcomings. Policies have to be driven by participatory approach in any given community. These are few issues about the act, and I think young people have a role to play in the process in terms of advocacy and implementation.

What was your education background like?

I had Montessori education while growing up in Lagos, from Makoko to Alagomeji. My dad ensured I never attended the school in the slums.

At the Montessori school, I learnt by playing method with different materials in hand to build things. While growing, I had issues with letters, and the Montessori method helped me a lot. I learnt myself, and I was also compelled through harsh mediums at some point. When I wasn’t getting things right, my dad enrolled me in a tutorial before school commences everyday.

That was 6:30A.M. to 8:00A.M. before all students assembled. When class starts, it was as if I was learning twice.

I wasn’t a fast learner. But things later changed for me, and then I found myself in a very poor school. It got worse when I lost my mom. I changed from one poor school to another.

I can recall crying every day to school. After primary school, I ended in a boarding secondary school at Badagry, Kankon. It was like a hundred students to a teacher which I found problematic.

I raised it in my conversation with the youths as well talking about student-teacher ratio. I wasn’t really reading well but I devised ways to prepare for exams with the little I know. And I wasn’t that good at Mathematics.

However, I later improved in my learning as a result of self-reflection depriving myself of break times. At the university, I was way mature to learn, becoming one of the best students in my department at the University of Ilorin studying human kinetics.

Tell us about “Kayode Alabi Leadership and Career Initiative”?

Kayode Alabi facilitating at Peace First Lab, Amity University, Dubai, 2019.

It was inspired by personal experience living in a rural community. Twenty years ago was when I lost my mom, also in that period my dad lost his job, and my brother dropped out of school. All these backed my passion for KCLI.

I believe many children are also affected by challenges like this. I was able to connect my story to the life people are living in rural communities. I continue to see myself in many kids, and help them to gain access to better education. In a way, I had people who were willing to support me.

Besides helping them to go to school, looking into what they really want to become is something I’m very much concerned about. The idea is to train the kids from the grassroots. It was just a project for me in 2017 then it grew into an actual movement together with my cousin and a friend. We’ve a database of our beneficiaries, and we continue to keep in touch.

Thank you for talking to us, Mr. Kayode Alabi.

By Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.