According to the American Writer and Thinker David Cook, ” Education is more than a luxury it is a responsibility that society owes itself.” This is why In this edition of blog interviews, my guest is Olanrewaju Gideon. Olanrewaju Gideon is a Social Development practitioner passionate about Youth Development, Environmental Sustainability and Quality Education. He is the Executive Director, Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative(AREAi), an initiative with a mission to improve the quality of education available to students who are disadvantaged by virtue of living in rural communities. In this interview he talks to me about his advocacy work in rural education, and talks about his organization’s event, the Ibadan Education for Sustainable Development Forum.
Given that you are coming on this blog for the first time, readers will like to know more about the work you have done and what you are doing in the areas of and educational development and climate change advocacy?
The different components of my developmental work are spread across many streams of interest. They are however all connected by a deep passion to shape the world into a better place to live in . My organization, Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi) is working hard to improve the access and quality of education available to disadvantaged children in rural communities with a mandate to redefine quality education. Our work involves working with learners themselves, helping to create proper learning environments for them as well as contributing to improvement in educational content and processes. Between 2014 and now,the organization has worked with 4 communities and over 1000 school children, providing basic school infrastructure, educational supplies and home items while also providing after school mentoring classes. We are currently working with 3 communities within Oyo State.
On the part of Climate Action Advocacy, I organized a Climate Change Awareness/Senzitization program last year in commemoration of the International Youth Day with over 1000 young people in attendance to deliberate on how various anthropogenic factors of Climate Change can be mitigated in current terms while preventing future occurences.
Also, in the build-up to the UN Climate Summit 2015 (Conference of Parties) in Paris,I launched an international advocacy photo contest with support from Care About Climate(US) to gather the opinions of young people across the world on what they think leaders should do to combat climate change. The entries were summarized into a Video documentary which was presented in Paris and that culminated into the legally binding agreement that is dictating climate actions globally now.
What is the motivation behind the Education for Sustainable Development Forum, and is there a particular reason for choosing Ibadan for this event?
Every year,millions of school children are expunged from elementary educational systems despite the worrisome population of out-of-school children across the world. Even though,enrolment rate is increasing and more children are attending school,the question is;are they LEARNING at all on how they can actively engage the world and help make it a just and sustainable place? Less emphasis is been placed on the need to develop them into conscientious citizens who will become major stakeholders and decision makers in societal transformation and global development. We identified this as the brain behind the present drain in informed,patriotic and environmentally-conscious citizens and in a bid to challenge the status quo,we designed the ESDForum as an open-space learning platform with aim of engaging, enlightening and empowering young leaders on Sustainability. This is in furtherance of the actualizaton of our organizational agenda of promoting the Sustainable Development Goal Four which revolves around Quality Education. There is no particular reason in chording Ibadan as our next point of call. The ESDForum is designed to be city based as we are moving from one city/town/village to another engaging learners from different cultural and academic backgrounds. We are most glad to be in the ancient city of Ibadan after ourmaiden edition in Ile-Ife,Osun state and we look forward to havinga fulfilling experience with the learners and facilitators.
When is the date of the ESD Forum, where and what time will it hold? And what format will it take, is it a seminar, or a discussion, or a mixture of both? Are there any special features?
ESDForum Ibadan is happening on the 24th of February 2015 at Government College, Ibadan and it starting by 10am.
Its not a seminar but largely a discussion but the facilitators will do less of the talk and we will be simulating real time experiences for this leadership talents to learn from thought leaders on pungent local issues and global challenges.
They will be engaged in four different brainstorming breakout sessions on the four focus areas. This format being learners-centred will ensure active participation and will increase their retention factor and cause them to ponder hard on issues and act positively after the forum.
A keyword of the forum is Global Citizenship, how important do you think it is for youths especially students to be conversant with issues affecting their society and the World around them?
Global Citizenship education is central to dealing with the current global issues and local developments. When evaluated, it is an avenue to demonstrate and illustrate how the world we currently live in is unfair and unequal and the need for us to challenge that and change it.
Education for Global Citizenship allows young people to develop core competencies which enables them to actively engage with the world and help make it a better place.
As children,we present to them the opportunity to identify local issues happening around them,consider it from different viewpoints, understand the causes and consequences, evaluate what can be done and pro-actively take actions, both individually and collectively.
Is the event purely volunteer driven or Does the event have sponsors, any national/international organization(s) /NGO(s) supporting it?
Yes,it is volunteer-driven as we do not have any financial backing from any national or international organizations for now. We are hopeful that with subsequent editions across the nation, we will attract sponsors who will be interested in helping out in scaling up the impact of this innovative project towards building the next generation of problem solvers and critical thinkers through transformative learning.
have you attempted to reach out to individuals within/outside the city of Ibadan who are also doing work in areas of youth social responsibility and education for development who can use their experience working with students to help the ESD Forum?
Yes,we have reached out to a number of educators who will constitute our ESD Faculty(trained/seasoned facilitators) on specified thematic areas of the ESD to ensure lasting impact in subsequent editions. We are also open to positive collaboration with organizations that share in the vision of education being the foundation of Sustainable Development and this is evident from our Maiden edition in Ile-Ife,Osun State where we partnered with Nigerian Youth Action on Water and Ladies Circle International, working on Water,Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Gender Equality respectively.
For this Ibadan Edition,we are also working with young individuals who are passionately involved in transformative education and are practically in the field.
Again another keyword for the forum is living a sustainable lifestyles, to what extent is the keyword inspired by Nigeria’s current economic reality?
The keyword has highlighted is ‘Sustainable Lifestyles’ which is one of the thematic areas of ESD as designed by the United Nations(UN) and it represents a viable tool in addressing the current economic reality of our dear nation,Nigeria. If imbibed into our value system,living a sustainable lifestyle will permit Nigerians,young and old,male and female to develop the principle of using less resources by differentiating between luxuries and necessities.
At times you wonder why some individuals build gigantic houses despite having a small family nexus.
If the big picture of sustainability is considered,they will ask themselves rhetorically; Do we need this big house, or could we create a happy home in less square footage?Permit me to say Comfort is great but at the detriment of what resources? As global citizens,sustainability should be put into a realistic perspective in our daily living,this will make us to ‘buy less,spend less and ultimately want less’.
Taking these young children through experiential and interactive discussions on how to live sustainably will help them navigate similar economic challenges they may encounter in the present and future terms as they will learn more about budgeting,financial prudence,scale of preference and lots more.
Finally what are the lessons you hope participants will gain from this forum
Since the overarching objective of the Forum is to supplement conventional classroom learning with the acquisition of knowledge and skills that can help shape a sustainable future,we hope at the end of the forum,learners will have gathered actionable insights on why and how they can participate pro-actively in proffering creative solutions to environmental,societal and economic challenges,seeing themselves as part of the solution in the process of nation building,societal transformation and global development.
Thank You Olanrewaju, it has really been great having you around to talk to us
It is always a pleasure, and I hope to also see you at the forum
For more information on the Ibadan ESD forum, and his other work you can talk to Gideon Olarenwaju as LanreShaper on Facebook, or @LanreShaper on Twitter or on Skype: gideon.olanrewaju14