My parents did the coital magic again and boom, my birth certificate also confirms that I was born some 26 years ago, in Akure town, Ondo State, Nigeria.
I am the third child, with three other amazing siblings – a total equals a nuclear family of six. I grew up to know my name as Fasoranti Fash Damilola Isaac Damilola. Most people call me, Fash.
The year 1996, we relocated to Ile Ife, Osun State, Nigeria. I attended OAU Staff School for my primary school education and my school fees then, were less than 100 Naira for a whole academic session, yet to pay this came with a grinding tooth of struggle.
Oh yes, I once saw textbooks at bookshops and in the hands of friends – it was a luxury item.
I didn’t really understand why at a point, we lived in an uncompleted house without electricity, a toilet or drinkable water. I just concluded that, so far we could breathe, eat and laugh as a family, what else is more important?
Obviously, my parent wanted the best for me and my siblings, but they wouldn’t chew more than the circumference of their mouths.
Wisdom should you, that it is better not to cut the cloth you don’t have talk less of thinking of your body size.
My dad was a teacher in the primary school I attended and had a motorcycle that took us to school, but the motorcycle was just too stubborn, it returned to its malfunctioning mode effortlessly and wouldn’t work. I had several kilometre treks of my life to school. I didn’t have a school bag.
We had just one nylon bag that I shared with my two siblings as a school bag and we had just one food flask. Phew! The joy of waiting for our turns while devouring the red beans in that red flask, nothing beats it!
When I finished primary school, I got an admission into OAU International Secondary School – one of the best schools in town. Although I couldn’t spend more than the second year in that school because my parents couldn’t afford to pay the school fees, at least, I could boast of 4 textbooks for 13 subjects. I later moved to Adventist Secondary School, yet I was sent home a number of times for not paying my school fees on time.
While life was swinging up and down, I decided not to be weighed down by the ‘high cost’ that comes with getting a quality education.
I worked a plan to daily burn the midnight candles, I sometimes slept by 8 pm and woke around 1 am and I read my eyes thin studying till daybreak. I read any newspaper that danced around, I scoured for new words in the dictionary; I started putting words together to form my own articles and letters to friends.
I dug up old textbooks and solved any maths questions that aimlessly lay on the pages.
My academic results began to grow with fat muscles of success and I started loving the idea of sharing anything I knew with my friends that cared enough to grow their grades.
Long story cut short, I successfully got admission into Obafemi Awolowo University in 2007 and finished in 2011.NYSC came, and it pushed my legs to a caring rural community in Benue State and I could easily see exactly the same financial constraints and struggles that I experienced while growing up, in that community.
Something more striking, I noticed a wide disconnect between the present school curriculum, the available educational resources, the teaching models and the 21st-century realities. Who should I scream to that would listen and act?
There, the fuel of passion to empower rural youths with life skills and set skills for job creation and entrepreneurship began to have a fine stir in me.
I decided to set up a 7-man team that packed 200+ students together for 2 days to thought-storm entrepreneurship and skill polishing. The result was amazing. But, it wasn’t sustainable!
Done with NYSC, I left the community, but my heart stayed back. I got a job in Abuja and life began to dance in crescendo order. On the job, I knew that teaching was my flair, I needed a change, but the idea of becoming a classroom teacher looked uninspiring – I felt it will box me in.
So, I asked myself, “how can I turn around the table of irrelevant school education in Nigeria without screaming for a change or terrorizing the people in the system?”There, I knew I needed a new form of education myself. Maybe, I don’t have to be a classroom teacher to effect the change that Nigeria is thirsty for. So, I jumped on google – searching mode activated.
Initially, I had always believed that scholarships are only for super-smart and intelligent people, but, I broke my own barrier by applying to kanthari International (an unconventional school raising ethical leaders and social entrepreneurs), India in 2015. I was selected as 1 of the 3 Nigerians for that year.
That education put into my hands the tools my heart panted for, my education passion finally kissed the fuel of knowledge and I returned with that sparkle of energy to Nigeria to Start Prikkle Academy (www.prikkleacademy.org).
For more than 5 years earlier, I had been dreaming of a Nigeria where every youth, especially in the rural communities, is valued, can speak for themselves and will be celebrated for daily turning their knowledge into social solutions.
So, starting Prikkle Academy was to make some part of that dream possible. I want to see rural youths create jobs that University Professors will only debate.
So, I am already introducing an education that will trigger even an unschooled girl to create wealth out of what an average graduate will call trash or rubbish.
Now, I have moved back into the rural communities and I started out in Benue State, Nigeria. While this path hasn’t been rosy, the ingenuity and wisdom at the grassroots are astonishing – it is a great aroma for the spirit and soul.
You will have to taste, to awake your sleeping giants.
Prikkle Academy mostly looks away from what we lack, but zoom in on what we have. We talk and act on what is strong, rather than what is wrong. Okay, be sincere, isn’t it our strengths that make us get a job, survive daily and dish out a ravishing “yes, I will marry you” to a marriage proposal? Why not do more with our strengths than our weaknesses?
In Mbagishi community in Benue State, we were able to create the first Bamboo Solar Lamp by allowing the inherent skills of the people to flourish on the bamboo stems (a huge asset that they sell 1 long stem for less than 5 Naira), while a friend of mine shared with us the electrical system to power it. We are working on scaling this solution, soon.
Our kite landed safely and presently, we are in Afon, Kwara State and the journey continues. Here, through the ingenuity of the youths in this community, we have created organic manure from kitchen waste, turned ‘waste tyre and tailor waste’ into executive chairs, and rolled out digital tools for grassroots digital marketing.
We are going against the conventional wisdom of schooling, to look at personal and community asset in the eye, one at a time, and turn it into treasures, businesses, products and social services. After 10 months of starting Prikkle Academy, we were profiled by the Centre for Education Innovation (Washington, DC) as one of the 450+ education innovation programs in the world. That’s shocking and humbling.
Wait, but what if I didn’t start this awesome dream?
What if I allowed fear, negative comments, lack of funds and the comfort of my previous job to voluntarily sit in my head and pin down this solution I have in my heart?What if all I did was to be screaming on the street, complain about the crumbling educational institutions or fold my hands on my heart that was beating for action?
What if I allowed my self-limiting prophecies to convince me till old age that this cannot be done?
Well, I have served my ‘what ifs’ with cute hugs and bid them super-exciting goodbyes, I can’t find my excuses around again. When they show up, they have become the lubricant for more progress.
My friend, what about you? When are you going to launch your awesome dream?