On January 19, 2018- 15 Primary 6 winners of the 2017 Dreamers Project across selected public primary schools in Abuja had an extraordinary time meeting and listening to Vice President HE Yemi Osinbajo share his childhood dreams and tips on designing the future. The session began with remarks by the Founder of R2S Africa, Simi Fajemirokun who introduced the Dreamers Projects and the participants in the room. The meeting with the Vice President was an interactive session where students asked the Vice President questions such as does he have a vision board? Was he ever uncertain about his future and why did he venture into politics?
The Vice President responded that he doesn’t have a vision board but he does have a board where he writes quotes that inspire him. One of such quotes he shared was ‘Not by Spirits but by men and women’ which basically refers to the task of building Nigeria will not be done by spirits but by men and women working hard. He also shared with the students that at primary 6 he always wanted to be a lawyer. He stated that he did experience some uncertainty when he had an opportunity to get a scholarship to study medicine abroad but he eventually stayed back in Nigeria to pursue a career in law. In responding to why he joined politics- he stated that he wanted to make a difference and make life easier for each and every one of them. The final question was by Hauwa Haruna who asked if he could sign her vision board and with a big smile he offered to sign every vision board in the room.
The Vice President also made a few remarks and emphasized the need to read as much as possible. He encouraged them to read 3 to 4 books quarterly and emphasized the culture of reading as a sure route to success. He also recognized the efforts of the teachers and head teachers represented in the room by Mrs Adejuwon (Primary 6 class teacher Maitama Primary School) and Mrs Kama (Head Teacher LEA Utako School) to train the future leaders of tomorrow and connected with them as a fellow teacher. Finally, he commented on the efforts of R2S Africa and applauded the impact of the Dreamers Project to instill a sense of purpose very early in life. He also emphasized the importance of living a life of service and building a country we can all be proud of. The students presented gifts to the Vice President with a card that captured his many roles of leadership and service. The students also remarked that ‘we hope you won’t forget us’.
The Vice President took a group photograph with the students and insisted on each student having an individual photograph with him. As the Vice President returned to work the students chanted ‘We love you Prof’ as he waved back enthusiastically. It was a trip to remember and from the excitement of the students on the bus back home- it was clear that this was an excursion of a lifetime.
The event was organized by Read2Succeed (R2S) Africa, a non-profit organization committed to improving the state of basic education in Nigeria in partnership with the Abuja Global Shapers who funded the project. The Dreamers Project is an initiative of R2S Africa that inspires students to dream and design the future. This initiative is a three-week program that delivers goal-setting, a rich array of speakers from diverse professional sectors and a vision board exercise that helps the students to be intentional on designing their future. This attempts to advance past a decayed education system that produces students who are schooling but not learning. The Project currently runs in five schools in Abuja where efforts are being made to connect education and skills to the future of work.
The importance of this meeting was two-fold. Firstly, to recognize the winners of the Dreamers Project as Nigeria’s future workforce. Secondly to showcase what good leadership looks like. This aspect was crucial due to the vision board exercise that revealed students had a negative perception about leadership. In fact out of 400 vision boards none had public service or any political leadership role. When we asked students to list their heroes, usually entertainers, footballers, doctors and comic heroes topped the list. On the list of villains- Boko Haram, Kidnappers and Political Leaders topped the list. We hope this excursion helped to tell a different narrative and inspire students to take on leadership roles in the future. The humility and graciousness of the Vice President definitely helped to showcase a non-scary version of leadership the students are accustomed to.