Gideon Olanrewaju, a Nigerian Educational Development Practitioner and Quality Education Advocate, has recently been invited by the The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Megan Markle to Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom to share how his organization has been ensuring access to alternative learning and empowerment opportunities for girls and women in Nigeria.
Gideon, a UNESCO ESD Ambassador and Theirworld Youth Representative to the 2018 United Nations General Assembly, who founded Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi) was selected as 1 of 10 inspiring young leaders from around the world to join a high level roundtable discussion focused on gender equality, inclusion, education and empowerment of women and girls, convened by the Duke and Duchess in their roles as the President and Vice-President of the Queens Commonwealth Trust. The Roundtable also formed a critical component of the 10th edition of the One Young Summit happening in London that convenes the brightest young talents accelerating social impact globally. The Roundtable, among many objectives, seek to gain an understanding of best practice in empowering women and identifying international commonalities in gender equality.
While speaking about their peculiar projects and ventures that support gender parity and educational inclusion in various countries which included South Africa, Nigeria, Iraq, Malawi and Bangladesh, the young leaders shared their achievements and best practices, showcasing how the work we do and collaborative leadership have helped empower the various local communities we represent to overcome complex challenges and significant obstacles.
While sharing about AREAi with Prince Harry, Gideon said “ our organization designs and implements alternative but effective interventions that bridge the gaps between education and employability for school aged out-of-school girls, youth and women that are not in education, employment or training. The organization started off by providing technical and infrastructural support to under-resources schools in rural communities but decided to scale the impact to facilitate access for more girls. Responding to a question about the effectiveness of educational systems, particularly in South-Saharan Africa, Gideon pointed to widening gap of educational access in many countries. In his words, “we are at a crossroads with quarter of a billion young people and children out of school. If we do not urgently address this, then we will fail a whole generation who wouldn’t have the necessary skills to build their future or engage within the community as active citizens. Sharing how he, through his organization, is tackling this menace, Gideon explained how accelerated learning programs that leverages alternative approaches have ensured access to and quality of education across the world. He further shared, “ AREAi’s mission. over the next 10 years, is to create alternative learning and empowerment opportunities for school aged out-of-school girls, vulnerable women and youth to equip them with skills that will better prepare them for the workforce even before they come of age.
In the past, we have worked with over 6000 children, enriching their learning experiences and outcomes through various programs but now,we are currently constructing informal community learning centers with plastic bottles to provide educational infrastructure for the unreached and ensuring environmental integrity in the same vein. The Education-In-Bottles program has a bi-dimensional learning model that emphasizes the need for develop a blend of entrepreneurial, vocational, life, cognitive and technological skills and we are deploying this as a school readiness program through an accelerated learning experience.”
Commenting on Gideon’s remarks, the Duke expressed his delight and the program’s prospects and finalized by saying “I hope to visit Nigeria soon, would look to see how your organization is growing”.
Speaking about his experience with the Roundtable, Gideon said. “ it was an humbling privilege for me to represent myself, my organization, Nigeria as well as amplify the voices of young people working to ensure the right to education for children and youth is guaranteed. It was inspiring to engage physically with the Royal family about the work that myself and many other staff members and volunteers have done for the past few years. I remain grateful to Deloitte for sponsoring me to attend the One Young World Summit, to Queens Commonwealth Trust for facilitating my engagement with the Royal Family and to my team members for the hard work we’ve done to reach the heights. I consider it the greatest honor of my lifetime, yet”.
This Roundtable organized as a collaboration between the Queens Commonwealth Trust and One Young World holds great potential for ensuring gender parity as it culminated into an informal global task force team of all the young leaders to be called the #ACTION10. They have been saddled with the responsibility of building and maintaining a consortium that would research and share global best practices that would amplify the impact of empowering women, promote working with communities that are hard to reach, facilitate the feasibility of projects with the right facilities and devise creative approaches to longstanding challenges facing women and girls in accessing educational opportunities.