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We just saw this report online which features Street to School Initiative Founder, Mrs. Taiwo Tosin, and we have decided to share with you. Mrs. Tosin Taiwo is in the photograph seated with the incubent Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.


Akinwunmi Ambode

The founder of La Roche Leadership Foundation and former Accountant-General of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, recently recognised eleven social entrepreneurs in the state, leaving them with a message that the future of Nigeria depends on their inputs into the development process and governance. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes

Her passion precisely began with a narrative of Nigeria’s poor school enrolment. Her dream too is simply to rescue as many children as possible off the streets of Lagos State. Mrs. Tosin Taiwo, the Founder of Street to School Initiative, never knew her little input could earn her recognition one day.
But La Roche Leadership Foundation took her aback last week when she was invited for recognition of her contribution to help address the crisis of school enrolment in the state. She said it never crossed her mind any person or institution was interested in what she had been doing in her little corner.
She said her passion was just driving her “to promote access to quality education for children in under-served areas in Lagos. The initiative provides educational assistance for disadvantaged young people and empowering women in rural areas,” which she said, had impacted on lives across the state.
Taiwo added that the initiative “has effectively impacted more than 15, 000 young persons and women in Lagos State already; distributed educational items and conducted series of school-based mentoring program for 13 public and private schools in Alimosho Local Government Area alone.”
Like ten other recipients, Taiwo shared her account at the Astroturf 2000 in Ikoyi recently. She observed that what La Roche did had indeed strengthened her drive to sustain her advocacy for qualitative education, particularly in Lagos State, though she acknowledged that the task was a huge one.
But Taiwo’s courage to rescue as many as children off the streets touched our hearts, said Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Founder of La Roche. He explained the foundation’s drive to recognise the eleven youths, who he said, had contributed to the development of their communities in different ways.
Among those La Roche recognised include Okunoren Twins, a clothing business that employs over 100 tailors; Tolu Ogunlesi, a renowned journalist; Omilola Oshikoya, a blogger, life coach and public speaker; Abiodun Akinyemi, a tourism and tour entrepreneur and Jude Abaga, a renowned musician.
Others are Uche Pedro, the founder of the popular blog Bella Naija, Titus Agbo Adekole, a grassroots youth football coach and sports leader; Bilkis Adebola-Abiola, the CEO of Wecyclers, a plastic recycling company and Adekunbi Adeoye the proprietress of Sesewa, an initiative which secures internship placements for students of Nigerian tertiary institutions.

As Adeoye said in her address, Sesewa has trained 102 students in the last year on employability skills and further increasing their chances of finding and keeping a job. The company has had a 98 percent success rate on its internship placements where fresh graduate interns become full time employees.
But Ambode, who retired as the Accountant-General of Lagos State in 2012, said the impact of the youths La Roche recognised was evident in tourism, social media, entertainment, fashion, youths and sports, which he said, was worthy of recognition if they should sustain such social interventions.
At this instance, Ambode drew a conclusion that the Nigerian youths “are a human capital goldmine. The young people in our midst today have proven me right,” thereby buttressing the fact that the future of Nigeria “is closely linked to the extent to which we can develop the potentials of our youths.”
The founder, therefore, said the youths “are central to a new Nigeria,” which he said, attested to the justification that development and progress “can only be achieved by mankind through innovation, of which the youth in our environment are critical to its implementation and success.”
In Ambode’s connotation, innovation is synonymous with creating new solutions to old problems or finding a creative way to resolve a current problem or issue. So, it is a new or creative way to provide a good or service without robbing it of its expected value and benefit to its beneficiaries in our society.
Apparently with innovation, Ambode argued that any country “can create efficiency and effectiveness and increases the quality of life. Innovation is, therefore, a product of vibrant young minds who challenge the status quo and equally brave the odds” that a system could pose.
Ambode cited the example of Steve Jobs, who he said, co-founded Apple, the world’s computer giant at the age of 21. He, also, named Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft at the age of 20; Mark Zuckerberg, who launched Facebook at the age of 20; Jeff Bezos, who floated launched Amazon.com at the age of 30 as well as Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google at 25.
Ambode said these global achievers “are people who positively affected human lives in their twenties. We have people with the same potential here today. We have many more with the same potential in Nigeria. We must not let the challenges of the daily hustle to dull their ingenuity.
“We must continually create an environment which allows our youth to innovate because that is one of the few ways our society can make progress. Hence, we see the emergence of social entrepreneurship gathering serious momentum especially within Lagos State. Social entrepreneurship is the process of pursuing innovative solutions to social problems.”
He added that social entrepreneurs “are often on a mission to create and sustain social value. The social entrepreneurs have made concepts like volunteering to become attractive and thousands of youths in the country now volunteer for several initiatives that will benefit the society. Amongst the youths are with us on this side of the table. We have quite a number of social entrepreneurs.”
He said the recipients had chosen to do things differently. He added that they had also disdained traditional entrepreneurship, which according to him, the youths in Nigeria “are gradually becoming more innovative with entrepreneurship since everyone cannot be traditional entrepreneurs.” 
Aside, Ambode explained the significance of other forms of education, which he said, found expression in technical and vocational education. He said La Roche “believes in this form of education as it does in the case of formal education.” He, thus, appreciated what the Lagos State Government had been doing in this area to build technical capacities for national development.
He, also, commended the efforts of states like Lagos State, which he said, had not just been promoting this form of education, but also believed that it “is still a potential goldmine which needs to be fully harnessed for members of the society who don’t have access to formal education to benefit from.”
So, the drive to build a generation of builders and creative minds formed the central reason Ambode said La Roche came up with the Chosen Youth Programme and equally recognised eleven young social entrepreneurs. He said the outcome “has been impressive and we believe a change is imminent.”
He said the programme “is to recognise and celebrate these young Nigerians who have received all the forms of education we have identified; done excellently well to improve lives of their communities, created jobs for people and engaged numerous volunteers to divert their abilities and energies appropriately.”
He, thus, said these young Nigerians undoubtedly “represent the future of work for Nigeria.  La Roche is focussed on Education and Leadership. We have embarked on projects to support the educational system as well as inculcate leadership values in our young people across the state and irrespective of ethno-religious backgrounds.”
It was at this instance that Ambode said La Roche recognised young people who “have challenged the status quo and charted a course for themselves. We appreciate young people, who have not allowed the country’s circumstances put them down, but rather used it to motivate themselves.
“You all are our heroes. With joy and hope, we celebrate you today. La Roche salutes your courage. La Roche salutes your passion. La Roche salutes your success. La Roche extends a hand of partnership to you and together we can inspire others to leadership and innovation and improve lives in Nigeria.”
The recipients of the recognition commended Ambode’s intervention. In her response, Raquel Jacobs, the Executive Director of Beyond the Classroom Foundation, said the recognition truly attested to the impact her pet project “have been having on her communities,” which she said, was the reason the foundation chose “to recognise our efforts.”
She, therefore, explained the rationales her non-governmental organisation “has focussed on improving education for pupils in public primary schools and empowerment of the girl child,” which she said, stemmed from social disadvantages every girl child “faces in Nigeria’s different communities.”
In Lagos metropolis and suburbs, Jacobs said she had been working with over 200 volunteers “to implement education projects in different schools in Bariga and Yaba, providing free school supplies for over 2,000 Pupils, after school extra-curricular support and mentoring for over 100 girls,” through what she described a unique school intervention program.
Likewise, Ore Lesi, the Founder of Women Technology Empowerment Centre (WTEC), shared account of how she had been helping girls and women develop basic capacities “to increase their economic power and ability to speak about issues affecting their lives through ICT based training and programmes.”
In 2013 alone, Lesi said her centre “reached 2,207 women and girls, 21 teachers through its programmes and 612 people through its speaking engagements.” She, therefore, said this little contribution “has earned us recognition from La Roche,” which she said, had spurred her to do more.
On behalf of all recipients, Jude Abaga acknowledged that he never knew a good number of youths “are contributing so much to their communities,” thereby appreciating La Roche for recognising those who had made critical input into the country’s development process and governance discourse.
Abaga, a renowned Nigerian musician, urged the youths “to think and work together towards developing our society and charting a new course for the future.” It was in this light he said La Roche recognised the exceptional works of the youths, who he said, had done well in their communities.

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