Driven Africa, where young people living in the slums drive change.
There will be glittering gold in the slums.
Every man’s gift is a present from the God.
Don’t worry, someone will find you and achieve you, sooner or later.
In the early 1990’s, a young boy was born to dream and create the future we want to see. Luckily, he was born in one of the top 20 Slum in Africa. A place where a child cannot dream and live the kind of life he wants to live. This young boy was filled with curiosity and creativity. There was a dumpsite in his backyard, where he plays. He wanted to create dress from pieces of clothes thrown away. He wanted to make cars from cartons dumped at the dumpsite. He uses his water bottle cover to create tyres and lollipop stick to make wheels. He taught he would become an engineer and solve many of the people’s problem in his neighborhood. At a point in time, he built a house using clay and got all his friends to do the same. He had a future in architecture and a chance to create more architectures in the neighborhood.
Along the line, he lost all this when he got into the school system, the school system could not afford his curiosity, because no one his thinking the way he does. He was forced to cram letters and understand numbers. He was told the best way to live is to get a good Job and work in an office. Forgetting that He is a 21st century child and millenial. That boy was me and Makoko, one of the toughest slum is where I grew up.
I could also recall that I wanted to play at the world cup after watching the Korea-Japan tournament in 2002. I wanted people to see me on T.V, I fought my dad to enrol me in Pepsi Academy but he couldn’t. So I opted for a local club. I played for some months and I was drafted into the first team for under 10 but my teacher convinced my dad that it would affect my academics. So, my dad yielded to his advice and I was stopped from playing football. My dream was hindered again.
Makoko is a place filled with poverty and its quite difficult for you to have a normal growth. I was lucky to attend one of the best school in the area, lived in one of the coolest house but not that cool, had a car to drive me to school. I was living large in the slum as well as enjoying the streets, smartness that comes with it. Until illness struck my dad while I was in the second year of my Junior Secondary School Education. The sickness took away everything he has labored for. He sold his car and every of his property. We had to move from a convenient self contain to a room apartment in Bariga, Shomolu, another rugged slum. Life became difficult and it was quite difficult for him to sponsor my senior secondary school education. During that period, three square meal became super difficult. It wasn’t easy. I had to learn the act of doing business early. I had to hawk on the street and I was scared what would happen to me if my friends find out that I was hawking but I got myself rid of it. After completing my secondary school education, we were sent packing from the one room apartment and there was no place to live or move to and we were saved by one of our neighbours who built a house in Ikorodu, igbogbo Lagos State. This is another underdeveloped area in Lagos State.
We were living with them happily. During that period, I did some odd jobs, I cleared bushes for people, most especially the rich. I fetch water and serve as laborers for construction companies. During that period, I got a job in a nursery school to teach and after teaching for a while, my dad’s aunt relieved me and asked me to come over to live with them. I lived with them and She, her husband sponsored my university education.
However, just like every other African Child, I have been robbed, I have labored, I have seen atrocities, I have lived in the slum, I have witnessed everything, I have seen people die due to poverty. I have seen people die out of street riots. I have seen poor deprived and convicted for the crime they didn’t commit. I have witnessed injustice. I have been knocked down to my knees. I have been rejected. I have been drained out of giving more than I have. But I didn’t break because of my dream for Africa. It may sound crazy. But I believe greatness is not meant for the selected few, it is meant for everyone. This form the basis of my personal mission statement, I said, “I want to liberate as many leaders as possible, inspire communities to take action, and create leaders who will not only impact their generation but future generations to come through effective facilitation and mentoring. I have started and I will not stop until you all win. I want the African Child to dream and have access to equal opportunities just like their fellow counterparts across the world. I want to liberate those child who felt there is no hope and rekindled their hope to do more and define themselves beyond their environment. I have started but I believe I am made for more. Africa is made for more. I know it is not easy to live for other people, but that’s the path I have chosen. The part of liberation.
This made me to establish a leadership and Career Academy that helps young people and those living in underserved area to dream. I brought young people together doing exploits in their community to inspire this young people but this isn’t enough to sustain them.
In the future slum cities would inspire us. According to the Jonathan hursh, one third of humanity will live in the slum soon. Over 90% of urbanization in this century will be due to the growth of slums. By the end of this century, the top megacities will no longer be London and Tokyo; they will be in Asia and Africa, and they will be far bigger than the metropolis of today.
I dream of an Africa, where slums are catered for and where the people in the slum are part of the solutions created to solve the wicked problems.
Where students in the slum learn 21st century vocational training skills and transform the society with those skills. Where young people do not have to drop out of school, rather create product riight from school using disruptive technology. Where young people can create bags with USB port, shoes, phones from the classroom. Where industries are built in the slums and are drived by the slum dwellers. Where youths who accounts for the majority of people living in the slum are employed in those industries. Where the skills of young people in the slums are harnessed and used for common good. It is said that “an idle hand is a devils man workshop.” I want to see an African, where slum dwellers are engaged in turning the slums into magcities using their own resources. There was a boy I met in one of the notorious slums in Africa and Nigeria, Ajegunle. The boy had the skill of designing both female and male dress but his need were not met in the school. Nobody to supports his dreams and empower him. Just like me, if I had someone who had invested in me. I would have transformed my community and make it an adaptable place to live in. I dream to see a liveable slum where human capital development trainings are carried out to help dwellers.
Even, there was this young adult, an engineering student and a protégé of mine, who built a paper airplane but got no help from the government to further his ingenuity. The probability of him turning to the streets and getting involved in criminal activities in a bid to fend for himself is quite high. If these creative young people can’t find their purpose in the classroom, they end up dropping out and constituting a menace to the society with their creativity.
Many of us run away from the slum, we do not want to be associated with it. But, the way I see the slum is different. I dream of a slum that leads technology. Where the ingenuity of youths are used to solve many problems of the future. Where young people create gadgets that solve many of our health problems. Where they create wrist watches that reads body temperature and pulse rate. I see young people in the slum driving the health sector.
However, In the future, the walls in our home will become screens. Lack of lands will lead to vertical agriculture. Our used clothes and plastics will be recycled and converted to building materials. The world will become smarter and leveraging on the population of people living in the slum, we can achieve all these. In the future, we will have vertical farmers and digital architectures. We have to prepare young people for that future. Today, over 2.5 miliion people live in Kibera, Kenya. This is postulated to be the largest urban slum in Africa. It also make up 50% of Nairobi’s population. Young people also account for the largest population in this area. This young people can drive the economy of Kenya right from there, when we make it livable for them. So many other African Countries have majority of their population living in the slum. Well, one beautiful thing about Africa is that Africans sees each other as family and care about each other. This can be used to transform our society. A person is a person through another person. This points to the existence of a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. In other words, humanity exists for humanity. This universal bond can help transform change and create the future we want to see. We can always see humanity through the slums.
Ultimately, “the purpose of life today is that we must all realise we are like different flowers in a garden. The absence of even one flower deprives the garden of its full beauty, while the presence of all gives the garden its splendid colour.” – Pierre Crocquet. People and Youth living in the slum should not be left behind. When we create a liveable slum, we ensure sustainable development and create the change we want to see. If you ask me again and again about my African Dream, I will tell you 10,000 times that I want to see practical – driven Africa, where young people living in the slums drive change.
Hammed Kayode Alabi
Hammed Alabi is an Educator, Career Coach, Inspirational Speaker/Writer. He started his journey as an educator at the age of 15, teaching basic education subjects to Nursery School Students.
He is the founder of Kayfactor Leadership and Career Academy (KLCA), an organization that mentors young leaders in the society.
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