Eneh Praise Chiamaka, a Primary Six pupil of National Primary School, Gbagada, wants to be a Police Officer in future. Yes, a Police Officer! And she will stop at nothing to pursue her dreams till actualization. She is young enough to have lofty ideas about life but old enough to know that the dreaded and deadly HIV/AIDS can cut short one’s aspirations. Chiamaka also knows that the equally deadly but ignorantly less dreaded Malaria can truncate a person’s destiny, rob them of their dreams and even lead to death – an untimely one at that.
She got wiser recently when Skillz Naija Coaches from Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI) chose their school for a five-week training. Being a voluntary programme, she didn’t hesitate to join especially when intimated of the short- and long-term benefits. On March 25, 2015, she and 70 schoolmates of hers graduated from the programme and were given certificates. And now she has a story to tell. From maintaining a very clean environment to imbibing the virtue of sexual abstinence; from the use of insecticide-treated nets to safe sex; she is equipped for a brighter future.
“This training has really taught me a lot. Now I know I must not have sexual partners especially at this age; and now I know a lot about Malaria and how to prevent it,” a jubilant Chiamaka said on her graduation day. With a tone of seriousness, she vowed to always ensure that no stagnant water is found around her surroundings. It was very clear that the trainers made a lasting impact on her.
For Rokeebat Sulaimon, a classmate of Chiamaka’s, HIV/AIDS and Malaria are not news. Her mum had always talked about them. But she got a deeper knowledge of them when the Skillz Naija Coaches stormed her school recently. She wants to be doctor simply because she “loves a doctor’s lifestyle.” She also fell in love with the five-week training.
“I love this programme so much; it’s very interesting,” she enthused when asked how the programme has touched her life. “Though my mum used to tell me a bit about Malaria and HIV/AIDS, this programme has given me a deeper knowledge of them. I also learnt why I shouldn’t have sexual partners at my age and the dangers of having very older sexual partners,” she said. Just like her classmate Chiamaka, she also made a personal vow to spread the knowledge she just gained. “I will teach others what I have learnt especially my siblings; I will also tell students in other schools that they should embrace this programme any time their school is selected for it,” Rokeebat promised.
Little Olakunle Fatiu is passionate about football. He is a fan of FC Barcelona and sees Lionel Messi as his favourite soccer star. Little wonder when asked what he would like to become in future, his sharp response was, “I want to be a footballer.” For him, Skillz Naija should be a continuous programme in all schools in Nigeria because it “will change lives forever”. Just like his classmates, he won’t be selfish with this newfound knowledge; he’s made a personal commitment to share all he’s been taught. That’s not all; he has a word of advice for young people out there:
“I want to tell fellow students in other schools to always come out and participate in this programme. It will change their life forever,” a visibly delighted Fatiu told YEDI officials.
While the training lasted, Chiamaka, Rokeebat, Fatiu, and their school mates bonded with the coaches, had interaction with one another, had loads of fun, and above all, were empowered with basic knowledge with far-reaching effects. They learned in the name of fun!
ABOUT SKILLZ NAIJA
The Skillz Naija programme is an interactive HIV prevention, Malaria prevention/treatment and life skills curriculum specially designed for youths between ages 11 and 15. The programme is handled by adequately trained and passionate Skillz Coaches, using an approach that fosters simple and powerful connections between football and real life issues, thereby helping the participants to learn while having fun. The programme is divided into 10 fun-filled and interactive practices using football language, metaphors, catch-phrases, and other activities to empower young people in making healthy choices and becoming agents of change in their respective communities. At graduation, each participant is given a certificate and a Skillz magazine that will further consolidate the lessons taught.
The programme is currently implemented in over 400 sites in Lagos, Ogun and Akwa-Ibom States and has had over 40,000 young graduates, and counting.
Sponsored by ExxonMobil, a world’s leading energy company, Skillz Naija is supported by MAC AIDS Fund, an organization renowned globally for its dedication in confronting the HIV and AIDS epidemic in countries and communities.