In 2006, four thousand workers at the Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL) lost their jobs. John Fatoye’s father was one of them. At the time, John was in his second year of junior school. It didn’t take long before he began to feel the impact of financial hardship on his family – Food portions and the frequency of meals reduced. He also turned into a fee defaulter. John had to learn early to contribute to family income. He was almost a part of the statistic of out-of-school children with his dreams of becoming a medical doctor in jeopardy. It was at this point that he saw the light in the tunnel. John participated in a state-level debate competition and won a scholarship that helped him complete his senior secondary education and all four years of his first degree at the tertiary level.

In 2018, as a second-year medical student (in his second bachelor’s degree), he knew it was time to pay it forward. He started the Yattiyr Scholarship initiative with no prior experience in non-profit, alongside seven friends, to proffer innovative solutions to the inaccessibility to quality education through advocacy, sponsorship and mentorship. His organization connected sponsors with children who needed financial aid to remain in school. The organization was doing well enough – 50 students got a full scholarship for their secondary education (8 of which are now graduates), 18 senior students received WASSCE Exam support. About 150 teachers got trained on digital skills. However, for people like John, “well enough” wasn’t enough. He identified his knowledge gap and wrote it as his list of goals for the year 2020.

One of my 2020 targets was to attend a high profile fellowship that would help me attain my next level of social impact growth,” John said a friend recommended the Youth-in-Development (YID) Boot Camp & Fellowship program to him he sent in his application. The Youth in Development Boot Camp and Fellowship is powered by Impact Toolbox and implemented by the Sozo Networks in Nigeria. “The Boot Camp was precisely the learning opportunity that I needed! The YID radicalized my understanding and experience of social entrepreneurship. The session on ‘Human-centered design thinking’ by Bukky Shonibare was an eye-opener for me! I realized that my approach to solution-creation was all wrong!!” he said.

After attending the 4-day Bootcamp in Abuja (an 8-hour road trip from his state of residence, Kwara state), he performed the obligatory step-down training. His successful implementation and exceptional performance at the interview stage got him selected for the fellowship program. “The grant writing classes and pitching exercises at the YID fellowship helped me secure full scholarship sponsorship for students at YSI! With this sponsorship, 50 more students will get to complete their primary and secondary education.”

After the boot camp, John and his team optimized YSI’s fundraising process by setting up the ‘Sponsor a kid initiative’ to attract local and international sponsors. YSI launched the REYL Bootcamp for teenagers and a learning hub where students can access resources to boost their academic performance. “Our program design and implementation process of REYL Bootcamp was very different from the old processes we used for previous programs. We have run two cohorts of the REYL, which has received a lot of emotional feedback from facilitators, beneficiaries and parents of beneficiaries“. Moving forward, John is looking to scale up the work at YSI, which involves doubling the number of beneficiaries, hosting regional teacher’s digital skills training and teens Bootcamp for north-central Nigeria. When it comes to paying it forward, John Fatoye is doing some impressive work indeed.

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