Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
It is estimated that 60 percent of Nigeria's 160 million people are under the age of 24. 70 percent of these young people are unemployed even though many possess high school diplomas and/or university degrees. This alarmingly high unemployment rate is intricately connected to the dysfunctional state of Nigeria's education system.
This system has failed to produce employable graduates with work-ready skills that are appropriate in today's quickly changing world. Although many graduates possess content knowledge in a particular field, employers indicate that these graduates lack the practical experience, sense of initiative and analytical-thinking and problem-solving skills that they desire in employees. Employers believe that education standards have decreased and that graduates cannot problem solve or apply quick-thinking skills to boost productivity. Those who do not show promise early often drop out and join the growing population of restless youth. Thus, jobs go unfilled and youth are left idle. In addition, young people are focused on securing employment in more traditional fields. With the focus on securing the existing and limited positions available, there is a lost opportunity for young people to create employment options for themselves by reacting to needs and solving problems that they see in their communities. Without an attempt to cultivate drive and practical management and problem solving skills in young Nigerians, it is not surprising that millions find it difficult to find or create meaningful employment.
Although the government has taken action to increase access to education and improve funding for public schools and universities, these solutions do not address problems with educational content and curricula. There is no practical focus in the system or an attempt to teach kids how to apply their knowledge, take action and lead. The Nigerian educational curriculum in its current state cannot guarantee a new generation of creative leaders. Thus, a new focus needs to be introduced into the educational system from primary school to university level - a focus that is practical, that can interact intimately with the recipients and thereby, prepare them to address current challenges and react to potentially life-changing opportunities.
Mathias believes that the primary purpose of education should be to enrich the individual and, by extension, all society. Thus, the best education is one that opens young minds to think critically, young hearts to embrace all even when they disagree, and young hands to be practical in all endeavors. He is helping to create a new generation of young problem-solvers and entrepreneurs by leveraging the existing structure of the education system and school communities.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Mathias is creating a new generation of creative young problem-solvers and entrepreneurs in order to combat high youth unemployment and youth idleness in Nigeria. Beginning with universities, Mathias is partnering with educational institutions to provide practical training to hundreds of students at a time and train lecturers to be monitors, mentors and future trainers of the entrepreneurship program. In order to create an enabling community environment and provide opportunities for practical leadership and entrepreneurial experience, Mathias partners with community leaders and organizations to identify needs and collaborate with students to find solutions. He also uses these partnerships to identify and support physically disabled and at-risk youth at realizing their own dreams, obtaining the training and mentorship and seizing leadership opportunities to serve their communities.
Since 2012, Mathias has trained almost 6000 students in four northern states. Mathias is looking to expand his university level program to all institutions. He is institutionalizing the creation of entrepreneurial centers at these universities- so far, three schools he works with have established these centers. Mathias is now developing educational policy that will embed this entrepreneurial focus in all schools. He is currently building consensus on a bill that will effectively do this as state level. He is currently developing a curriculum to train teachers to implement his program and train students, thereby allowing the program to sustain itself further. At a secondary school level, he is creating enterprise clubs to offer a similar practical leadership experience to even younger kids. Mathias is looking to expand to the south of Nigeria and has received interest in his work from two other West African states.