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Isoken community project inspires 100 Lagos students on enterprise culture devp

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…25,000 children to be impacted nationwide by 2030

Thursday, September 15, 2022. The Executive Director of and Prime-mover at Grooming People for Better Livelihood Centre, – a microfinance institution – Mrs. Isoken Patricia Nwabunka, has through her Isoken Community Project, a brainchild of the Isoken Nwabunka Foundation, inspired over 100 pupils in Lagos on the necessity of developing an enterprise culture at a young age.

  The students – all in Senior Secondary School 3  at Ebute Elefun Senior High School, Lagos Island – are the first batch of a projected 15,000 children that the foundation, in collaboration various partners including the Lagos State Government, seeks to mentor by 2025, and 25,000 children to be impacted by 2030 around the country.

  At a high-powered ceremony in the school hall, attended by top Lagos State Government officials among others, Mrs. Nwabunka captivated the students with her grass-to-grace story as told in the 138 pages of her recently launched autobiography, Isoken.

  Reading from the book, she shared excerpts of the riveting and inspirational story of her humble beginnings in Benin City and how an enterprise culture helped her turnaround the odds later in life.

  Born the daughter of a medical doctor father, Dr. Efemwenkeankean Yellow Igbinigie and a businesswoman mother,   Enegbegbana Stella Igbinigie, tragedy befell Nwabunka when her father died while she was eight and her mom became blind.

  She shared how she had to resort to hawking in Benin City to feed her mother, and then continued hawking in Lagos where – without really knowing anyone – she relocated as a teenager.

  She explained that her vocation – hawking – became her saving grace and a stepping stone in Lagos for her to move up the ladder, adding that through sheer hard work, perseverance and careful planning, she reinvested her profit and moved from hawking detergent to selling stationery and printing supplies, vending fire extinguishers, setting up a fashion business, running a beauty and wellness salon, and –incredibly –selling motor spare parts!

  “Today, I am not only a master’s degree holder, I am the Executive Director of one of Nigeria’s foremost microfinance institutions – Grooming Centre – having gone through various tutoring both locally and internationally on the essentials and the workings of business enterprise,” Mrs. Nwabunka said, adding that Grooming Centre started in 2006 with one branch but now has over 600 branches across the country.

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  She explained that this motivated her to share her experience so that young people could borrow a leaf and chart their path to success.

  Nwabunka said: “I have often said that I cannot allow this knowledge and experience that I have gained to go to waste. I need to be able to pass this down to younger ones so that as they advance in life, they would be able to brace themselves for entrepreneurial endeavour and success.

  For this reason, I have written a book. It is simply entitled, Isoken – my first name. It is my life story from rags to riches. I am simply saying that if I can make it in life, you also will.”

  She noted that some of the students may have already chosen their career paths, but advised that they still need to arm themselves with basic life skills, such as vocational skills picked up at a young age, necessary to survive in the real world.

  “The truth is that as you enter into adulthood and begin to journey Into a world where you must struggle for necessities of life unless you are armed with such skills, you will find life very difficult to handle.

  “My mission is to introduce you to a community of young men and women who are ready to brace the challenges of life by preparing their minds for self-sustenance through enterprise; so that no matter the circumstance you find yourself in, you will not despair. Instead, you will kick in that entrepreneurial spirit that has been imbibed in you.

  “I am a living testimony of someone who was introduced to the rigours of a hard life, right from when I lost my father at the age of nine. My mother taught me to fend for myself by sending me into the streets to hawk. Today, child hawking has been made illegal.

That, notwithstanding, I learnt from that very early stage in life to be entrepreneurially minded. I am grateful to my mother for that,” Nwabunka said.

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  She urged the children not to develop a legitimate side hustle, to never give up, even if they fail at first or if they are laughed at or discouraged, saying these are stepping stones to success.

  Nwabunka unveiled an essay competition for the students, from which they can win useful prizes, including tablets.

  The Isoken Community Project Foundation also gifted the students 100 copies of Isoken.

  One of the project’s coordinators, Mr. Nkanu Egbe, who is also publisher/editor of the Lagos Metropolitan newspaper, shed light on the competition.

  Egbe said the students are required to write an essay of not more than 800 words and publish the same on social media.

  He explained that the students were required to read Nwabunka’s autobiography, Isoken, first and draw parallels from it about  their own lives. They are then expected to write an essay on their own life stories, with reference to Isoken.

  The essay title is ‘My life and Isoken’ and the deadline for submission is September 29, 2022. They must, thus, read the book first,” Egbe said.

  He advised the students to follow the foundation on Instagram: isokencommunity; Facebook: isokencommunity; Twitter: isokencommunity or to contact it at info@isoken.org

  Dr. Olu Funke Oyetola, Tutor-General/Permanent Secretary, Education District 3, expressed delight at Isoken Community   Project Foundation’s intervention in helping to build better students, saying it is an example of the public-private partnership canvassed by the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration as part of his education transformation agenda.

  Oyetola said: “I am so excited about this programme. In Lagos State, it is inclusive education, meaning all children of school age are always in school, we don’t discriminate. We leverage partnerships with the public sector for the development of education in Lagos State.

  “Education is a huge investment and government alone cannot do it all. So, when we see the private sector coming to join us for the development of our schools, we are always very happy about it.”

  Senior Special Assistant to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Education, Ms. Adetola Salau, and a major facilitator of the project expressed optimism that it would go a long way to developing and empowering the mindset of students.

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  Salau said: “I got intimated about the programme here at Ebute Elefun in August and immediately I was intrigued because it is always important for the children to have autobiographies of people who have surmounted a lot of adversity. A lot of us find elements in stories like that because there are things in there that resonate with us: being resilient, being driven, making it and surmounting all those odds and still being successful.

  “When I heard the story of the author, I knew that a lot of our children in our public schools would identify and relate with her. So, I said, yes, this is something I would love to be introduced to in our schools. Of course, we can’t go to every school, we had to start somewhere.

I selected this school because they’ve been through a lot of challenges, yet they are resilient; they produce great results in WASSCE year after year. They are determined and driven; and their principal career a lot about them and pours his best into them. I knew this was the perfect setting for us to have a pilot programme.

  “We’re excited about how this mentorship will groom our children’s mindset so they can continue on this path of excellence that they already have. I come in as a supportive element and I’ve brought in Lagos State to be the platform for our public schools to partake in this project where we are empowering and continuing to build upon the mindset of our students.”

  Mr. Ogunnaike Rasaki Owolabi, Principal of Ebute Elefun High School, commended the foundation and Nwabunka for the intervention and praised the author.

  Owolabi said: “She is a typical example of a stranger in Lagos with a lot of challenges, but she was able to overcome them and become someone in life. We wish to have a continuous relationship with the organisation. I will personally monitor my pupils to read the book and to learn from her experiences.”

  Head Boy Oladipupo Abdultawab and Head Girl, Ajanasi Teslimat also commended the foundation and pledged that their classmates would maximise the mentorship opportunity.

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