After years of working to support children in the UK both emotionally and academically, by encouraging them to stay in school, Yomi wanted to use his skills and expertise to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children living in his homeland too.
Yomi knew that in his native Nigeria, very few children with disabilities attend primary or secondary school and the provision and resources required to teach children with special educational needs, are often scarce.
Harnessing the passion and knowledge of like-minded professionals within the Nigerian diaspora, Yomi set up an organisation, called Development Impact for Nigeria (DIFN), to address the educational and health challenges facing young people in Nigeria.
In 2000, Yomi secured funding for DIFN from Comic Relief’s Common Ground Initiative (CGI), which is co-funded by the Department for International Development (DFID). The CGI works with African diaspora organisations in the UK, which are run by people of African heritage with strong emotional, cultural and political links to their countries of origin.
DIFN works to identity ostracised and vulnerable children – particularly those with disabilities – in Lagos, who are struggling to progress in school. The organisation researches how access to education for these children can be improved and also runs after- school clubs and special training courses, to give children the chance to reach their full potential.
In Nigeria, the formal introduction of Universal Basic Education was a significant achievement in getting primary-aged children into education and increasing their levels of literacy.
However, in the Lagos suburb of Ipaja, DIFN found pockets of low-income communities where children were still struggling to progress. State schools were far away, overcrowded and lacked the necessary specialist provision for children with disabilities.
Since its creation, DIFN has been making incredible strides in improving access to education for underprivileged groups, including campaigning for better enrolment for girls, providing bursaries to enable the poorest children to go to school and developing youth leadership initiatives.
With Comic Relief’s Common Ground Initiative, DIFN are now researching further ways to provide education for children with disabilities.
Yomi now divides his time between Nigeria and the UK, encouraging British Nigerians to come to Ipaja and help at DIFN.
The support from the Nigerian diaspora community and funding from the Common Ground Initiative, has been fundamental to DIFN’s success. British professionals and young people routinely arrive in the city to undertake short placements with DIFN, in ICT or teaching training.
Yomi says: ‘It’s great to see the younger generation of Africans in the UK, continuing to contribute to Africa’s development. It’s a sign of a real success when development-minded and passionate professionals come together to bring about changes in disadvantaged young people’s lives in Nigeria.’
As pioneers in universal education, Yomi can rest assured that DIFN’s work has meaning. He said: ‘I’ve seen poverty in the UK and in Nigeria. I know how much education can transform young people’s lives so I know that I’m doing something important.’