Tunde Ekpekurede was driving through the suburbs of Ketu in Lagos in early February 2016 and observing indigent children hawking wares that were not up to N1,000 ($2.00) for livelihood. As he sat in his car he reasoned how these kids could have a changed destiny. If these kids came from economically disadvantaged homes and they themselves lacked the wherewithal to affect any change in their lives, are they perpetually abandoned to a life of poverty generation after generation?
As he pondered on this question a sudden thought flashed through his mind – WHY NOT USE THE SAME MATERIAL YOU USED IN INSTRUCTING AFFLUENT KIDS ON LEADERSHIP & ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN VICTORIA ISLAND TO CHANGE THE DESTINIES OF THESE CHILDREN? That flash of inspiration suddenly became a passion and he immediately began to talk to people and find the knowledge on how to BREAK THE CYCLE OF POVERTY IN FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES OF ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN.
In the early nineties, Engr. Tunde & Dr. Mrs Faith Ekpekurede began organizing motivational seminars in Sapele, Delta State for youths of the town. Although living in Lagos at this time, they will travel to Sapele from time to time to organize these seminars. Sapele was home to Tunde Ekpekurede for most of his formative years and it is a city that he has come to love, but a majority of the youths he saw growing up were idle and lacked ambition. As a teenager and undergraduate at the University of Benin in the eighties, Tunde was burdened for these youths and wanted to make a difference. It was this burning passion that brought him to the town from time to time after his marriage in 1994.
By the late nineties, Tunde and his wife, Faith have chosen to midwife a group of economically disadvantaged football passionate youths in Sapele into a football club named EKPEKUREDE FOOTBALL CLUB. Although they continued to live and work in Lagos, they appointed a management team for the club and a coach. The club participated in a number of local football competitions in Sapele and by early 2000s was the number one team in town. The club continued to push its boundaries and in 2007 became the number 1 club in Delta State after winning the State Division one cup sponsored by Ecobank and will later that year represent Delta State in the National competition in Osogbo, Osun State.
After completing an MBA in 2004 in Europe, Tunde Ekpekurede consulted for the European Union for 2 years in the Republic of Ireland on helping long-term unemployed Europeans back to work. Returning to Nigeria in 2008, he established a job empowerment school – Learning4Living where he trained over 2000 unemployed graduates in Warri and Lagos between 2010 and 2015.
Together with a classmate, Engr. Joseph Otejere, Tunde Ekpekurede started training preteens, teens and young adults’ entrepreneurial education after returning from a visit to the African Leadership Academy, Johannesburg, South Africa in 2012.
In early 2013, Tunde & his wife Faith established a model Skill acquisition centres in their village, Adeje to train adults in relevant skills that can help graduates of the program establish their own business. The residential free boarding school, trained over a thousand adults from all over Nigeria in various skills including ICT, GSM repairs, Cake baking, Fashion Design, Make Over, Fashion accessories and organized free adult literacy classes.
The foundation launched a graduate skill acquisition program in 2014, but the family could not afford the huge cost of running the program and gave it up after running it for only six months.
The Tunde Ekpekurede Foundation (TEF) was formally incorporated in 2014 as a registered trustee with the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to amongst other things carry out activities that:
Alleviate economic poverty
Empower, inspire and motivate the citizenry
Since incorporation, TEF has undertaken various economic empowerment programs and nearly 2000 persons, mainly adults have been impacted by the activities of the foundation. Between August and December 2016, TEF carried out a number of pilot studies on empowerment of Children under the age of 15. These pilot activities were intended to determine which economic activities will have the highest returns on a naira invested in poverty alleviation activities. In early 2017, TEF resolved to focus 95% of its resources and energies in the lives of economically disadvantaged children under the age of 15.
This decision was greatly influenced by extensive research work carried out by renowned economists and development experts which allude to the fact that the most effective interventions are those carried out at the initial stages of development. Successful outcomes for humans is largely about brain wiring, and much of the foundational wiring for successful outcomes in life is already accomplished by the time a child is 12 years old. Harvard professor Jack Shonkoff explains the importance of good circuitry formation in the formative years; in his words “Brains are built over time. At birth they already have most of their cells, but very little of the circuitry is built……. The circuits come in on a very strict schedule and how these circuits get established is highly influenced by experience. It never goes back to rewire; if it builds healthy circuits, you are all set, but any faults are built in for life”. To quote Dr. Frederick Douglas, “It is easier to build strong children that to repair broken men”.
UNICEF says that Nigeria’s exploding population has resulted in poor public primary and junior secondary education, inadequate to guarantee the economic future of its citizens; yet education and quality primary education for that matter, remains the foundation of economic prosperity for any nation. With over 20 million children either out of school in Nigeria or in schools without the wherewithal to lift kids out of poverty, this is a huge challenge for Nigeria both now and in generations to come.
Rising disparity in educational opportunities between well to do parents and economically disadvantaged families, and those between urban and rural areas and those between well-funded private educational institutions and poorly funded community and Government institutions will remain a challenge for years to come unless this disparity is addressed.
Since focusing on economically disadvantaged kids, TEF has trained and supported over 200 kids from various public and private schools.
The core needs the organization is striving to meet is that of RAISING ASPIRATIONS of economically disadvantaged kids. Studies have shown that a great number of kids who drop out of school do so because of a lack of motivation which is undergirded by very low aspiration. Psychologically speaking, one’s attainment in life bears a direct correlation with the force with which one is thrust into life. The distance travelled by an archer’s arrow is directly proportional to the initial force applied. Many kids do not travel far in life because of the lack of aspiration. Their mental circuitry lacks the wherewithal to persevere. The failure to persevere stems from insufficient GOAL to live for. For this reason, many drop out of school or join altogether evil associations and destroy their destiny.
Legendary Educationist and former secretary for Education under President Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, while speaking on the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT before Congress has this to say:
“Everyone I talk to really shares my sense of urgency that we have to do better for our children. We’re fighting for our country here.”
Arne Duncan is known to say repeatedly that “College Education remains the only ticket to economic prosperity in America” and “a good early child education is the foundation”.
“College Education remains the only ticket to economic prosperity in America”
“a good early child education is the foundation”.
In fighting for children, we are fighting for our Country.
Education remains one of the most potent forces for the eradication of poverty; but amongst children of poor families where children are sent to ramshackle schools due to poor Government funding, the quality is barely able to cause a shift in the lives of these children. Even where the quality of education is such that should ordinarily result in a change of mental circuitry, children from poor families have additional non-cognitive behaviours to contend with which could make them drop out of school, or where they continue, they do so with very poor self-image that impedes their ability to compete with children from rich homes.
Generally speaking, a majority of children from very poor families are likely to suffer from one or more of the non-cognitive behavioural traits below:
Self-efficacy – Belief in one’s own ability
Need for achievement – Desire to do well
Risk taking – Predisposition towards risky alternatives
Social Orientation – Ability to make useful connections
Persistence – Ability to continue despite setbacks
Motivating – Ability to inspire or stimulate subordinates
Pro – activity – Willingness to take action
Creativity – Ability to generate many alternatives
TEF core intervention aims to primarily focus on these non-cognitive skills that impede healthy development. Like vitamin supplements, TEF will work with economically disadvantaged kids to fortify them with the necessary vitamins for life by focusing primarily on the non-cognitive skills above.
Foundations and Charity Organizations with a mission to raise the aspirations of economically disadvantaged kids abound all over the world with several of these in Europe and the Americas. In the UK, Hulls Children University http://www.hullchildrensuniversity.com is one of the several organizations working to raise the aspirations of Kids. On its website, the organization has this to say about its activities –
“We are a local children’s charity that has been established for the past 19 years. Our mission is to raise the aspirations of young people in Hull by building their confidence with our unique learning experiences. Hull has the highest percentage of unemployment in the country and we want to change this by creating a better future for our children and a better future for Hull. Currently, over 16,000 children in our city are living in poverty with 84% of these children coming from out of work households”.
Tunde Ekpekurede is an entrepreneur by nature with a strong “can do” personality and have had the opportunity of starting two companies and building them from the ground up. His work experience in Nigeria, Ireland and the UK has exposed him to a great deal of culture issues. In 1999, Tunde Ekpekurede organized a football club (Ekpekurede Football Club) with underprivileged youths in Sapele, Delta State Nigeria. That club went on to win the Delta State Division one cup sponsored by Ecobank in 2007 and later that year represented Delta State at the National Football Competition, with some of his club players now playing football at the international level. In 2010, He began organizing empowerment classes for unemployed graduates, teenage entrepreneurship classes and Skill acquisition classes. Since 2010, over a thousand persons have benefited from his foundation programs.