Youth unemployment is a huge problem in Nigeria. Half of the country’s population is under the age of 30, and the public sector cannot absorb the huge number of people in need of work.
In 2015, Tearfund Nigeria started working with a group of young people to set up
the Jos Green Centre. This is a centre for eco-entrepreneurship – that is, businesses
based on eco issues, renewable energy or anything that is environmentally friendly. Seventy people are now part of the Jos Green Centre youth movement, and similar centres have been started in each geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
When young people arrive at the Jos Green Centre they are taken through a Micah Challenge resource called Live Justly. ‘This introduces them to the biblical basis for what they are doing and the importance of advocacy and justice,’ says Ben Osawe, Tearfund’s Advocacy Manager for Nigeria. ‘It helps shape their values. Because it’s not just about jobs; we want to have value-driven youths who enable society to function the way it should. Even before they finish the Live justly course, the young people get inspired.’
Ulan Matta was waiting to start a summer job and had serious doubts about taking the course at first. She only reluctantly joined after being invited by a friend.
‘There was nothing in me that wanted to take ten weeks, going to a garden to study a book, no matter what it promised,’ says Ulan.
But she was in for a surprise. ‘It turned out to be the best ten weeks of my life so far. I discovered new ways to live justly and generously, and not to be a selfish glutton. I found I could stretch myself so much more and in multiple directions, all in accordance with the word of God.
‘Therefore, come rain or sunshine, for those ten weeks I showed up eager to learn. It was almost like for the first time in my life I was insatiable for knowledge and direction.’
Ulan was not the only one. ‘Like me, the many young people who came to the garden shared stories. Not only of being marginalised, feeling helpless and broken, but of seeing how the study has changed their perspectives towards using their own lives and abilities to make a difference. We saw we could lift up the burdens in hearts, as well as meet the needs of our community.’
Fwangmun Oscar Danladi, a deputy team leader at the Jos Green Centre, is also surprised by the impact of the centres. He says he never imagined that in such a short span of time such an inspiring youth movement could have emerged.
He compares Tearfund’s commitment to the youths in Jos to Jesus’ illustration of the kingdom of God and the tiny mustard seed. The seed will eventually grow into a big tree and provide shelter and shade.
‘Their engagement with us is proof that it is possible to shape generations of young people in movement building,’ says Fwangmun. ‘We enable them to envision an alternative narrative and equip them with the capacity to engage together to deliver that narrative.’
The young people have made objects such as bangles from plastic waste products. And there are plans to train them in project cycle management and proposal writing so they can start their own enterprises.
Fwangmun says: ‘I can boldly say that with this emerging initiative, guided perspective, and the unveiling of the potential within us, there is hope for Nigeria.’
Read more about the Jos Green Centre in issue 103 of Footsteps magazine, which is on the theme of entrepreneurship.