#Impact&CommunitySeries: “In the next 5 years, I would through The Innovative Child Network raise 5,000 children to be well proficient in reading & mathematics and equipped with the skills to contribute to sustainable development” – Blessing Akpan, Google Certified Educator, Social entrepreneur & Child Education Advocate.

Blessing Akpan is a 22-year old Google certified educator, and social entrepreneur acting and advocating for quality education, for every child.  

Passionate about Programming and coding, Blessing acts as a Scratch educator and Technovation student mentor, introducing and coaching children and teenagers to leverage technology to solve real world problems. 

As a youth advocate for Quality Education, Blessing is renowned for championing online and offline campaigns around themes of educational development such as Inclusive Education and literacy to positively Impact our community and wider world. Through her initiative, The Innovative Child Network, Blessing ensures that quality learning is accessible to every child by offering skill-based learning opportunities to tackle the global learning crisis and the learning poverty.  

She envisions a system where quality education is accessible to every citizen and becomes the ship on which sustainable development is built. Hence, her #1Child1Book campaign in 2019 which has further strengthened her capacity as well as improved literacy ability of over 200 children in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria and counting.  

Also passionate about Gender equality and female leadership, She Leads Women Will Uyo, a global Google Brand & Reputation initiative focused on creating economic opportunity for women everywhere, so that they can grow and succeed. Helping women make the most technology to build skills, get inspired and connect with each other through training and thought leadership. 

Blessing is a fellow of the Policy Alert’s Emerging Voices Program, Harmattan Cohort 2018, 2019 Learners’ Voice of World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), African Young Leader (class of 2020) of Teennation and also Scholar at Youth-In-Education Mentoring academy as well as a Telemachus Youth (2020 cohort) of the Global Thinkers Forum. Blessing is passionate about providing solutions to issues in her community through education, leadership and capacity building. The Impact & Community series thrives at spotlighting trailblazers like Blessing Akpan, scroll down to read our chat with her.

 

A brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Blessing Akpan, a Google Certified Educator and Social entrepreneur acting and advocating for Quality Education, for every child.

I’m a 200level student studying English Education at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Passionate about programming and coding, I enlighten and immerse kids in technology with the Scratch programming platform and Resource tools. I also serve as a student Mentor for Technovation. In this role, I train and support young girls from secondary schools to solve real-world problems in local and global communities using technology.

Consequently, I am the founder of The Innovative Child Network, a platform that provides a skill-based learning opportunity to the next generation of innovative thinkers and creators, providing training, accessibility to mentors and visibility to boost and accelerate their growth.

To add to that, being passionate about gender equality and female leadership, I lead Women Will Uyo, a Google initiative focused on creating economic opportunity for women everywhere, so that they can grow and succeed. Helping women make the most technology to build skills, get inspired and connect with each other through training and thought leadership.

I am a fellow of Emerging Voices of program, Policy Alert, Learners’ Voice of World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), and African Young Leader of Teennation. Also Scholar, Youth-In-Education Mentoring academy as well as a Telemachus Youth of the Global Thinkers Forum.

I am passionate about providing solutions to issues in her community through education, leadership and capacity building.

 

You’re an advocate for Quality Education for Sustainable Development, Why did you choose this path?  

As a young person born and raised in a typical low-income background in Nigeria with limited learning opportunities, I came to face a lot of educational challenges that have overtime contributed immensely in shaping my academic interests and professional/Community engagements over the last few years.

Knowing well the significance of quality education, especially for disadvantaged children from low-income families and communities, I decided to challenge the status quo. I navigated through my primary and secondary education with the support of my family and teachers who saw potential in me. Putting together these experiences, I realized that there is little or nothing a child who is not adequately educated could do for the community. Not every child would have the support I had. And realizing the power young people have in tackling local and global challenges, I knew my voice was needed and since it’s a cause close to my heart, I had to take it up for every child.

 

 Measured impact and achievements?

Volunteerism Is what I love, and so this was where I begun working with some notable organizations; such as, Widows and Orphans Empowerment Organization (WEWE) from 2017 to 2018, SMART Gang throughout 2019 and Selfless for Africa from 2018 till date. As a volunteer with WEWE, I learnt so much about child protection and safeguarding and that was where my foundation was laid.

In the past 3 years of my involvement in community service, I have contributed in giving a better life to 2,000 children in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. In 2019, I began the 1Child 1Book campaign which has seen to the provision of educational materials to 250 children from community schools and enrolling 2 kids in school. I also partnered with Save Our Child’s Tomorrow Foundation to organize and donate over 250 books to primary school children in Ebonyi state.

I have also embarked on scratch programming for children between the ages of 6 to 12 years and for 2 years now, I have trained 500 children. In 2019, I founded The Innovative Child network which was birthed with the passion of seeing to it that children gain the necessary skill-based learning they need. For six (6) months now, we have carried out inclusive and quality straining for children in community schools and for our first batch of training, we graduated 54 children who learned different skills which included; photography, Scratch Programming, Sign language, and Public Speaking.

Being recognized as one of the youth-in-education actors in Nigeria, I was selected as a Learners’ Voice a Program of WISE, to attend the 2019 World Innovation Summit for Education which took place in Doha, Qatar.  

Motivation and Inspiration  

My inspiration comes from children I see everywhere, especially in Nigeria doing amazing things. Every day I see and read news about children who are harnessing their potentials, who are receiving encouragement and great coach from their parents to be the best. I am inspired to believe that every child can just want they want to be with the right training and coach. Talk about the 10 years old Tech genius, Joshua Agboola, the 7 years old Ariyike who is the youngest Professional Photographer in Africa, Munachi, who is the 12 years old author, the list is endless. As a matter of fact, The motivation and inspiration derived from the everyday life of a typical African child, Inspired my first published children’s Literature; Tale By The Lagoon, published in May 2019.

Additionally, everyday I find myself strong and breathing, I am reminded that there is so much I still need to do. And every time I get thumbs up from people especially those I consider mentors, it fuels up my passion and creates a headway.

Challenges and Lessons learned

The lessons I have learned over the course of my 3 years in community service and educational development is never to underestimate myself. Over the years, I had prevented myself from doing a lot of things, taking important decisions because I felt I would not get it right. But I came to realize I was wrong. I have learnt to trust my intuition, take responsibility for my actions and be bold enough to do it afraid.

Although I sometimes face challenges like lack of resources, overwhelming moments, juxtaposing my work with studies, etc, but I have to learn to leverage productively on my network and delegate where need be.

 

Memorable moments and highlights in the course of your work?

Every moment in the course of my work has been a memorable one for me. Seeing the kids excitedly running to welcome myself and my team each day we go for a training, seeing the excitement in the face of a disabled kid who knows that he is not left behind in learning just because he has disabilities but rather included and given the right training to be able to learn with others. All of these give me joy and the happy faces stick in my memory for a very long time.

This brings me to the assurance that making education inclusive, equitable and quality is possible if only all of us take just a step. Being able to give hope to someone is everything and each time I look at the faces of our children and I see the smiles and joy, I see this hope radiate and it is incomparable.

 

What is most fulfilling about the impact you make?

Each moment I wake up to realize every activity I take part in contributes to reducing the 617 million number of children who lack proficiency worldwide, I feel encouraged. And to know that every child who has been sensitized and empowered is an addition to a brighter future of the country and nation at large is a joy to me.

Another one, I’ve got lots of messages from people I don’t know to tell me how my work has inspired them to take action in their communities. This is more than fulfilling for me.

With how far you’ve come, and your success, what achievements do you hope for in the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years, I would through The Innovative Child Network raise 5,000 children to be well proficient in reading and mathematics as well as equipped with the skills to contribute to sustainable development.

Can you share briefly, some women you consider mentors?

In the course of my journey, I have had a lot of women who have been a great inspiration to me. In no particular order, I would like to share a little about Ms. Mmanti Umoh. Ms. Mmanti is the Executive Director of Teennation and Lead Consultant, The PurplePatch Consult. She is one woman that has refused to allow her physical disabilities to stop her from who she wishes to be and what she wants to achieve. She leverages her network to bring social change to the community.

Ms. Amanda Obidike. She is my mentor at the Global Thinkers Forum, Founder of STEMi Makers Africa and an amazing woman in tech. I have learned so much about resilience from her. And being under her mentorship gives me strength and her belief in me alone is a motivation everyday.

I also want to share about Ms. Grace Ihejiamaizu, Founder of Ikapture Network and opportunity Desk. I met her in 2018 during my fellowship program with Policy Alert where she gifted her book – Going Global with Opportunities. Every opportunity to listen to her talk is a blessing to me. Her life and words propel me everyday to greatness.

And finally Ms. Pukhraj Ranjan. She is an educator and innovator from India but lives in Finland. She works with HundrED organization to share great stories of initiatives promoting k-12 education. She inspires me in a lot of ways when it comes to bringing innovation in the EduTech industry.

Do you have a life philosophy, personal mantra perhaps that keeps you steady when the going gets tough?

Whenever I feel overwhelmed or perhaps run into difficulties capable of making me turn back, I hold firm to the word in Philippians 4: 13, ‘’I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’’.

 

The LLA Grassroot Series is a monthly interview series that highlights the achievements and journey of African female who has demonstrated exemplary initiative at the grassroots level.

The vision is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through impact at the community level.

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.

If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things at the grassroots level, email lead@leadingladiesafrica.org, and she could possibly be featured.

 

 

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