By: GELE AGBAI
As she embarked on the seven-hour journey on road from Owerri, Imo State to Ondo State on Sunday, August 21, to attend the 2022 Bemore Summer Boot Camp held at Mabest Academy, Akure, Jessica Chizitere Amadi was full of expectations.
But the teenager got more than she bargained for. The damsel from Emeabiam Community in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State said certain things she thought were impossible to her have ceased being mysteries to her after undergoing the two-week intensive training at the boot camp.
Today, she could design websites, do animation, install solar panels and develop apps to solve some specific human needs.
The bespectacled girl added that she equally learnt teamwork even with strangers. Above all, she learnt how to speak confidently before a crowd without having stage fright.
This story of the amazing transformation is not Jessica-specific. It’s the common story of the other 387 girls who also participated in the fifth edition of the boot camp. The annual boot camp is the flagship programme of Bemore Empowered Girls Foundation, founded by Aranbirin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, wife of the Ondo State governor, Arankurin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
For Olorunlana Omolara, a Junior Secondary School JSS2 student of Demonstration Secondary School and Erejuwa Ayomide, a Senior Secondary 1 student of Police Secondary School, Akure, it is also the same story of how impactful the boot camp is.
Both were at the adire exhibition stand on Saturday, September 3 during the closing/graduation ceremony of this year’s edition of the boot camp held at the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA, to showcase the adire which they collaborated to produce during the programme.
Omolara and Erejuwa said they also learnt computer programming and solar system installation as well as acquired skills in other areas like make-up, bead-making, fashion designing and production of re-useable sanitary pads.
Erejuwa added that she soon start her own business and train other girls. They were effusive in their thanks to Mrs. Akeredolu.
Little wonder therefore that the expansive main auditorium of FUTA was filled to the brim by elated parents and relations as well as dignitaries from all walks of life who thronged the place to witness the graduation ceremony of the 2022 Bemore Summer Boot Camp.
During the boot camp, teenage girls are trained in STEM-E (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics-Entrepreneurship).
Since the commencement of the programme in 2017, no fewer than 2,000 girls had been trained in Information Communication Technology (ICT) as well as solar panel development and installation. The girls were also inculcated with other life-enhancing skills such as bead-making, cake-making, make-up, making of re-useable sanitary pads, fashion-designing, headgear-tying and production of liquid soap/detergent.
The boot camps also teach the teenage girls the art of public-speaking and confidence-building which ensures that the girls who come to the camp timid leave bold and assertive to defend themselves and their rights.
Obviously, Bemore Summer Boot Camp is truly a university of life. Dancing, music composition and presentation, drawing and self-defense sport like taekwondo as well as yoga are also part of the curriculum during the programme.
Of the 388 young damsels that participated in this year’s boot camp, eight were physically-challenged but their physical defect was no drawback to imbibing the nitty-gritty of the training. Apart from its inclusiveness, this year’s edition helped to show that STEM-E could also be communicated or taught through sign language. Certainly, the phobia which hitherto gripped girls concerning STEM-E is also gone. Bemore has proven too that STEM-E is no longer the exclusive preserve of the men/boys.
Equally, the fear of sustainability of the programme after the tenure of the incumbent administration at Alagbaka Government House, Akure was also allayed this year following the ground-breaking ceremony of its permanent site performed on August 29 at Emure-Ila, near Owo by the founder.
And with sponsors like Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim, Senator Olabode Olajumoke and the traditional ruler of Oke-Ila Community, Oba Adedokun Abolarin as well as Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) assuring of continued sponsorship and partnership, the project will continue to see the light of the day.
To give fillip to the development of the permanent site in no distant time, Dr. Ibrahim who chaired the closing/graduation ceremony set the ball rolling by doling out a princely sum of N10million towards the realization of the project. He also pledged to make more donations, predicting that the next closing/graduation ceremony will hold at Bemore’s own facility.
The Chairman of Global Feet, who holds nine university degrees and whose life’s dream is to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations charged the graduands to give themselves wholly to education and self-improvement, stating that the contemporary world is very competitive.
Dr. Ibrahim also listed empathy, integrity and courage as qualities which the girls must imbibe and exhibit to help them navigate successfully through life.
He lauded the Ondo State first lady for leveraging on her contacts to run the programme.
He said he would be glad if the first lady decides to run a similar programme for boys, pledging to sponsor the first 100 boys to the programme if mounted. Chairman of the opening ceremony, Chief Olushola Oke had made similar appeal to Mrs. Akeredolu to look in the direction of the boys so that they won’t become scared of the emerging army of techy girls.
More commendations for the founder came from the Minister of Science and Technology, Senator Mamora Olorunimbe, the founder’s husband, Governor Akeredolu, who was represented at the occasion by his deputy, Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa; Commissioner for Education, Ondo State, Pastor Olufemi Agagu and Mrs. Chinelo Bally, who taught the girls fashion designing at the boot camp.
According to Senator Olorunimbe, Mrs. Akeredolu has lit the candle and placed it on the table for the girls to find the way to personal development and fulfillment as well as societal well being. He said it was because of the good works of Her Excellency that he had to make efforts to be physically present at the graduation ceremony.
Also speaking, Mrs. Bally noted that the initiator of the programme has given the girls the audacity to dream big and urged them to make decisions that would drive them forward and upward.
Earlier, the founder, Mrs. Akeredolu had charged the girls to utilize the skills acquired from the boot camp to do exploits in the world. She also urged them to always defend women and girls against gender-based violence and to shun playing the second fiddle role because they are females.
She told them that the training which they received in taekwondo was for self-defence, which they should deploy against randy men, should they attempt to take advantage of them. Mrs. Akeredolu has consistently asserted that nobody could mess up with her girls. The Ondo First Lady told the girls that as special breed without greed, they should give back to the society.
Hear her; “My dear techy girls, I want you to take home the fact that the ‘the future is female’. Gone are the days you would be made to play the second fiddle role because you are a girl.
“You are too talented and endowed to be ‘materials for exports’. Bemore Girls are not cheap! You must go ahead and do rare exploits”.
She further charged them to always remember the trainings they received, especially Taekwondo for self defence against randy men, as she assured them of government’s protection against all forms of abuse through the VAPP Law which they’re already aware of its existence.
“All you need do is, speak up! Whenever that randy guy comes close, remember that grandma gave you a toll-free line to dial to report and trust that we will be there to rescue and defend you”, she added.
She enjoined them to be positive-minded in their journey to the world, saying that leadership was gender-neutral, hence, they shouldn’t allow anyone to discourage them in pursuing their visions and aspirations.
“You can achieve whatever your minds can conceive if you believe. There is nothing stopping you. Remember too, that as a woman, you can become anything and can belong anywhere, including heads of institutions and government. And I dare say to you, my techy girls, that no height is too high for you to reach” , she said.
Obviously the Ondo first lady is very passionate about the welfare of the girl-child. And she is doing all within her power to ensure the girls take their rightful place in all fields of human endeavour.
According to her media aide, Rowland Onyeukwu, nothing excites the first lady like seeing that the Bemore girls are comfortable during camp and doing well thereafter.
There were dance presentation, art exhibition, taekwando display, prizes for the girls whose art works were on display and presentation of laptops, solar system and certificates to the girls.
As guests exit from the auditorium after the ceremony, all were in agreement that the boot camp was worth sustaining.