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Meet Jumai Abioye, the woman changing Africa one step at a time

Updated: Jun 18, 2018



Jumai's eyes sparkled when we asked what her dreams were for Africa, the ‘forgotten' continent. This incredible young woman wants to break down the impossible by implementing a tried and tested method across the continent. We were curious to know how a person was rising up to this challenge. Why are people afraid of making a change but she was not?


We wanted to share Jumai's dreams to the world because she had inspired us and can inspire others too. This is what the world needs.


Thinkers.

Hope.

Practical solutions.


Jumai has since been named as a World Changer by the University of Glasgow. You can also read their article here.



Innovative people like Jumai should be at the forefront of society as a reminder that the work is ongoing. That we have not forgotten the people who do not have the same ‘privilege’ as us. African youth need this hope for their education because they are aware of the high unemployment numbers and many other problems. There are only a limited group of African youths who can study abroad thanks to governmental and private scholarships. Many end up working for the same country.



We thought of a location which would break the formal setting of traditional interviews. Hence came in the idea of using The Science Museum in London. It worked like a charm on Jumai as soon as we walked through the ground floor lobby. She was also a natural with Bear and they got along pretty well.


"This is it, if we have things like this in Africa, it will attract more people to the world of science."

Her hands were waving excitedly in the air so we looked in her direction. A multi storey hall filled with fascinating objects showing how they work for us and beyond. The Science Museum in London once removed some windows to bring in a plane for a permanent exhibition. Science is real here.


So the two African women stood there for some time, reflecting on their surroundings. They remembered being little again. That era was a far cry from where they stood.




How were you,


as a child?


I do not remember much of my childhood, it usually comes back to me in bits and bobs. I was a boy, not a simple sentence these days. I am sandwiched between an elder brother and a younger brother, so I spent a lot of my childhood doing what African boys do. I still have many scars from those days. 



My favourite place was the toilet though, where I could hide and read books. That was the only place I could be without living the consistent life of chores my mum never stopped coming up with. I read everything I could find really, and this meant torn, fragmented books since there was no library. I read Jehovah’s witnesses tracts, newspapers and encyclopedias that were so old; the world had forgotten they existed.


"My biggest dream as a child was that I would be so rich that I could afford anything I wanted. I still remember some of the things I craved for that my parents couldn’t afford; three major ones are a blue clickable lunch box, a pair of brown Cortina shoes and Enid Blyton books."


As a teenager?


I was quite competitive, played hockey, read French news on the assembly ground in senior secondary school and represented the school in a number of competitions. I finished secondary school at 14 and got into University at 15, this means that most of my teenage years were spent in the university. I got shaped a lot in this period.


As an adult?


I am still getting used to the idea that I am an adult. Now I describe myself as a young African with a fierce passion for sustainable development and education in Africa. My past desires to be self-sufficient are now poured into my love for Africa.


I moved to the UK for my Master’s degree in 2013 and ended up staying back for my PhD. I sort of realized I was an African when I left Africa. I was just a Yoruba girl back in Nigeria, but when I stepped out, I saw a world of opportunities and realities, I and many of the people I knew had not been allowed.



Progressing in life meant I could see many of my colleagues whose lives were not moving forward, not because they were not trying but just because they just do not have a chance. The stories of all these people have become my story, and I could tell them all year long without stopping.


So my coming of age has been my evolution from a smart Nigerian girl who wanted change to a fierce African woman who creates change.



Your biggest achievement so far?


Initiative for the Advancement of Education in Africa, IAE Africa.


That’s it.


This tiny seed that started growing in my mind just about three months ago has grown so massive; it’s actually hard to believe it has come from me. Starting this organization is the height of my achievements; it’s a profound gift to be entrusted with being a part of the neo-revolution young Africans are charting across the continent.


I have been able to engage with many thousands of Africans from everywhere on our myEdu Africa Photo Contest. Seeing Africa through their eyes just shows a unity of realities that we actually share and I’m really excited about what the future holds and all we can create.



How would you define success?


Fulfilment.

I see success when I see a smile on someone’s face because of something I have done, influenced or helped with. Success for me is in the little daily triumphs. 



How do you handle criticism in life?


Tough. I can be quite self-critical so when it comes from outside, I consider it really important. Usually, I would retreat to my closest friends and trusted colleagues and ask them frankly if they think the criticism is true. I also try to get reflective moments to track my progress and tactics. 



Your favourite quote?


I am only one,

But still I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything,

I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

- Edward Everett Hale



We would like to thank Jumai for her time and to wish her all the best. You can contact Jumai or IAEAfrica to find out how you can support their work.

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