Building a Virtual Platform for Students, Corps Members and the Vulnerable

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Mr. Bimbo Daramola is a former House of Representatives member; for more than a decade now, he has been involved in assisting students and youth in various capacities. He was one of the pioneers of JAMB past questions’ papers, providing various educational materials and interventions. He carries with him the hallmark of an educationist. In this interview with Paul Obi and Bukola Eshun, Daramola bares his mind on new students and corps members discount card meant to cut cost for students among other issues

Challenges and Cost of Education in Nigeria

We have an estimated population of about 23 million young people; spread across universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, law schools and and other educational institutions. These young Nigerians are spread over these institutions and they have unfortunately fallen into the bracket of the most vulnerable category or demography in this country. They are the ones who feel the effect of pay cut, job losses and unemployment because if their parents cannot afford the cost of keeping them in school or if their parents don’t have jobs, it reality. Today, the realistic scenario is that we find students who eat once in a day. They do zero – zero – one; which means no breakfast, no lunch, only dinner or one – zero – zero, which means only breakfast, no lunch and no dinner. How do you expect a child who is in school to be at his best if he or she has not had three square meals in a day?

Relevance of the Card to Nigerian Students

People must connect to the fact that this is a necessity for me. It is a social safety initiative. Don’t forget that government is inclined to meeting the needs or ameliorating the challenges of his vulnerable class. Even the books that they need to buy, how many of them can really afford them? How many of them can afford groceries? If a corper is travelling to Lagos today, he or she is going to pay the same amount that somebody who earns an income pays. I don’t think that is conscionable. They depend on their parents who already are dealing with wages issues which in most cases in some states have not been paid. So this is an intervention social safety initiative that is supposed to connect with the reality of what is on campus that students face from education to transportation, entertainment and other aspect of our lives and to ensure that we can get a systemic structure in place where corporate partners that will go out of our ways to get to give discount to students corps. There is no way that somebody who is in school, for instance, and takes N10, 000 will say that the same amount that he was given last year will have the same purchasing power today. If you look at these dynamics the challenges may get worse; things will become more challenging in the days to come. So how do you help these vulnerable categories to deal with the challenges? We have brought this to say if you have N10, 000 and you are challenged with that N10, 000 that you have to spread over so many budget heads as a student, we will provide for you across the length and breadth of this country enough of corporate partners spread across various sectors and on the presentation of this card, once you get on that platform, our corporate partners will oblige you some percentage of those things that you need to get to reform focus in school.

…Addressing the Challenges of Profit Motive of Corporate Bodies

What we intend to do, beyond corporate social responsibility, is to give these cooperate bodies exposure to 10 million prospective customers and direct traffic in their direction so that they become the first choice or first choices for students purchases and for youth corpers expenditures. For instance, if you have a business in Wuse 2 and nobody knows about that business, now we are providing a platform of 10million people to know who is where and doing what. If you are going to spend money to get 10million customers you know how much you are going to spend on radios, television and social media.  But with this platform it is like an a platform that can connect this huge volume of people directly to those people who provide services that they need and so by doing this we would be reacting to the economic realities facing these students. We will be taking the pressure off their parents down. Today, every parent worries about students when they are returning to school. They worry that they don’t have enough money; how to ensure that their daughters don’t become prostitutes. But today, once this thing kicks off now, it becomes a safety net for any student that needs to get anything to go to the platform where to get discount either on books, mobile phones and as we speak we have about 430 partners spread across the country who are willing to give students from 0 per cent to 50 per cent and it is not about consumables alone. In terms of training, scheming them, in terms of workshop, a whole lot of organissations are saying that we need to also train these students for entrepreneurship. If a regular person comes in to be trained for entrepreneurship, he pays N10, 000. For students, there are organisations that have said that they will pay N5, 000 or N3, 000 and that’s some skill that will help the students to face their future.

The cost of the Cards and the Incentives

Well, an average bank issues a smart card like we are using for N1, 500 but to meet our administrative charges of getting the card they pay N1, 000. The card is one, a photo based ID for students to recognise that if you are not a student you cannot take advantage for the platform we are providing. Number two, it is going to be a payment platform that people can put money on it and spend and do internet purchases and all that. This card serves two purposes basically. One; to identify you as a student because you can only be on this platform when you complete your form from the Dean of Students Affairs. You cannot stroll in here to tell me you are a student and then get enlisted. No. The student has to be generated from the Dean of Student Affairs and Corpers also will have to be generated from their CDS. The truth of the matter is that people are also realistic of their own projections. If you have people making a margin of N5 than having to wait for 10 people buying for a margin of N10, it makes business sense. So this card comes in now to show that Kunle Ojo who is a student of the University of Ado-Ekiti is the valid person and his picture shows there and that he is the person that is supposed to be there and then the organisations providing the discount are also connected to that platform. Secondly, the card is also an alternative to shop; it is an alternative to your ATM card that is why it is a smart card. It is N1,000  and that will include the cost and production of delivery wherever they are.

Acceptability and Accessibility of the Discount Card

We have taken it to NYSC and they are going to be there at the launch on the 21st of March 2016 at the NAF Conference Centre in Abuja here and the chairman of the day is the Speaker, RT Hon Yakubu Dogara and also take it to the Committee of Vice – Chancellors. They feel the brunt of all of these things. The agitation you find on campuses is linked to the fact that these are students reacting to economic realities. Every spontaneous agitation you find on campus, at the base of it, is some reaction to some economic challenge. They don’t have enough money to buy water on campus, to buy food, to buy books and all of that. It is a way to ensure that we create safety net for the vulnerable class.

Anywhere a partner exists is a place where one can use it (the card). If Shoprite is not in Damaturu, for instance, but there may be a restaurant and we are also getting local partners, it is not about high profile brands alone.Reality, 14 corporate partners came from Ekiti to loop our card. A whole lot of these students cannot even access medicare. Today, we have not less than 20 hospitals giving discount on cards, prescription drugs and all that. If this is not there what would have happened? And we are going to step it up a little bit to insurance; insurance on local travels, and all of that. We are going to step it to telecoms so that students who are on this platform can also be treated as close user group (CUG). That means if you were paying N5 on your calls before you are going to be paying less on the calls you make. So it does not matter whether you are in Damaturu or anywhere. If you don’t get benefit on food, on clothing, on high profile shops, you can get it on Medicare; you can get it on travels, on online shops. It is all embracing. It does not matter where you are.

No, once the website is there and when I say platform it does not mean just a physical platform, it is an integrated platform, it is an initiative and you can switch it both ways. It is an initiative that will deliver on helping the vulnerable class.