Ikenna Ekwerike captures the moment when the Rose of Sharon Foundation shifted its philanthropy to the Yaba College of Technology
The Arts Garden in front of the School of Arts, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), Lagos, caught the fever that day as women adorned in identical colourful ‘ankara’ with ‘gele’, to match, danced in measured steps to the rhythm of the melodious sound coming from a sonorous female soprano voice obviously enchanted by joy. This was the kind of joy that only heartfelt gratitude to a giver, a cheerful and selfless giver, could arouse. They were women from the Rose of Sharon Foundation (RoSF) appreciating their founder, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, for her generous spirit of giving which they said, knew no bounds.
People give for various motives. Some give with the calculated motive to get back bigger gifts from those whom they had given. These set of persons give only to wealthy individuals and politicians. Some also give simply to influence the receiver’s judgment. Politicians are noted for this as well as individuals who desire to cut corners at offices. They pretend they are appreciating the receiver’s efforts but right within, they know it’s an inducement. Still, some give just because religion prescribes that givers will not lack. For them, it is about fulfilling some religious injunctions and obligations without which it is claimed, they will not be blessed.
On the contrary, there are a set of few individuals who give because they realised that society needs healing; they are convinced that the measure of a man is not how many mansions he has but the number of people he has made mansion owners, too. To this rare category of selfless givers nay, healers of society, Alakija belongs.
Folorunso Alakija, Africa’s richest woman, through her RoSF is generously reaching out to those on the fringes of society to guide them into mainstream socio-economic life. Poor widows and their children, orphans and rejected youths naturally attract the sympathy of RoSF.
According to Alakija, the courage to give is itself a gift from God since there are many who have more than enough but do not have that inner nudging to extend part of it to those who do not have. She affirmed that giving to those who cannot pay back brings a peculiar sense of fulfilment and joy.
A clear attribute of RoSF is that members are taught not just how to fish, but equally get equipped with how to make the best catches with dignity and fulfilment. One way the foundation tries to achieve this is through quality education process.
This was loudly re-echoed recently when Alakija, in the company of Board of Trustees (BOT), RoSF, paid a courtesy visit on the immediate past Rector of Yabatech, Dr. (Mrs.), Margaret Ladipo, in her office and to inaugurate and handover a skills acquisition centre and bookshop her foundation donated to the school.
In her address, Alakija argued strongly that meaningful and sustainable human development necessarily begins with proper education of the mind. She noted that at RoSF, education was seen as the key driver of both social and economic empowerment of widows and orphans adding that it was one of its cardinal objectives to ensure that widows and orphans were educated.
Indeed, any education that qualifies as quality education must offer both knowledge and skill, simultaneously. Consequently, Yabatech, as the first higher institution of learning in Nigeria has not been found wanting in that regard. It was for this reason, according to Alakija, that the RoSF made it a choice due to its long history of academic and vocational excellence.
She stated that the school was their partner in progress and described the relationship existing between both institutions as a symbiotic one.
“We decided to partner with this College so that we can rub minds together; so that we have mutually beneficial activities that we can do to assist each other. That is why we have been able to give support to many of your staff who are widows through this organisation. It is also why you, as a College, have been able to provide training skills for members of our organisation who are beneficiaries of our foundation,” she stated.
The high level of magnanimity shown by Alakija appeared to be stupefying to the entire academic community. The former Rector expressed delight at her human development initiatives and specifically pointed out that the bookshop would close a huge gap that had existed on the campus.
She said: “Your visit which is to show appreciation for our partnership over the years and also to inaugurate the building donated to the College by the Rose of Sharon Foundation is indeed very welcome.”
Arch. Dapo Oladimeji-Hannah, who led the technical team in the design and construction of the building, said the necessary machines for the skills acquisition centre were yet to be installed. He revealed that at the moment, the centre would cater for those desiring skills in fashion design and other tailoring needs.
Dr. Doris Okoro, who represented the Governing Council of the College, expressed confidence that the centre will impact positively on the students and help them attain economic independence as soon as they left school.
Some of the students said the venture was the right step in the right direction and thanked Alakija for the kind gesture. They stated that the skills acquisition centre will go a long way in improving their practical skills positioning them for quicker employment and entrepreneurship.
Not only is Alakija a giver, she also recognises and appreciates the good works of others whenever she comes across one. According to some lecturers and students, the former Rector of the College, who had already handed over the reins of leadership to another, is a performer.
Little wonder the Proprietor of RoSF described her as a perfect agent of positive change and pride to womanhood. She commended her for her giant strides and revealed that she had established ventures that have the capacity to boost the internally generated revenues of the school some of which are a campus radio station, water treatment plant and water bottling plant.
Her words: “She’s a role model and testimony that women can do it. And it is no longer fashionable relegating women to the background. There’s need for an enabling environment that would give women equal opportunity so that they can contribute to improve on the quality of lives of Nigerians.”
Consequently, Alakija called on other well-meaning Nigerians to come in and support the institution which is the first higher institution of learning in Nigeria. “It is just a seed that we have sown, we believe that others who are supportive of the college will come to assist and even build bigger ones,” she hoped.