I want to become a classy farmer—STEP club member
Oluwadamilare Opadotun is the secretary of the Start Them Early Program (STEP) club at Vetland Senior Grammar School in Lagos.
She was one of the panelists that discussed teachers’ and students’ experiences in teaching and learning agriculture during the I-Youth Connect conference, organized by the Innovative Youth in Agriculture (I-Youth) project in Lagos recently.
The I-Youth project through the STEP component is reaching out to young people like Oluwadamilare in secondary schools, teaching them modern agriculture, exposing them to agribusiness, and changing their perception about agriculture.
While relaying her experience, 14-year-old Opadotun stated that she perceived agriculture as “old people’s” profession because of the images she had seen and how farmers were portrayed in society. She also felt that agriculture was a job for the poor and a form of punishment, which had not been taught in an encouraging manner to secondary school students.
She stated that when STEP under the I-Youth project introduced the initiative in their school, many of them were skeptical and felt they would be learning about the same old stories and ways of agriculture. She said that they were fascinated by the various methodologies adopted by STEP to enlighten them about opportunities available in agriculture.
“When STEP came, they brought machines that we have not seen before. These machines made practicing agriculture less stressful. We had weeders, slashers, mowers, sprayers, etc. Also, we had career talks with mentors who are successfully practicing agriculture and making huge money from it. This opened our minds and eyes, and for me, I want to be a classy farmer like some of these mentors I have seen, and I will study Agricultural Economics at the university,” she said.
The impact of STEP, according to her, has attracted other students to join the club. She mentioned that if schools could adopt the methodologies used by STEP in teaching agriculture, many young people like her would venture into agriculture willingly.
The STEP component of I-Youth is implemented across three states—Kaduna, Kano, and Lagos. During the first year of implementing the program, 1220 joined STEP extracurricular clubs established in 15 schools. Operations of the clubs commenced with the election of student officers into the four club positions: Coordinator, Co-coordinator, Secretary, and Treasurer. These positions were distributed equally among boys and girls, in mixed schools.
STEP is embracing the hybrid model approach, which covers the establishment of STEP clubs to conduct different extracurricular activities in all the schools. They also use experiential learning mechanisms and the introduction of digital agriculture to students and teachers.