Hello Maci, Can we meet you?
My name is Micheal Obakhavbaye, I am a social entrepreneur, STEM educator and a Physicist (Ph.D in-view). I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physics with Electronics from Olabisi Onabanjo University and a Master’s degree in Physics from the University of Lagos Nigeria. I recently completed a professional diploma in education at Babcock University, Nigeria. I have over 5 years of experience in STEM education, entrepreneurship and leadership.
Can you tell us about MACI, when you started it and why you started it?
Mentor an African Child Initiative (MACI) is an organization with a focus on expanding digital opportunities in Africa. This is achieved through digital literacy training, STEM education, and mentorship programs for children. Our programs are targeted at ensuring digital access and inclusion in our primary communities which include rural, low income, and underserved communities and our secondary target of semi-urban communities and households.
I came up with the idea of MACI in late 2017 while I was a fellow of Teach for Nigeria. I saw first-hand how most children living in low-income communities in Nigeria do not have access to quality basic education and lack the necessary skills needed to thrive in the 21st century. This resonated deeply with me given my background. I was born into a low-income family in a rural community. It was difficult for me and many others I grew up with to compete favorably with other children from more privileged backgrounds, we had no access to digital skills, mentorship, or opportunities. The world has since advanced, but unfortunately things are still somewhat the same for children in the communities like the one I grew up in. The current global trend has shown that technology is influencing most of the current and future trajectory of events. It is however sad that children in underserved communities are still living in oblivion. I knew I had to do something about it.
I spoke with some of my colleagues who confirmed my concerns and we felt the need to do something to change the narrative.
My team and I discovered that for every 10 children we interacted with, 9 does not know how to boot a computer. This was a major concern which leads to the founding of Mentor an African Child Initiative-MACI.
Honestly, MACI started as just a passion project. The desire to improve the digital skills of underserved children, and provide mentorship gave rise to MACI. I started by organizing computer appreciation training for children in Abeokuta. I had about 50 participants in the first training. After that, a lot of teachers and schools indicated interest in letting their pupils participate. It was then I realized that I would require more than just volunteers, but people who would steer MACI with me.
What activities are involved in running MACI and what are your roles?
MACI run various programs. During this Covid19, we launched our ED-Support program to support learners and teachers, especially those in underserved communities to keep learning. We also started two virtual classes; MACI virtual coding class and Discover Science class to engage learners for free during this period. We leveraged on the minimum available technologies in the communities we serve to ensure that learning is not truncated for most children.
Prior to the lockdown of schools, we run programs such as MACI Ideation Clubs, which is a weekly activity based STEM club for children in primary schools, Beyond the Classroom where teenagers are taught to use creative and problem-solving tools, to build capacity to mitigate challenges in their communities, Summer Coding Camp and MACI Computer Appreciation School tour for primary school pupils.
Presently, I am the Founder and the Executive Director of MACI. I design programs, oversee the activities of all the units, work on strategies to raise funds for our work, and ensure the implementations of projects/programs.
Could you tell us your biggest project so far?
Well, I would say the biggest project so far is the Ed-Support program we are currently running. The reason I say this is because this program is being implement at a time when the world is experiencing a pandemic and schools have been shut. Within a short period of time, we have been able to directly or indirectly provide access to learning for more than 200 learners in Africa. The project is still on-going, I am sure we can expect our impact to more than double by the time the pandemic is over. I say this is the biggest because of the impact it is making at this unprecedented time.
How have you funded the initiatives, and what have been some of your challenges?
Sometimes when I think about funding MACI I go to bed feeling sad. Because of the model we currently operate in which no one is paid and most of our programs are at no cost to the beneficiaries – we all work as volunteers, me inclusive. It is always challenging balancing the responsibilities of MACI with other activities for most of my team.
We rely on personal fund to get some things done. I am lucky to have a very dedicated and committed team. We have been using personal funding to keep rocking the boat, coupled with donations and sponsorship from individuals, and also some funding organizations like The Pollination Project and Tech Impact Club (TIC).
What is the hardest part of your job, and what is the most joyful part?
The hardest part of my job is keeping people motivated and ready to commit time to the cause. Leading people is not easy as we all know, what is most challenging is leading people to do a job they are not being paid to do. Yes they have passion for it, but using their personal resources to get things done requires another level of motivation.
In all, I have come to realize that where there is passion, nothing is impossible. I am glad that I have learnt a long time ago that leadership is about influence. I regard myself as a people oriented leader. Showing empathy and emphasizing my believe people’s ability to get things done has greatly increased our impact.
If you weren’t involved in social impact and community development – what would you be doing?
I don’t know…hahahaha, perhaps I won’t be here
Sincerely speaking, my life has been all about impact. My passion has always been to impact lives. I started teaching when I was still a teenager. It will interest you to know that teaching is the only job I am never tired of, and I have tried many sectors. I see it as a way to impact lives.
So, I would be teaching, and that is what I am doing.
What do you see as the greatest reward for what you have achieved so far?
People who know me will tell you that I do what I do, and I really don’t care who sees. I am a man of faith, and I believe in a supernatural being who rewards every man according to their deeds. My greatest reward would be seeing children I have worked with become better than me, surpassing my expectations and being successful in life. I had a rough starting; I spent many years of my life confused and not knowing what to do. I want to change that. Undeserved children should be given equal opportunities as others. That is the reward I want!