Diasporians, Education and the Continent: How The Vemoye Foundation is Making an Impact

African History Project - Black Girl Schools copy

A public speaker and social entrepreneur that is passionate about all things Africa, Korede Awobowale founded the Vemoye Foundation as a way of partaking in the Africa Rising narrative. Vemoye gives busy professionals a way of using their skills in their spare time to help build up African organisations. She is keen to educate and inspire more people to be a part of the change they want to see on the African continent. 

In addition to her role at The Vemoye Foundation, Korede Awobowale is the Founder and Managing Director of Beehive Tuition, an educational establishment that seeks to bring the best out of the future generation by providing tuition in informal subjects and workshops on life skills. She is also a trustee of East London Connect, an education-based charity aiming to help Black inner-city kids aim higher and obtain a place within a Russell Group University. As a Law graduate from a Russell Group University (University of Warwick), she is passionate about giving other young students the same educational exposure she had. 

As we edge closer to the ‘Education and Society’ event, the AHP team reached out to Korede to find out more about the Vemoye Foundation, her passion for education, and helping build Africa.

AHP: What does ‘Vemoye’ mean?

Korede: The Vemoye Foundation was named after my maternal grandmother, so the word Vemoye is made up of letters from her name – Victoria Ebun OlarinMOYE. She was so inspiring, a progressive thinker, educated – earned her degree from the University of Sheffield, a brilliant teacher and so much more. I’m yet to meet a woman that inspires me as much as she does but there was one thing she wanted to do that she didn’t get a chance to do – start a school. She wanted to use education to shape the African continent and she would have done an amazing job. When I decided to start an African-focused education charity it only made sense to name it after the woman who embodies everything Vemoye stands for.  

AHP: How did the idea of the Vemoye Foundation come about?

Korede: I visited Nigeria in 2019 and had a few meetings with educational organisations doing remarkable things. I would take time to pick their brains on the gaps in the African education system that still needed to be fixed and for every idea I came up with, someone would point me towards an organisation doing it. It got me thinking, if there are so many organisations set up to solve the educational deficit why are there still so many children out of school? I realised that while all these organisations are set up to solve a particular problem, the impact of each organisation depends on so many factors, but I narrowed it down to two things – structure and human resources. Vemoye was created to provide passionate changemakers with the structure and the human resources they need to multiply their impact ten times more.

Pan-African Citizenship Education for us is acknowledging that the differences between the global south and global north shouldn’t be shied away from, but should be acknowledged, highlighted in fact, and understood

Korede Awobowale, Founder, Vemoye Foundation

AHP: What are the aims and vision of your organization?

Korede: The vision is for every African child to have access to basic, high-quality education which develops their ability to think critically and to achieve social mobility.

Our aims are to increase the impact of pre-existing African-focused educational organisations by creating and implementing project plans and filling the skills gap within their organisations by providing human resources. 

AHP: What inspires your desire to educate young African children and why do you believe this is important?

Korede: My inspiration comes from the children hawking on the streets of Nigeria. Something about that sight really affects me; perhaps it is because my parents did  not allow me to get a job until I was 17 or 18 as they were worried it would affect my studies (and even then, I was only allowed to work during the summer holidays). Throughout my life, my education was first because my parents could afford for it to be first. Seeing those children hawking made me realise that was a luxury many could not afford but it shouldn’t be like that. Every child should be given the skills they need to be all they can be, and I truly believe that starts with access to basic high-quality education. 

AHP: What would you say is the biggest obstacle to educating children in Africa?

Korede: This is a hard question because there are so many obstacles, but I will choose a major obstacle that does not get the attention I think it needs: I would say the strange dichotomy between the value Africans place on education versus the value African society places on teachers. The teaching profession is seen as a ‘low-grade job’, but we expect these teachers to produce the future doctors, entrepreneurs, and scientists of our society. The continent needs to re-evaluate this. 

AHP: What role do you believe promoting education in Africa can play in encouraging the prosperity of the continent?

Korede: Arguably the biggest role. Better education will lead to innovation, which will lead to attracting the attention of investors, which will lead to more jobs. Having said that, there are already many jobs on the African continent, the issue is that those occupying the top jobs are usually educated abroad. Improving the quality of education on the continent will mean the top jobs go to born and bred Africans. 

African History Project - Vemoye Foundation

AHP: What were some of the challenges in starting and running the organisation?

Korede: The Vemoye Foundation launched in January 2020 and then the pandemic hit. All the plans we had made went out of the window and we had to go back to the drawing board. We had to figure out a way to run projects remotely which many people said would be difficult because when it comes to anything on the African continent the number 1 advice I received was to be on the ground. We overcame this by building a team of experts in the UK and in Kenya (the country our current project is taking place in). 

Another challenge has been funding. As a new charity, we are still trying to establish ourselves and build partnerships so funding our current project has been difficult. We have raised 30% of our target which is great and we will continue fundraising until the project is fully funded. 

AHP: Can you share with us some of your company’s accomplishments and successes so far?

Korede: I would say launching in a pandemic is a major achievement for us; simple things were difficult to achieve at the height of the pandemic, but we always found a way to overcome each obstacle. 

Another accomplishment is building a remote team and launching our first project where we are working to ensure 20 orphans and vulnerable children from the Kisii and Kajiado counties (Kenya) secure the funds needed to return to school in the upcoming academic year. We are also training and equipping these young people through mentorship schemes to become community builders, leaders, and changemakers.

AHP: We have recently launched our Centre for the Study of Pan African Citizenship Education. From your point of view, how would you define Pan African Citizenship Education (PACE)?

Korede: To me, Pan-African Citizenship Education feels like the missing part of the Global Citizenship Education puzzle. When we speak of global ideals, most times we’re really speaking of imposing Western ideals which is something Vemoye has been conscious of in terms of the work we do on the African continent. As someone who has been raised in the west, it’s easy for me to present Western ideas as the right way of doing things, that is why we have country consultants on every project. They understand the culture of the country we’re working in, and they advise us on how we should approach things. Pan-African Citizenship Education for us is acknowledging that the differences between the global south and global north shouldn’t be shied away from, but should be acknowledged, highlighted in fact, and understood because a true global citizen seeks to challenge and reassess their own preconceived notions when presented with alternative perspectives

AHP: Would you consider the Vemoye Foundation to be a Pan-African organisation, if so how do you infuse Pan-Africanism into your work?

Korede: I would definitely say that The Vemoye Foundation is a Pan-African organisation. When I was setting up Vemoye I was adamant that we would take a Pan-African approach to solving the issues facing the African continent. The work that we do will be carried out across the continent – we are setting up a network of small African charities to encourage collaboration. Additionally, we want to harness the African diaspora to fill the skills gaps in the organisations we are working with. We believe that Africans, both home and abroad, have a part to play and we want to be the bridge between these two worlds.

To find out more about the Vemoye Foundation, please visit:

Website: https://www.vemoyefoundation.com/

Instagram: @thevemoyefoundation

To attend our conversation with the Vemoye Foundation as our Director, Apeike Umolu discusses the importance of African History in the African curriculum, please click here to find out more.