Diki: Returning to impact on her roots
Her name is Dikibujiri Diri and she goes by ‘Diki.’ She left Nigeria in 2009 and came back five years later a different person. “When I left Nigeria, I actually thought I was very mature and knew exactly what I wanted. I was also very confident and thought I could handle myself well … Life in America changed me completely. I found out who I was; I discovered my true self,” she said.
Diki is from the Opu Dukofa Compound of Bille Kingdom in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State and grew up in Port Harcourt. She was one of 11 young people from The Kingdom, who were sponsored by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and its joint venture partners to attend university in the United States, under a General Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) with the Bille community.
She attended Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. She also applied for and was admitted into the university’s honours programme — the W.E.B. DuBois Scholars Programme. Diki says her experience studying in the United States was an opportunity she remains forever grateful for. “I left Nigeria with the intention of studying medicine. There was no doubt that was what I wanted to study,” she said.
But she took a difference course — literally and academically. She ended up graduating with a degree in biology and discovered her passion for teaching and coaching. “I worked in the peer learning centre my entire time in the university. It started out as an easy job to earn a bit of money. I started as a tutor, then I became a peer-learning consultant and ultimately, a supplemental instructor in English language and mathematics … my jobs entailed teaching, as well as helping freshmen settle into university life. I attended classes with them, organised tutorials, helped with homework and editing papers,” she said.
In addition to all that, she was a student ambassador from her Sophomore (second) year until graduation. Diki spoke passionately about her love for being in the classroom, teaching and helping students excel. She was so involved at the learning centre that she became known as a go-to person when students needed help. “It stopped being a job and became my calling … people would come to my room anytime, at all hours to get help.”
She returned to Nigeria in October 2014 with a determination to pursue that calling and make a positive impact in the community that gave her the opportunity to grow. She started by serving in the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) at a secondary school in Bayelsa State.
“I served at CSS Otuedu in Ogbia Local Government Area. I was posted to a school that had no teachers. The students did not have an English language teacher until SS 3. They were only taught by Youth Corpers.”
Diki said she taught extremely bright students who had an ironic disadvantage. “I was privileged to teach very smart students who just did not have the opportunity to express themselves … I decided to do something about the plight of students at home who genuinely want to learn,” she said.
Since returning to Nigeria with a degree and a wealth of teaching, coaching and mentoring experience, Diki has turned her passion and sense of responsibility to give back, into action. Today, she is the Founder and Chief Executive Office of Chairein Academy (pronounced ki-rain), which was registered in December 2015 in Bayelsa and Rivers States.
“I run an educational training consulting firm, which was inspired by my NYSC experience and my desire to contribute my own quota to my community. We train public school teachers and offer a range of courses that teach them leadership skills in class … helping them to recognise the impact of what they do and hopefully to bring back the passion in teaching.”
The firm’s stated vision is: to re-invent education in Nigeria by constantly introducing innovative strategies focused on creating access to quality education through quality academic trainings and consultation. With two employees and number of volunteers, Diki is not only giving back through her experience and expertise. She is also providing jobs and hopes to grow so that more people can benefit from an experience she says SPDC made possible.
“I can’t quantify what this experience means to my community … we are a very small community; in fact, we don’t even have any influential person in government. So, for Shell to believe in us and to allow us to spread our wings this way, is something we can never forget; they gave us something immeasurable,” she said.
Diki added that after the success of the original 11, another set of youths from a neighbouring community also benefitted from the overseas university sponsorships under the GMoU.
Asked why she came back to Nigeria she said: “I could have stayed in the United States. I chose to come back to Nigeria because I wanted to experience Nigeria again, through different eyes. When you’re in a bad situation, you don’t realise how bad it is. It seems normal, and so, it’s difficult to change things. When you step out and come back, you are wiser and you do things differently and better.”
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