Ms. Viola Askia-Usoro during her inaugural speech at the ceremony
Ms. Viola Askia-Usoro during her inaugural speech at the ceremony

Hold Graduation and Inauguration Ceremony for Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 Respectively.

It was indeed an occasion of great joy for some Persons with Disability (PWD) in Nigeria as participants in Cohort 1 graduated from an intensive 9-month ICT skills development program; the IT Bridge Academy. The IT Bridge Academy is a partnership program between Digital Bridge Institute and Sightsavers Nigeria.

The Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) is an IT Capacity Building Institute owned by the Nigerian Communications Commission with the mandate to develop skilled manpower in Telecommunications and Information Technology in Nigeria. DBI is one of the International Telecommunications Union’s 14 globally accredited training centers.

The IT Bridge Academy is a 9-month program where People With Disabilities such as mobility impairment, visual and hearing impairment, and other forms of disabilities are trained in core IT skills using the CISCO CCNA 1-3 curriculum.  The training also includes other skills such as digital marketing, customer service management, product management, and other soft skills. At the end of the program aside from the internal examination, participants are expected to sit for the CCNA global certification.

Since its commencement in June 2023, the IT Bridge Academy has achieved immense success, with participants gaining invaluable skills in networking technology. The commitment of DBI to providing a safe, fair, and conducive learning environment has empowered graduates to emerge as confident Cisco Certified Networking Associates, poised to make significant contributions to society and excel in the ever-evolving tech industry.

The Executive Director Sightsavers, Dr. Sunday Isiyaku and DBI, the representative of the PDBI Viola Askia-Usoro as they welcome the new cohort onboard

In his speech at both Campuses, the President of the Digital Bridge Institute Dr. Opeyemi Dele-Ajayi represented by Ms. Viola Askia-Usoro Group Head of Corporate Services encouraged graduates of the program and the new students not to be limited by their disabilities and who see themselves as world change Agents and important persons in the society. He said that the IT Bridge Academy has now opened a world of opportunities for our graduates and that they can put their knowledge to use in many ICT roles such as remote work, development of digital products, creating technology that helps others with disabilities, use social media and online platforms to raise awareness about disability rights and inclusivity, help organizations implement accessible technology and practices, Offer virtual support services like email management, scheduling, and research, support organization’s computer networks either in-person or remotely, share their skills and knowledge through blogging, vlogging, or podcasting among others.

He further stated that the IT Bridge Academy has opened the lid on the immense abilities PWDs can show to the world and that they can keep pushing forward to make a difference wherever they find themselves, be role models, and inspire others with their courage and determination.

PWDs face barriers, stigma, and discrimination, that limit them from exercising their potential to actualize their dreams. These barriers include access to training and capacity development opportunities. PDBI noted that disability inclusion is a journey that is quite new to Nigerian Society, therefore, the collaboration of all stakeholders is required to entrench a variety of systems and approaches that would promote disability inclusion in all sectors of Nigeria. He encouraged the government and private sector to provide opportunities for PWD to actualize their dreams and put their skills to use.

At both Centres the Sightsaver Country Director who was represented by the Executive Director, Dr. Sunday Isiyaku was delighted to be at the inauguration of the second cohort of the IT Bridge Academy hosted in DBI Lagos Learning Centre on the 8th of May 2024 and the graduation and inauguration of Cohort 1 and 2 in Kano on the 9tth of May 2024. He said that DBI has shown the capacity to deliver credible and qualitative training as shared from learning experiences for the graduating cohorts. He said it has made Sightsavers more confident about the Project and they are happy to commence the second cohort this month of May 2024. He went further to encourage the new participants to see the program as a rare opportunity given to them, as out of 700 applicants, only 50 were selected. He assured them that DBI and Sightsavers would use the experience of the graduating cohort to ensure that they get the best in terms of training and support.

Cross section photo of the 2nd Cohort at the inauguration ceremony

At the Kano Centre the event was witnessed by a host of dignitaries including the Global Programme Development Advisor Sightsavers International Mr. Razak Adekoya, the Honorable Commissioner, Kano State Ministry of Women Affairs, Children and People with Disability, Hajiya Aishatu Saji Rano, ably represented by Assistant Director Social Welfare Malam Garba Ahmad, the Senior Special Assistant, ICT to the Executive Governor, Kano State, Hon. Yusuf. I. Sharada and the SSA II ICT to the Executive Governor of Kano State Hon. Yassir Abdullahi Jobe. The Zonal Controller, Nigerian Communications Commission, Kano Zonal Office, Mohammad Bello Dari represented by Principal Manager Kano Zonal Office, Alhaji Mohammad Danwawu, the representative of the Head, Northwest Zonal Office of the  National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Mr. Ibrahim Aminu Dutse, Bureau Chief News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Kano State and Chairman Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists Alhaji. Aminu Garko and the CEO and Founder of Three Talents, LLC, Mr. Patrick Romzek.

The CEO & Founder, of Three Talents, LLC, Mr. Patrick Romzek, who joined virtually from the United States of America,  stated that the new graduates are the 35th set of the cohort to graduate from the IT Bridge Academy globally, so they should be proud of the success they have achieved and use what they have learned to add value to themselves and the society. He encouraged them to give their best wherever they find themselves and make Sightsavers and DBI proud.

Participants who spoke at the events thanked Sightsavers International and the Digital Bridge Institute for the opportunities to learn and become Cisco Certified. They thanked the Head of Campus for Lagos and Kano, Mallam Sani Tsoho and Mr Yakubu Maitalata, the team of Instructors led by Mr. Ikenna Ogbanufe and Mr. Dashe Garba Dingwur, Mobility Aides and other support staff in the program.  They promised to do their best at all times to showcase their skills and provide value-added services wherever and whenever they find the opportunity.

On what next for Participants Ms Viola Askia called on  private and public sector organizations at all levels to promote inclusivity and accessibility. Especially, by offering opportunities to PWDs for self-actualization with application skills utilization using their acquired ICT skills for the benefit of the nation. She further stated that graduates of the IT Bridge Academy have learned to live and look beyond their disabilities and are poised to challenge societal stigma and prove they have valuable contributions to make in society if opportunities are made available to them.

Akin Ogunlade
Head, Public Affairs Unit