Community development in simple terms refers to the degree to which individuals and community members are empowered with knowledge and skills that they may make self fulfilling decisions about their future. It is a structured intervention that gives communities greater control over the conditions that affect their lives. This does not solve all the problems faced by a local community, but it does build up confidence to tackle such problems as effectively as any local action can.
Community development works at the level of local groups and organizations rather than with individuals or families. Community development is a skilled process and part of its approach is the belief that communities cannot be helped unless they themselves agree to this process.
Community reports takes us to Okanle-Fajeromi community in Ifelodun local government area of Kwara state where a member of the National Youth service corps(NYSC) is putting a smile on the faces of the residents in the area in the use of computer.
For Paul Alfred with Kwara SNYSC code number KW/2c/1755 - a graduate of Environmental Engineering from the University of Port Harcourt, an indigene of Edo state- mixing with people of other tribes and learning their culture was his aim when he got his call up letter to undergo the mandatory one year service to his father land in Kwara state.
Posted to Okanle-Fajeromi community high school as teacher, Paul Alfred is currently teaching computer studies- a newly introduced subject in the curriculum of public schools in Kwara state.
Our correspondent paid a fact finding visit to Okanle-Fajeromi community, an un-tarred six kilometres road from the Idofian express way, to speak with Paul Alfred who shared his story and the motivation behind his voluntary community development approach.
"This community in my own view in far away from modernity, I thought to myself how I can make positive impact on it; then the idea to train the residents on the use of computer came up and I followed it " he said.
Speaking on the support given by the community towards his voluntary project Paul said "the support received has been fair enough.
"This centre and its security was provided by the community, they also made sure electricity was connected to this centre".
Arranging training classes for students and other interested individuals could be tedious but Paul says he has been able to work with the schedules of the community dwellers and hence the turnout is impressive but more can still be done.
When asked how he intends to sustain the computer training project, Paul was quick to add that sustainability was one of the envisaged constraint of the project. "This project started about two months ago and I have mapped out some strategies to sustain this program to prevent underutilisation. I am building a synergy with some corps members who will take over the project, I also intend to meet some organisation who would be interested in this project to keep it running"
If planned well, community development can empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to effect change in their own communities. Planning a community development project includes creating goals and work plan with the people involved and action that can impact on the life of residents in any community. It should focus on a way to discover innovative practices and relevant issues needed for community development. Any community development project planned without the knowledge of its residents is sure not to see the light of day, this is because community projects planned without active participation of a community will be difficult to implement and sustain.
Also lending their voices, Mr Joseph OLanrewaju and Mr Busari the Principal and Vice Principal of Okanle-Fajeromi Community High School spoke on the community development project initiated by the corps member.
"We are grateful for the efforts of Mr Paul, he volunteered to teach computer studies in the school and our students has responded well to it, they are now learning how to use the computer, we have never had this before."
In recent years, community development projects in communities play a vital role in tackling poverty and helps in rural construction. Community development project has also helped to reduce crime and many antisocial behaviours. In a way, community development programmes have helped in the development of human resources, motivation of people towards nation building and has also played a crucial role in agricultural development thereby increasing the standard of living in rural areas.
Another corps member serving at the Dewale Ibrahim School, a private school of paramedical technology in Okanle-Fajeromi Community, Alex Akachukwu, spoke on the development in the community "serving in this community has been wonderful, the computer training class organized by Paul will go a long way to educate Okanle residents ,the turnout is impressive" he added.
Also, some computer trainees who are benefiting from the computer training programme organised by Paul Alfred were grateful that the training was organised without charges.
"I just finished my secondary school education, this training came at the right time for me" Femi Adekunle, a beneficiary of the computer training said.
Another beneficiary who was shy to give her name thanked the corps member for the voluntary computer training especially without having to pay a dime.
A good community development supports the establishment of strong communities that control and use assets to promote social justice; it also helps to improve the quality of community life. It also enable communities and public agencies to work together to improve the quality of government service.
In all, communities should develop a range of skills and approaches for working within their environment and in particular with disadvantaged people. These include less formal educational methods, community organising and group work skills.
For Paul Alfred, a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), training residents of Okanle community in the use of information communication and technology (ICT) appliances is a dream accomplished, a far cry from the wasted one year often attributed to the service year.
Development is not a one man affair. It is a communal effort, and it means new options, diversification, thinking about apparent issues differently and anticipating change. It involves change, improvement and vitality.