Noel Ifeanyi Alumona becomes the first African to win the 108-year-old AFS Award for Young Global Citizens

Noel Ifeanyi Alumona beat over 400 participants to become the winner of the 2022 AFS Award for Young Global Citizens. ENIOLA OYEMOLADE discusses how the indigenous state of Enugu secured this victory.

Noel Ifeanyi Alumona, a Nigerian student, is the first Nigerian and African to win the AFS Award for Young Global Citizens since its inception in 1914.

The award was presented to Alumona during International Youth Day, organized by the United Nations Global Communications Department, the AFS Intercultural Programs and The Youth Assembly.

Alumona, who studies special education at Vanderbilt University, United States, also took home a $10,000 cash prize.

The AFS Award for Young Global Citizens recognizes the work of young people around the world who are committed to making the world a more just, peaceful and tolerant place.

The AFS Award recognizes Alumona’s vigorous campaign to end violence against women and girls by properly orienting boys toward responsible behavior.

The indigenous people of Enugu State defeated another 500 contestants after a strenuous and rigorous selection process and interviews, from which 10 finalists were selected.

A non-profit and youth-focused group Alumona founded on October 1, 2018, called “Boys Champion”, earned him the AFS Award win.

According to him, the idea for Boys Champion came to him after meeting Barack Obama as a 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow of the African Leaders Program in Johannesburg. He stated that the encounter changed his worldview and instilled in him a burning desire to make a positive difference in his community.

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As a group, Boys Champion is committed to providing a safe space for young boys and teaching them to be part of the solution to end societal violence and prejudice against women and girls in Nigerian communities.

The organization has also continued to work closely with more than 4,900 young volunteers in Nigeria in areas such as gender-based violence, peacebuilding and special education.

According to him, some obnoxious religious and cultural practices violate women’s rights, which is why Boys Champion launched the change campaign.

He also founded Hope for African Children in 2013, a community organization that improves access to education for children with disabilities and vulnerable children in disadvantaged communities.

While noting that critical questions need to be asked to chart the way forward for special education in Nigeria, Alumona explained that he has spent more than five years in the classroom teaching, monitoring and evaluating the performance of students in his community, Udenu Local Government Area, Enugu State, Southeast, Nigeria.

He criticized the lack of focus on special education for children with learning disabilities and emotional behavior disorders and warned that neglecting these children is not a reflection of an inclusive education system, which every country should strive for.

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“Right now, Nigeria is at the end of the bridge in the global ranking for support for special education. I am happy to continue to give my voice to conversations that will inspire change in Nigeria, Africa and around the world.

“As I always say, Africans will change Africa and I am happy to lead that change from my own community through Boys Champions and Hope for African Children,” he said.

As a community development specialist, he pledged to continue working to improve access to education for vulnerable children, children displaced by Boko Haram and insurgent attacks, and millions of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

Through his organization Hope for African Children, he also promised to always look out for victims of disasters and violent extremism in Nigeria.

As part of the youth mentorship program, Alumona said his organization would hold a leadership conference in Enugu state, with speakers from the United Nations, Harvard University and Vanderbilt University teaching participants about leadership.

He then urged the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, government agencies and business organizations to participate in the youth empowerment and future leadership development project.

In addition to being an Obama Foundation Fellow, Alumona is also a United States Institute of Peace Fellow and a delegate to the United Nations Youth Assembly.

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He is also a recipient of the African Youth Award, Nigerian Goodwill Ambassador Award and Volunteer of the Year Award from Appreciate Africa Network, Beijing, China.

Meanwhile, congratulations are pouring in after Alumona’s victory.

President Muhammadu Buhari commended him for his selflessness and praised his exceptional character and dedication to helping others, especially for bringing his homeland to the world’s attention.

He also praised his tenacious campaign to end violence against women and girls by educating boys about responsible behavior.

“The president prays that Almighty God will continue to guide, guide and give wisdom to Alumona to serve his country and humanity,” spokesman Femi Adesina said in a statement.

Enugu state governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi also congratulated the “unusual emergence of a young Nigerian from Enugu extraction”, adding that the government is ready to work with Alumona and his organization “for proper domiciliation of the consequences of this remarkable and colossal achievement within the fabrics of our immediate societies.”

The immediate governor of the state, Sullivan Chime, also described the honor as noble, assuring that the future belongs to Enugu youth.

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