On Instagram, young Nigerian girls have gained popularity and recognition through joyous performances, showcasing a celebration of life and community with African dancing and popular TikTok trends. The account (@dreamcatchersda) has now gained a following from celebrities such as Rosalía, Rhianna and Cynthia Erivo while also having been verified with 468,000 followers. The home in which these young girls are educated, supported and empowered is called Dream Catchers Academy, a non-profit charity organization founded by Seyi Oluyole in 2014.
Having experienced poverty herself as a child, Oluyole’s family had struggled with maintaining financial support for her academic and artistic education. Her upbringing was one with homelessness and trauma yet she maintained faith in herself by producing her own music and working toward a career in the entertainment industry. After having lived in the U.S. at age 21, she returned home feeling “unfulfilled” and sought to work with Nigerian girls like herself. By age 24, Oluyole had establishethe Dream Catchers Academy, a place of refuge and family for orphaned girls with artistic ambitions.
Access to Education
Through exposure to extreme poverty, young African girls are significantly vulnerable to gender-based violence within their communities as well as a lack of education and achievement of aspirations. According to the Malala Fund, Nigeria’s 10 million out-of-school children are made up of 60% of Nigerian girls, where 30% of girls aged 9–12 have not had any opportunities for schooling. The importance of universal primary education is crucial to ensuring the prevention of diseases and lessening infection rates within vulnerable communities while also allowing for equality and female empowerment in places such as Nigeria. While increasing access to education is needed, it is crucial that investments are being made to maintain current infrastructure and resources so the demand is met and the supply is not strained.
Unaffordable education due to high expenditures and school fees has severely affected young girls and women within sub-Saharan Africa. However, The U.N. reports that national governments have abolished the two in order to achieve the goal of universal primary education, which has increased attendance and accessibility. Through the reduction of rural poverty and unaffordable education, data provided by the U.N. has proven positive benefits such as improved maternal health and lower HIV/AIDS infection rates. Educating young girls is especially important for allowing them to start families when they are older and more comfortable in doing so, at an age where they make higher wages and maintain job security.
With the help and support of Dream Catchers Academy, young Nigerian girls are mobilized into classrooms and homes where they are taught formal education, leadership and technological skills in order to sustain their artistic careers and personal lives.
Programs that are included at Dream Catchers Academy also include farming. Their website states that each girl has a portion of land — a way to evolve self-sustaining skills and financial independence through agricultural practices. Part of this program teaches the importance of “working hard, communication and caring for others” while also encouraging sustainability.
As the girls train at the academy to become “seasoned performers,” their performances are not only held at events but also on digital social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. According to their website, a portion of the donations received from performances are placed into trust funds that support the girls when they are older. On Instagram, many of their dance videos have impacted the scope of the academy’s donations. On July 18, the academy’s Instagram shared a video thanking donors for providing a new kitchen shed for the girls. A previous video from July 2 had shown the faulty state of the kitchen, which was endangering the health of the girls as smoke from firewood and charcoal would travel across the academy. Within a matter of two weeks, their Instagram video had reached enough people to raise enough money.
Oluyole’s efforts with Dream Catchers Academy have educated over 40 orphaned girls, according to their Instagram. Oluyole’s endearment towards the students has led to a mother–daughter relationship with each of the girls, emphasizing the importance of family as the basis for personal growth.
– Lucy Cosme Vera