The name OYA! stands for two things. It is an acronym for Organisation of Young Africans. It can also mean O ya! which in Yoruba expresses a sense of purpose and urgency: Come on, it’s time, let’s do it.
In OYA!, the term ‘African’ covers all people who are happy to claim that they originate from the continent of Africa. The organization also welcomes the support of all other people who have the true interests of Africa at heart.
OYA! is an African community organization based in north London.Our founding members believed that if Africans could work togetheracross cultural, class and religious boundaries and help each otheras other ethnic groups do, we could bring about positive change.Several of us had grown up as teenagers on a council estate witha very large African population – Grahame Park, in Colindale –and knew the challenges young people faced in an area notoriousfor gangs, drugs and crime.We were also aware that African kids were at the bottom of theBritish school league tables.On 23 July 2000, we sat down to look at these issues and the organisation and its first project was born.The Trainee SchemeThe Trainee Scheme grew organically out of the Supplementary School. In 2005, the ‘founding members’ of the supplementary school, who had opened the school in 2000 got their GCSEs but didn’t want to leave. Simultaneously, we realised that young people needed on-going guidance in bridging the gap between GCSE and A level.Meantime, with our growing numbers in the supplementary school, kids and teachers were aware that the school might lose some of its hands-on feel. The Trainee Scheme killed several birds with one stone.The trainees are on 2 year contracts. They work mainly on Saturdays. They learn about good time-keeping and time management. They develop their listening skills, learn to follow instructions, complete tasks and adopt a creative, problem-solving approach. They discover the importance of admitting and learning from mistakes. They develop the habit of taking stock of one’s work and life regularly, rather than drifting. They experience the satisfaction of helping others.Most trainees undergo a spectacular metamorphosis in the course of their traineeship. They enter as carefree teenagers, and come out as strong-minded, independent young diaspora Africans, with clear personal goals and a strong sense of community commitment, ready for university or a vocational career.FAMILY FOCUSOYA! believes that the best way to understand a child is to get to know the child’s family.Since 2000, OYA! has been helping the families of students registered in the supplementary school, mainly through the provision of educational advice and advocacy.OYA! works each year with 90-100 families. Most live in and aroundGrahame Park estate. The estate, currently undergoing regeneration,is a pocket of severe deprivation in a relatively affluent borough.At national level, our ward•is in the worst 5% in terms of Income Deprivation, the worst 10% forTotal Deprivation and the worst 15% for crime•has an African population of over 20%, three times the norm for ourborough (Barnet) and 6-7 times the norm for England•3-4 times as many people on benefits as in the rest of Barnet•has twice as many unskilled workers as the local average.Educationally, the performance of students in our local schools are15-18 percentage points below that of students in the rest of the borough.ANNUAL AWARDSThe Annual Awards is our main event of the year.It happens in September, just after the GCSE results come out.It is a celebration of academic success and a showcase for African culture in London.