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The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Kayode Oyebode Adebowale, mni, FAS,  has stated that it becomes pertinent that if we want to secure the future of our nation,  attention must be paid to the well-being of adolescents and the youths.

This is because these groups are considered to be important in the demography of any given population, considering their centrality to future socioeconomic and political development.

Professor Adebowale spoke at the opening of a Stakeholders forum on adolescents and youth health policies in Africa,  the theme of which was ‘Adolescent Mental and Sexual and Reproductive Health: Setting the Priority Right for a Better Future. It was organised by the University of Ibadan Research Foundation.

He said the adolescence period is a critical period of life development during which each individual is navigating the complex path from childhood to adulthood.

He noted that the health and approaches adopted by each during the period is the foundation upon which their potential and contributions to national development are built.

Professor Adebowale said the University of Ibadan is committed not only to fostering academic excellence but also to bringing the leadership,  experiences, and competencies towards creating a platform for open discussions and generation of strategies on enhancing mental and sexual reproductive health and education of adolescents and youths in Nigeria.

He said the outcomes of the stakeholders’ forum are designed to provide pathways towards generating valuable tools to develop sustainable solutions to the challenges of adolescents’ and youths’ health in Nigeria.

The Vice-Chancellor said it is expected that the strategic solutions will empower the nation to translate evidence into asset-based, impact driven policy options and actions that will drive positive changes for adolescents and youths.

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The Chairman, University of Ibadan Research Foundation, The Right Hon. Chevalier Uduimo J. Itsueli, KSG, OON, was represented at the forum by a former Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, Dr Jide Idris.

The Right Hon. Itsueli said the value of healthy adolescents and youths can not be overemphasised.

He said the demographic group does not only constitute a large share of the entire population but are also the leaders of tomorrow.

The Chairman stated that this stage of life is marked with periods of experimentation, time of self identification,  spontaneity in risky sexual activities, substance use, unhealthy diet, and practices that may be detrimental to their lives.

Hon. Itsueli said the contributions of the stakeholders in partnership with the University of Ibadan  Research Foundation are important steps towards the paradigm to make research count for national development.

The Director of the UI Research Foundation,  Professor A. M. J. Oduola said the government can not achieve its laudable objectives without  evidence-based impact driven policy options to meet the needs of the adolescents and youths.

He said the UI Research Foundation has access to the competencies, facilities,  and platforms at the University of Ibadan,  other national  and international partner institutions with potential values to contribute to the government’s efforts.

The Keynote Address was delivered by Dr. Eduardo Celades, the Chief of Health in the UNICEF Nigeria Contry Office.

Dr Joy Muati- Akpan gave a goodwill message on behalf of the UIRF partners ( 7 African countries, Harvard School of Public Health, and Heideberg Institute  for Global Health, Germany )

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The Oyo State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology,  Professor Salihu AbduWaheed Adelabu was represented by Mr Peter Awodiran.

There was a roundtable discussion on Adolescent and Youth Health Policies in Africa as well as Adolescent  Mental and Sexual and Reproductive Health.

The discussants were: Professor Olumide Adesola;  Dr Tolulope Bella-Awusah; Mrs Edem D. Ossai; Mrs Kemi Aremu; Mr Kayode Akinpelu; and a student. The discussion was moderated by Dr Jide Idris and  Dr Jubril Abdulmalik.

Participants were drawn from secondary schools in Oluyole, Ibadan South East, Ibadan North, Akinyele,  Ibarapa East,  and Ibarapa North Local Government areas of Oyo State. Others came from the Agege (District 1) Yaba (District 2) and Osborne (District 3) Local Government Areas of Lagos State.

Special attention was given to Out of School children who were brought to the forum with a view to giving them a sense of belonging and possibly changing their lives for the better.