By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
The Federal Government has taken a decisive step at addressing the issue of youths who are out of the formal school system in the country by commencing a vocational trade and entrepreneurship skills training programme for them.
The training programme, which is being organised on behalf of the Federal Government by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, was flagged off in Calabar, South-South geo-political zone on Tuesday last week and the training is to be implemented in the other five geo-political zones of the South-West, South-East, North Central, North East and North West where skills acquisition incubation centres have already been mounted.
At this initial stage of the skills acquisition training programme, 30 out-of-school youths from each of the six geo-political zone are to be trained, with a trainee coming from each of the six states that make up a zone. They are to undergo four to six weeks of training in trades such as screen printing, barbing practice, hair-dressing, snack production, GSM repair and maintenance and entrepreneurship.
According to the Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof Godswill Obioma, the educational parastatal embarked on the youth empowerment programme in keeping with one of its statutory responsibilities of evolving functional school curriculum and implementing it.
Thus, the first step that was taken by NERDC was the development and production of the curricula in the six trades in conjunction with seasoned professionals in these trades. Thereafter, a two-week train the trainers workshop was organised for these professionals after which they were engaged to train the out-of-school youths.
The youths who eventually got selected for the training programme are those who have completed Junior Secondary School but who are unable to go to Senior Secondary School for one reason or the other.
These out-of-school youths who are currently undergoing this skills training programme in Calabar are generally appreciative of the gesture as they see it as a means of empowering them to be self-reliant instead of being job seekers.
Ibebe Hope, a 20 year-old out-of-school youth from Delta State is undergoing training in hairdressing. She says: â€œThe skills acquisition project is a good idea. I chose hairdressing because I like it and I will become a full time hairdresser after the completion of the training.â€
JacintaÂ Joseph, 19, attended Assumption Girls Juniorate School, Ndon Ebom, Akwa Ibom State. She is one of the out-of-school youths learning screen printing which has to do with direct painting on T-shirts, face caps, school badges, plastics, trays, cups and things like that.
Her words: â€œThe training programme is a very good one which will help the youths to generate wealth and live independently.â€
Henry Njoagwuani, 22, is an out-of-school trainee from Delta State who is learning barbing practice at the training centre in Calabar. According to him, the training on trade and entrepreneurship skills came at the most auspicious moment in his life, especially after her educational sojourn at Gateway To Success Secondary School, Ebu, Delta State ended, without any job.
Henry says: â€œIâ€™ve been going through boredom for sometime now because Iâ€™ve not been doing anything. I donâ€™t like staying at home. My mother has a barbing salon. But the shop is locked right now because my mother, Evelyn Njoagwuani, has opened a beer parlour at Ebu. So, as soon as I complete the training, I will be the one to man the barbing salon.
â€œThe organiser of the training is trying for us because apart from giving us lunch and accommodating us at Catholic Archdiocese Church, Calabar, they are also giving us a daily stipend of N1,000 to cater for our lunch and dinner.
Twenty-five year old Edet Otu left Emilis Secondary Commercial School, Calabar in 1998 due to financial problem. While his father is a driver, his mother is a petty trader. He is among the six out-of-school trainees learning barbing.
He says: â€œI stopped schooling at Emilis Secondary Commercial School because my parents could no longer afford my school fees as it is a private school. I chose to learn a trade because it is difficult to get a job either after secondary or tertiary education.
A training in barbing which is to be backed up with some money to set up our business will really give me financial freedom.â€
In his remarks at the flag off ceremony of the training exercise, Prof Obioma said that the training programme is in tandem with the Federal Governmentâ€™s reform initiative aimed at improving the lot of the citizenry.
His words: â€œIt will be recalled that the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) lays emphasis on using education to empower the people and in the process create jobs, generate wealth and eradicate poverty. The 7-point agenda of the present administration recognizes functional education as playing a key and fundamental role in human capital development. The Education Roadmap has as one of its critical focal points Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
â€œVision 20-2020 promotes the ideal that Nigeria should be capable of occupying a leading position among the 20 top most economic players in the world by year 2020. Certainly empowering out-of-school youths as sustainable economic players will productively add on the process of engaging functional education as one of the strategies of achieving Vision 20-2020.â€
He explained that the blueprint for the initiative was articulated in 2008, with the Millennium Development Goals office providing the initial funds for the take off of the programme in 2008 which were used in establishing and equipping incubation centres in the six-geo-political zones as well as the production of the trade and entrepreneurship curricula in the six trade areas.
The former Minister of State for Education, HajiyaÂ Aâ€™ishatu Dukku who personally flagged off the training programme said it will not only address the issue of youth unemployment generally but it will also be functionally relevant in the Federal Governmentâ€™s amnesty programme through which youths are to be empowered to live a more productive and purposeful lives.
She appealed to the Millennium Development Goals office to graciously reinstate the allocation of funds to NERDC in order to expand the programme.
Although the MDG fund could not be sustained beyond the 2008 fiscal year, the NERDC has since then been doing justice toÂ the programme with its internal funds.