By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
On Thursday last week, 30 out-of-school youths from the South-South geo-political zone smiled home with tools and equipment worth N1.5m after they successfully completed the training on the acquisition of trade and entrepreneurship skills.
The distribution of the tools and equipment that will enable the youths to immediately start up their own trades was carried out, on behalf of the Federal Government, by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, the same body that organised the one-month training programme which was flagged off in Calabar on March 16, this year.
Each of the youths got equipment worth N50,000 for the various trades they were trained. For snack production, equipment like food mixer, fan, electric stove and blender was given to them. Those who specialised in hairdressing got dryers, basin, fan and so on while youths who learnt GSM repair also got standing fan, rework station and soldering iron.
Those who learnt barbing practice got standing fan, clippers and swing chair while equipment like mesh, standing fan and other relevant tools were distributed to youths who were trained in screen printing.
The training in trade and entrepreneurship skill acquisitions is in tandem with one of the Federal Governmentâ€™s agenda of using education to empower the people through wealth creation and poverty eradication,.
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), Prof. Godswill Oboma says much of this in his address at the graduation ceremony for the out-of-school youths which held at the State Library Complex, Calabar.
He said: One of the evidences of good governance is the empowerment of the citizens through provisions of opportunities for sustainable self reliance. Our nation is battling with youth unemployment because earlier efforts to empower the youth did not have the right elements of sustainability. Education in the past lacked relevant elements of self reliance, hence every school leaver at all levels looked up to the government for jobs. The jobs are no longer there and so the need to shift the orientation of school leavers from job seekers to job creators.
â€œThe 30 out-of-school youths were not taught only the technical skill but also how to organise and run their business successfully. To assist them further, each graduate is receiving from us a set of basic tools and equipment to start up their trades immediately. Thus, we have provided the enabling environment for their successful take off. What we have done is to show the beneficiaries of this training the way to a meaningful life.â€
Empowerment in vocational skills and entrepreneurship, says Obioma, is a roadmap for the future of the youths, adding that the out-of-school youths are on the journey to wealth and hope.
Apart from the basic equipment that were given out to the youths, each of them also went home with N10,000 meant for their transportation back to their different states.
According to Prof. Obioma, the cost of the entire training programme is in the region of N15 million, including the provision of accommodation for the youths, their medical expenses, provision of lunch and feeding allowances throughout the 30 days the training lasted, provision of basic training facilities and allowances for trainers.
Undoubtedly, the youths have acquired all the relevant skills in the various trades even if they still need to constantly upgrade their skills and acquire further training, given the fact that societal values keep on changing.
Twenty-five year old Ugbobo Augustine whose education was truncated at Ewu Grammar School, Delta State after completing JSS III following the premature death of his father, learnt GSM repair. He said he already has a working knowledge of the trade, explaining that his trainer is in tune with modern trends in the trade.
He says: â€œAfter our trainer taught us the basic skills of repairing mobile handset, he told us that the Internet offers solution to repairing these GSM. He then registered us with GSM Forum so that we can always get solution to the repair of any handset on the Internet. To repair a phone with blank screen, our trainer was going to the Internet where we saw solutions from different parts of the world.â€
Augustine continued: â€œSo I need a computer, air conditioner and other facilities to start my business which I intend to register with the Corporate Affairs Commission.â€
Kumosuonyo Koro, 20, is also a graduate of the training programme from Bayelsa State. He learnt barbing practice. He says: â€œNow I can barb. I can do dreadlock and sporting waves. I intend to open a barbing salon at Yenagoa and I want it to be unique and well equipped. I need about N900,000 to equip the shop with state-of-the-art equipment. I hope to secure a loan from a bank.â€
Miss Osarenren Eghe from Edo State has also mastered hairdressing to some appreciable extent. She says: â€œI can now do washing and setting, fixing of weaveons, pedicure and manicure. I will go and learn the remaining aspects like Bob Marley and Ghana weaving which I do not know well.
Frank Otumuyen, 25, from Delta State trained in screen printing. Hear him: â€œI can boast of 80 per cent knowledge of the trade. I was in love with Fine Art during my secondary school days at Owa, Delta State. Thus my selection for the training in screen printing was a big opportunity for me to improve on my knowledge of art. I need a loan of N500,000 to set up my workshop.
In fact, the performances of some of the youths were so outstanding that the management of NERDC gave them cash reward.
While Hope Bestman, 19, from Rivers State, who specialised in hairdressing emerged the best female graduate, Ugbobo Augustine (GSM repair) came top as best male graduate. Frank Otumuyen from Delta State emerged the best male overall. They got N5,000 each for their efforts with certificates. Other trainees were also given certificates.
Thirty-year-old Bassey Edet is the trainer for GSM repair. According to him, the trainees under him have a good grasp of the technique of repairing GSM.
He says: â€œAcquiring a particular skill is a gradual process and in the first week, we did introductory aspect of GSM repair. The six trainees under me have mastered the skill and can repair GSM. I also gave them training on the use of Internet as most of the information on repair of GSM is on the Internet.â€
The Cross River State Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Chief Raymond Obepen was full of encomiums for NERDC for the initiative. He said: â€œThe Government of Cross River State has seen the model of skill training NERDC adopted and our verdict is that your model is unique and easily recommends itself to us. We are studying the model to see what we can take from it into our own skill acquisition programmes.
He pledged, on behalf of the state government, to continue to partner with NERDC to uplift educational development of the state, adding that the state will continue to place due emphasis on youth empowerment through skill acquisition since sustainable economic development depends on it.