By Moses Nosike

Around the world, people have norms, myths and beliefs that are intrinsic to their history and have been passed on from generation to generation.

In Nigeria, like everywhere else, there are indications that some of these cultural beliefs and norms have the potential to undermine the socio-economic development of people and largely hamper their well-being.

Enactus team, Federal University, Dustin-Ma; Tawakaltu Lukman, Team Presenter, Mary Anthony Ojoma, Team secretary/presenter ,Victor Tanya Kuma, Project Manager /Presenter Ajagunla Taofeeq, Member and Abdulrahman Dare Habeebullahi, Team Leader receiving their N500,000 Award Cheque from Mrs. Ndifreke Okwuegbunam, Head of Programmes , Aspire Coronation Trust (Act) Foundation for winning the Act Foundation/Enactus Nigeria Leadership Challenge at the Enactus Nigeria 2018 National Competition held recently in Lagos.

To address these effect of retrogressive beliefs and norms while improving the socio-economic status of affected communities. Enactus Nigeria in partnership with Aspire Coronation Foundation (ACT) developed a project known as the Enacts  Nigeria/ACT Foundation Leadership Challenge.

According to the CEO, ACT Foundation,  Osayi Alile  leadership and innovation go hand in glove, and innovative leadership as a means of spurring development  on all fronts particularly with regards to promoting social problem-solving among African youths.

Speaking with media men she said,  “We recognize that we have leadership challenges as a nation and a continent, therefore, there is a pressing need to build a new generation of credible, accountable and ethical leaders who will propel the continent towards effective and sustainable economic and human development as well as peace and security.

According to Alile, ACT Foundation is focused on developing the leadership skills of individuals particularly youths, governance, economic development, organizational and professional developments. We will also partner on initiatives that promote thought leadership and national development”

The leadership challenge was designed to task Enactus Nigeria teams across the country to conduct research in their communities with a view to identifying and addressing cultural or traditional beliefs and norms that disenfranchise the community and limits the people from reaching their full potentials. It is also structured to enable Enactus Nigeria teams to develop social innovations and enterprises that create economic opportunities for the people.

Following the announcement of this special challenge, the Enactus Nigeria teams across the country responded with innovative interventions to over twenty-eight (28) cultural beliefs and norms that are believed to detrimental to the communities.

Out of 25 Enactus team that entered for the challenge, the following teams, University of Ibadan; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and Federal University, Dustin-Ma, eared the opportunity to present the impact of their projects to a panel of judges at the Enactus Nigeria 2018 National Competition that took place on July 24 and 25 at Orchid Hotel, Lekki, Lagos.

Federal University, Dustin-Ma, with the project “Hope for Almajiris” emerged as the winner of the  Enactus Nigeria/ACT Foundation Leadership Challenge 2018 as they won a cash award of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand). The project, “Hope for the Almajiris demonstrated a lot of promise being able to use an innovative approach in addressing a critical belief system.

The Almajiri system is an ancient tradition where poor families from rural areas across Northern Nigeria send their children to a network of Islamic ‘boarding schools’ in the cities. Once here, often hundreds of kilometers from their families, the Almajiri receives little or no education and no money. So they must beg to survive. Across the north, an afternoon break in classes sends the children flooding into the streets with small bowls to search for any scraps.

Over the past few decades, the system has been overwhelmed, uncontrolled and abused.

“Regrettably”, according to the team, both the parents and Mallams who instead of giving them Islamic education push these under aged children in the street and take advantage by making them beg for foods and alms to survive, thereby exposing the children to danger and other forms of social vices. This negative impact on the children and the community at large, has ultimately reduced the standard of living in Dutsin-Ma in Katsina State.

According to the team, “report from United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has it that the total number of Almajiris in northern Nigeria is 9.5 million, a number that is more than half population of Benin Republic, Togo and Sierra Leone. Daily Trust Newspaper in one of its bulletin reported that Katsina State has over 450,000 Almajiris of which Dutsin-Ma is rated among the top five communities with highest number of Almajiris”. Hence, the intervention of the Enactus team, Federal University, Dustin-ma, in Katsina State.

The team made a remarkable intervention through advocacy and orientation; skill acquisition, economic empowerment and educational advancement. The team engaged stakeholders in Dustin-Ma and sensitized the people on the danger faced by children that beg in the streets. They also enlightened the leaders on the need for skill acquisition and western education for the children instead of begging. At the end of the teams’ intervention, they were able to reduce the number of Almajiris in the streets of Dustin-ma, improved the standard of living of the children involved in begging and reduced the level of child abuse and its attendant effect.

In the course of executing this project, the team identified children who wanted educational advancement and partnered with the Center for Community Training and Development (CCTD) and trained 20 children in electrical, carpentry, welding, tailoring and home economics skills. They also trained some Almajiris on marketable skills like tie and dye, cap making/knitting, shoe making and shirt branding. A total of 28 Almajiris were empowered and 16 still undergoing training. Through this intervention Almajiris can achieve Islamic education and as well economic empowerment.

Enactus Nigeria with the support of ACT Foundation have taken the bold step of engaging and inspiring students in a most creative yet community-centric way to dare to challenge the  status quo  of socio-cultural beliefs and norms that have in some cases lasted for hundreds of years but have also proven detrimental to their socio-economic development.

Consequentially through this project, Enactus Nigeria students have and will continue to experience, demonstrate and develop the much needed leadership skills that will positively impact their lives and communities for generations to come and propel them to take up the leadership challenge that our world continues to throw up at us.

Enactus Nigeria started operations in 2001 and since then over 7000 students from over 45 Universities and Polytechnics nationwide have been equipped to execute over 600 community projects that have educated, empowered and transformed the lives of people in their communities and at the same time, helped the participating students to imbibe valuable leadership qualities and entrepreneurship skills”.

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