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By Ben Ngwakwe, Gombe
The Gombe State Governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya who is desirous of addressing the infrastructural deficiency and out-of- school children, a challenge that is not peculiar to Gombe but entire North, has decided to tackle it headlong.
Speaking in Gombe when the Special Adviser on Social Investment to Mr President, Hajira Maryam Uwais paid a courtesy call, the Governor expressed joy and pleasure to be part of the epoch-making event, as regards to the fortunes of the out -of -school children in Nigeria.
He said that every state in Nigeria is facing the challenge of out of school children in their own peculiar way.
In Northern Nigeria, for instance, the Governor lamented that the issue of out of school children can be summed up: to include “Almajiri”, girl child, children & youth on drugs- those affected by communal clashes and migrations, among others.
He further stressed that “this is an issue that has plagued Northern Nigeria for decades and has contributed to the increase of crime within the region. Leaders in the region have met on several occasions to discuss and arrive at the best possible means of eradicating the issue, both collectively and individually”.
In Gombe State, he pointed out that his administration has incorporated a multi-pronged approach towards tackling the menace of out-of-school children.
In 2019, he said, through the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA), they moved to enroll 60,000 out-of-school children into public schools and by 2020, they also took that number up to 214,000. 40,000 out of this number are girls that were enrolled into Formal Girl-Child Learning Centers in the state.
He pointed out that they have collaborated with the National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS) to formalize the Almajiri education system in the state by ensuring that the children who passed through the modern Tsangayya Schools, and were found worthy in character and learning, are issued certificates by NBAIS.
“The collaboration with NBAIS also included building the capacity of teachers in Tsangaya Schools to be able to modernize and standardize the quality of education given to the children”.
The Governor noted that the Federal Government, through the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, Hajiya Maryam Uwais, has put together a project that would complement the efforts of different state governments towards tackling the menace of out-of-school children, through the At-Risk Children Project (ARC-P).
The Governor narrated that when he received Maryam Uwais and her team in Abuja a few weeks ago, she made a wonderful presentation on what the project is designed to achieve, the processes, and the roles of all partners involved. After listening to her and her team, he said, he had no doubt whatsoever that the At-Risk Children Project would help Nigeria go a long way towards winning the war against the societal ills caused by out-of-school children.
“This is attributable to her reputation and her achievements in the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) of the Federal Government under her able leadership”.
He assured them and her team, that the state government would give them the full support under his leadership while looking forward to a successful kickoff of the project in Gombe State.
Yahaya also pledged that his administration would endeavor to fulfil all obligations expected of the state with regards to infrastructure, manpower and logistics support.
He said that Hajiya Maryam Uwais, and the Presidency, deserve every commendation for providing such an excellent opportunity for these conversations around ensuring every Nigerian child is giving an opportunity to earn a decent livelihood.
He urged them to open these platforms to engage as many children and young people as they could by offering a solution to one of the problems bedeviling Nigeria today.
Adding that the MOU signed has clarified the roles and responsibilities of both the Federal and the State Governments, which included the appointment of a project lead, provision of an equipped office at State level, the deployment of State civil servants that have the requisite skills & to provide a work plan for implementation in Gombe State.
He disclosed that they should work with Barr, Sani Ahmad- a member of her team who happens to be from Gombe State as the Project Lead while the impact of adopting social interventions, vocational training, and financial literacy programmes to address poverty had continued to facilitate economic growth in Africa (and many other developing countries).
It is imperative that Nigeria and indeed Gombe State, also leverage on this initiative so as to wage war against poverty in the State, stressing that everybody has a collective responsibility to play so as to promote socio-economic growth of the people.
“We understand that majority of the intended beneficiaries are not exposed, or adept at financial literacy, that is why we must all actively participate in the effort to enhance the conditions of our marginalized citizens, depending on their skill sets, passion, and empathy”.
While acknowledging them, he noted that there are bound to be challenges for such a serious and structured effort and expressed optimisms that they shall continue to engage her office in order to overcome them.
Gombe State Government, the Governor said, “will not be quick to throw stones at the programme, because we believe it’s a good bargain for our deprived and less-privileged children and youth- and it goes with my vision for bettering their lives and livelihoods”.
He also expressed appreciation to the development partners, who have continued to engage with them for a better understanding of the transformation agenda of his administration, and in the process offering valuable and constructive advice on how to enhance the efforts.
“You demonstrate the finest spirit of humanity by supporting a programme that seeks to uplift our less privileged from the throngs of poverty.”
While challenging all stakeholders to explore these opportunities and share in their experiences so that they can ensure sustained progress in this initiative, stating further that, all stakeholders in these processes should join him as they collectively begin to prepare for participation in the ARC-Project for the children and the younger generation yet unborn.
He thanked Mr. President for this wonderful initiative, and indeed the whole of Nigeria will benefit immensely from the At-Risk Children Project (ARC-P).