Paul Omokuvie, Bauchi
Mrs Hassana Arkila Bogoro is the new Executive Chairman, Bauchi State Orphans and Vulnerable Children Agency (BASOVCA). Speaking with Daily Sun, she admitted that lots of works have to be done to address problems facing orphans and vulnerable children in the state:
“What I have seen so far, the management is trying its best and it is cooperative. But we still have to do more because I came with serious passion in making sure that I completely change the lives of these vulnerable and orphaned children.”
Arkila, a former caretaker committee chairperson of Bogoro Local Government, explained that helping the poor comes naturally for her: “I accepted my appointment with gratitude knowing fully well that even before it came to light, I have been living a life of charity especially to women, youth and the vulnerable.
“I have been in Gombe and people of Gombe State will speak about me better. I have been there since my youth. I got married when I was just 20 years old and spent about 22 years in Gombe before coming back to Bauchi as chairperson of Bogoro LG.
“When I reported at BASOVCA, the people of Gombe came to my office and gave a testimony about how I lived my life in Gombe. Any almajiri (street urchins) child I saw moving in Gombe, any vulnerable child I saw moving unattended to with wretched clothes I did not tolerate.
“I would call that child and address what I have seen. Since I was dealing in second-hand clothing by either taking them to my shop to to replace what they are wearing, or if it was shoe that was bad, I made sure I replaced it before they went their way.
“On my way from Gombe to Bauchi in Dindima, some boundary towns between Gombe and Bauchi like Bara, Kangere, if I saw an aged man or woman walking by, I would I call that person and give him money. People used to make jest of me that one day I would give money to a ghost but I would say the ghost would be kind to me. The ghost would not kill me.”
She said her appointment is an extension of her lifestyle, helping the poor: “This is what I have been into for years without being employed to do it. I was willingly doing it and so my appointment, I believe is a call to serve.
“I am happy and I give glory to God and thank the governor, who so much has passion and trust in what I am. By the grace of God I am not going to disappoint him.”
She disclosed her plan: “The awareness concerning the intervention from BASOCA for vulnerable and orphans is low. Where people are not having awareness, I will like to make maximum use of our community radio to disseminate the information across the 20 local governments.
“Our people must get to know about the existence of this agency. Most times they will call the children vulnerable and orphans but by the time you investigate, you will find out that the children they present are not orphans or vulnerable.”
Arkila said there are an estimated 800,000 orphans and vulnerable children in the state, with most being taken care of as children. But once they turn 18, they become the responsibility of the social welfare:
“Most orphans and vulnerable children have benefited in terms of education, health, household economy strengthening, shelter and so on.” She said interventions are on going for orphans. She said the agency has seven thematic areas including health, psycho-social support, education, household economy strengthening and shelter:
“In the area of health, orphans and vulnerable children used health tickets distributed in the 323 wards in the state. But when I arrived, they were no longer working in the facilities. It is the only means of identifying registered orphans and vulnerable from BASOVCA so they could be attended to in health facilities.”
She promised to boost enrolment of orphans and vulnerable children from 3000 to 5000. She said the agency would involve religious leaders in local government areas to boost enrolment:
“In the past we used hamlets and village heads. Now we are going to include pastors, imams and ulamas because they also know where these children exist. They can bring them and register them in their local government areas for school. We will also screen the children by targeting intelligent ones to be enrolled.”
She promised that all orphans and vulnerable children would be provided with materials for their study: “We have taken it upon ourselves as against the previous times when they used one pair of stockings throughout the term. They will now have two pairs of stockings.
“Secondly, as against the 20-leaf exercise books they were using, we will provide 60-leaf notebooks for them. Thirdly, they were using one pair of uniform, which they would wash and use from Monday to Friday. This will not happen again. I am going to make sure that they have two uniforms.
“We are going to have 10,000 set of uniforms so that each child will have two pairs of uniform. We will introduce quality bags that they can feel comfortable carrying along to school just like our own children.
“By the grace of God, we are not looking back. We are here to make all the stakeholders including the labour unions, proud for supporting this agency.”