By Chris Chime
The timing of the ongoing skills acquisition initiative by the Enugu State MDGs/SDGs office designed to empower indigent and unemployed youths couldn’t be more perfect. What with the smouldering economy and the massive unemployment that followed in its wake.
It is thus thoughtful and worthy of commendation that the decision was taken to mitigate the burden of hunger and crime, which are direct products of unemployment by creating the enabling circumstances for the mass of unskilled and poorly equipped youths in the state to become self reliant.
Before delving into the details of this initiative and the modalities for its execution, let’s look at the circumstances that birthed the prevailing predicament, which, in turn, called for the desperate measures being taken by MDGs office to contain it.
It is documented fact that the education system we operate in Nigeria is in the main theoretical. The overall curriculum puts little emphasis on practical skills that would position the beneficiaries to become self-employed without relying on paid government jobs. This faulty system has cumulatively, over the years, accounted for the army of unemployed youths we have presently roaming our streets. The truth remains that the major causes of the unemployment among these vibrant youths is lack of skill to back up what they learnt from their institutions of learning.
As part of its mandate to aid processes of human and infrastructural development in the state the MDGs office quickly decided to play a very important interventionist role by initiating the ongoing Skills Acquisition Programme. The idea is to train 750 indigent and unemployed youths in four carefully chosen skills till they become experts in any of the four areas and subsequently make careers out of them.
The choice of the skills that the participants will be trained was made based on their viability and the public demand for the services in the market place. Consideration was equally made based on the gestation or maturity period of the business areas involved. For instance, a participant trained in the art of hair dressing will not have to wait for years before getting reasonable return on investment.
Providing details on the logistics for the execution of the programme, which has already been flagged off, the Special Adviser to Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on MDGs/SDGs, Hon Mabel Agbo, said that in the course of executing projects meant to address other aspects of the sustainable development goals of Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration, as it concerns health and provision of safe water sources, it became imperative for her to pause and devise a way of addressing the arising issues of poverty and unemployment occasioned by the economic downturn in the country.
“Considering the fact that poverty eradication is one of the sustainable development goals, it was important for us to do something about the problem of idle teenagers and youths roaming the streets without being meaningfully engaged in profitable employments. That was why we came up with the Skills Acquisition Programme,” she said.
According to her, “the trainings are designed to provide a platform to train and educate the participants on skills that can help create wealth, taking into cognisance the broad framework of the UNDP’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) ,one of which is eradication of poverty.”
The first stage of the programme, which has already been taken care of was the interview of prospective participants, who Hon Agbo informed were over 900 drawn from all the local government areas of the state. Out of this number she pointed out, 750 will be shortlisted.
She noted that one very important consideration brought into play before inviting those to participate in the scheme was the principle of transparency. To this end local government chairmen were sensitised on the need to ensure that only the indigent and disadvantaged youths in their areas are given the opportunity to participate. Also in order to guarantee equity, all local government council areas were required to produce the same number of participants.
The beauty of this programme is that after the training exercise, the participants will be given the relevant equipment and some cash as take off grant. Considering the fact that they are not expected to repay the money or pay anything for the equipment, it is bound to be a smooth cruise into the realm of prosperity for them. With such larges, enough space is created for them to build an enduring career foundation that will launch them into the dream class of new age entrepreneurs.
Another indicator that this is serious business is the fact that not only are the three Skills Acquisition Centres already built and deployed in the three senatorial zones of the state, but all the equipment and logistics required for the smooth take off of the programme have been acquired and installed.
Agbo was quick to add that one major mindset behind the starting this scheme was to trigger a chain reaction, hence the adoption of the slogan “Ina aga ikpolu ibegi” implying that someone who is well trained, for instance, in haircut business should train many other unemployed youths along the line in the same skill. With this slogan mindfully implemented, she posited, “we will end up empowering much more than the initial 750 that were trained.”
All the participants interviewed expressed profound gratitude to Governor Ugwuanyi for the opportunity to be liberated from the shackles of poverty and depression, which had been their lot before fortune smiled on them. Miss Ngozi Eze, a beneficiary from Affa in Udi Local Government Area had this to say: “It is still like a dream to me that God has presented this wonderful opportunity for me to be trained as a hair dresser. I had always wanted to acquire skills as a hairdresser or fashion designer, but my mother was unable to raise the money required for me to be registered as an apprentice. Now that God has answered my prayers through our governor, I will ensure I make the best out of this rare opportunity.”
What the MDGs Enugu office is doing can best be likened to the wise, saying that it is more profitable to teach a hungry man how to fish than to give him fish. Now that the opportunity has been made available, the burden is on those privileged to be part of it to justify the goodwill of government by going all out to give it their best shot. To whom much is given, much is expected. The best legacy they can leave is to adopt the MDGs slogan that urges them to pass on the skills they acquired so that the good work continues.
• Chime is deputy director of information, MDGs/SDGs office, Enugu.