A fortnight ago a middle aged man allegedly frustrated by the economic challenges of life walked up to the height of the Isaac Boro Park flyover and attempted to take a nose-dive to end his life. The man who simply gave his name as Mich was dissuaded from the action by some men who on noticing his intention swiftly ran up to him and dragged back.
Mich had told the bewildered crowd after he was handed over to the police stationed under the flyover that he was no longer pleased with life having graduated five years ago without a job or any means of livelihood to sustain his family, noting that life has become burdensome as there is no ray of hope for him.
According to him the real straw that broke the camel’s back was a text message from his younger sister at home that his mother was dead and that having considered the financial implication he too decided that the best option was to take his life.
Really this problem of unemployment has been described as one of the major causes of youth restiveness and other forms of criminal tendencies in the country. The problem is further exacerbated by the poor quality of graduates coming out from universities and polytechnics who lack marketable skills.
This is one reason why employers of labour have recently been calling attention to the growing number of graduates who cannot defend their degrees. The situation is so bad that even the policy makers have owned up to the fact that the educational system is indeed in deep mess.
Not quite long ago, the immediate past Minister of Education, Dr Sam Egwu told participants at a one day retreat for newly inaugurated governing councils of universities in Abuja that the problem of tertiary education were many including low quality of graduates. He lamented that the quality of graduates from Nigerian universities has fallen below par, pointing out that only about 29 per cent of them were employable. He blamed the situation on inadequate internal and external quality control measures, and overstretched facilities.
A political Analyst, Mr. Sunday Orufe agrees that it is in the light of this general decay in the educational system that the late president Umaru Yar’Adua changed the ministry of Niger Delta to set up skill communities and industrial areas in the nine states of the Niger Delta region with complimentary emphasis on information Technology.
“Obviously there is an urgent need for complete overhaul of the educational system. Some have advocated that more attention should be given to science and technology” he said.
Sharing his view on the matter a Civil Engineer Mr. Sotonye Alambo, said their was need to focus more on practical-oriented technology and de-emphasise theories that have our graduates without tangible skills because the rot in the system has eaten so deep that even those who undergo technical education only end up as mere paper tigers.
Mr. Alambo observes that it is so because the laboratories and workshops are virtually empty and that some of the lecturers some of who are a academically ill-equipped award pass marks to the highest bidders. In other words, if you have the money to pay for grades, you will pass in flying colours regardless of what you have learned. Any wonder then that you have graduates who cannot convince employers that they have passed through the ivory towers.
“This therefore makes a change of strategy imperative and the Ledum Mitee led technical committee on the Niger Delta duly recognised this colieu it recommended the creation of a Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) where 2,000 jobs will be provided in each local government council in the region to keep the youths meaningfully busy and away from the temptations of militancy and other crimes.” Ofcourse, that recommendation is not a novel idea as previous administrations had tried various forms of skills acquisition schemes.
For instance, the National Directorate of Employrment (NDE) was structured along those lines. Similarly the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) was set up to create jobs so as to decongest the labour market. Unfortunately, the result of the efforts of these job creation agencies have not matched the resources that have been expended on them. There is therefore the need for the Ministry of Niger Delta to study these programmes and learn from their strength and weaknesses as the only way to ensure that the proposed skill communities are made more beneficial to the teeming youths who are jobless are consequently hungry and angry,” he pointed out.
He however, expressed satisfaction that late President Yar’Adua appreciates the importance of youth empowerment in addressing the Niger Delta crisis.
At last the 2010 budget made provision for building world class skill acquisition centre. Apparently the government was alarmed by the recent statistics released by the ministry of youth Development which shows that 80 per cent of youth are unemployed, while ten per cent are under-employed and the world Bank report, which put the country’s unemployment at 40 million has added to this scary scenario.
“The message for Nigerian policy makers is that we are in dire stress and remeding actions must be taken to revert the looming catastrophe for our society. The energies of the youths need to be positively channeled through education, re-orientation and vocational training he stated.
According to him skills acquisition programmes and other short term training must be of such quality and duration that would give optimum value to the beneficiaries. It makes no sense to hurriedly rush the youths through training programmes with little time and facilities to impact the necessary skills. For instance, you need more than a three month crash programme to train a good mechanic. It is only when the trainees are given sufficient time to master the skills, that they can put it to full use, without that adequate training would ensure that the successful ones would utilise their take off funds where they are provided and not squnder or sell them as is commonly the practice.
In his views, Chief Tams Alalibo, a businessman urged the development agencies which include the oil companies, the federal, state, local government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to ensure that the beneficiaries of skill acquisition programmes are empowered to set up their own businesses, and be given access to micro-finance credits to enable them take-off on sound footing noting that they should also be monitored and mentored until they acquired enough confidence to stand on their own.
“Artisans such as welders, carpenters, mechanics, and bricklayers should be given opportunities to attend refresher course to update their knowledge as to enhance their ability to render better services and expand their businesses to employ more people.
Chief Alalibo expressed the need for synergy by the Niger Delta Ministry, the NDDC and all agencies of development in rejuvenating the main sources of employment especially in the oil rich region which are farming and fishing as will as providing enabling environment for them, stating that, it is indeed tragic to observe a situation where some youths who have benefited from skill acquisition schemes and given starter packs to enable them be self-employed sell the tools and return to the labour market.
He called on religious organisations traditional rulers and other opinion leaders to assist the government in rebuilding the moral fabrics of our society, which empahsise the dignity of labour.
“Also, the Ministry of Niger Delta needs to collaborate with the major stakeholders in the region in the arduous rask of changing the fortunes of the deprived and neglected people of the region that produce 90 per cent of the wealth of the country and the NDDC has been doing its best with the little funds available to it. The commission has done a lot in the area of imparting skills on the youths of the Niger Delta and is therefore well placed to guide the ministry in that regard.”
Chief Alalibo said that NDDC has also been involved in an elaborate agricultural training programme in conjunction with Songhai Delta a reputable capacity building and youth empowerment centre in Delta State. Infact, these are experiences that must not be allowed to waste and the federal government needs to critically study previous efforts at providing the youths with skills and modify them where necessary to benefit the people.