SHEHU SHEMA SHAMES DELINQUENCY IN KATSINA
A quiet revolution is sweeping through Katsina State. And in a couple of years, there may no longer be unemployed youths in the state as Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema has instituted a scheme that will shame joblessness and delinquency.
At Barhim area of Katsina city is located the NYSC orientation camp. Inside that camp is also what is called the Youth Craft Village. What do they do there?
The village is Gov Shema's idea of how to empower unemployed youths, turning them into people who can be gainfully employed, instead of being social miscreants and terror to society. At the Youth Craft Village, unemployed youths from the 34 local government areas in the state are assembled, and trained in various crafts for a period of six months to one year. Each local government sends in 48 candidates, who are housed, fed, and paid allowances during the period of training. When they graduate, they are then assisted to set up with seed money provided by the government.
Among the areas of training are pottery, wrought iron, welding, GSM phone repairs, computer repairs, woodwork, photography, auto repair, tie and dye, and blacksmithing. And you could see absolute joy on the faces of the trainees as they learnt their trade.
How does the scheme work? Nasiru Abdul, the Special Assistant on Media to Gov Shema gives an answer:
'Each of the 34 local government areas sends in 48 candidates, and they are then trained based on their areas of interest. They are resident here for six months to one year, and are paid allowances. When they finish the training, they are then assisted to set up on their own.'
Professionals in the various fields are on hand to impart skills and knowledge to the trainees. Chuks Oparandu hails from Imo State, and is an engineer who trained at Sony Ericsson Centre, Abuja. Today, he's resident in Katsina, where he trains young people in GSM repairs.
'It's an exciting thing to impart knowledge,' he says. 'Most of the candidates we have here are fully trained and ready for graduation. They can repair almost any fault with GSM phones. People won't have to change their handsets again at the slightest fault, as there are qualified people to do the repairs. And they will be spread all over the state.'
Oparandu does not have a mastery of Hausa language yet, but he says communication is no problem. He is thoroughly enjoying his sojourn in Katsina.
The training scheme, according to Nasiru Abdul, is a more permanent way of empowering youths, rather than doling out money to them. Talk of teaching a man how to fish, than giving him fish everytime.
The training is open to both male and female. Some areas like auto repairs, woodwork, and wrought iron are dominated by males, while you find more female in pottery and tie and dye. In the area of GSM phone repairs, however, the population is mixed. At the pottery stand, it was learnt that most of the wares on display had already been purchased. The tie and dye materials could be purchased for as low as N3,500.00
How did the idea of the Youth Craft Village come? Who else to answer the question but the visioner, Gov Shema. And he says: 'I felt we should set up a place where youths can be trained, and they can become responsible people, who can stand on their own.
'We had a visitation from the Commonwealth, they came from all the Commonwealth nations of the world, to see our facility. And they were quite happy. They virtually endorsed it for all Commonwealth nations, especially the developing nations. This facility can train up to 2,000 youths per annum in different trades. There are certain areas that I think are important for us to engage our youths like telephone handset repair. The telephone has come to stay with us. You will find out, even in urban centres, when your telephone goes bad, it is a Herculean task to get someone to repair it. So, the tendency is that you will go and buy another one. So, I said, well, let me train some young chaps how to fix telephone problems properly. This specific training includes a lot of women. Because of our culture, women can sit in their houses, and do the work. The person who was the best student in the telephone training is a lady, a married lady. She goes to the training with a baby on her back, and maybe she is graduating with another pregnancy.
'When I was growing up in my village, the person who repaired my daddy's television might not have gone to school. The one who repaired the house clock or the gramophone or wristwatches might not have gone to school. So, that told me you could actually train somebody who didn't go to school to read computer engineering to fix something like computer, because computers have basically come to stay with us.'
Gov Shema has sustained the legacies of Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, the late president who was also former governor of Katsina State.
The road network in the state is almost the best in the country, education is free at all levels, up to university, healthcare is free for mothers and children under five, there are housing estates all over, and water supply through boreholes. But above all, the Youth and Craft Village may become Shema's most enduring legacy, as it would breed a population of skilful artisans, spread all over the 34 local government areas.