LEARN: Fighting Social Vices Among Youths


 Over the years, social vices such as hooliganism and truancy, among others have become a malaise among youths in Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria. In a bid to curb these vices, the Lagos Empowerment Resource Initiative, LEARN, a pet project of the wife of the Governor of Lagos State, Mrs Abimbola Fashola, has devised several strategies aimed at curbing these vices, one of which is the summer programme. Senior Staff Writer, KAZEEM UGBODAGA, takes a look at the way LEARN seeks to fight social vices through the summer programme.


People wonder why 15-year-old Master Oladokun Opeyemi picked interest in catering as the vocation he chooses to learn. A Senior Secondary School 3 student of Ikorodu High School, Opeyemi prefers to enter the female world of cooking at a time when many of his colleagues are out playing football during this vacation period.

Opeyemi told P.M.NEWS that he had always dreamt of entering the female world of cooking and that he feels happy taking up a vocation in catering and that in the next few weeks, he would be certified as a caterer.

The summer programme organised by LEARN for students in secondary schools and those transiting to the higher institutions gives Opeyemi the opportunity to learn catering out of the nine vocations being exposed to the students during the six-week programme held in seven centres across the Lagos metropolis.

Other vocations available for the 4,200 students partaking in the programme are hair dressing, barbing, photography, bead making, event decoration, hat making, tailoring, make-up and computer training.

“I chose catering because I want to learn how to cook some meal before I proceed to higher institution. I can now cook vegetable soup and make eba and I feel happy because when I go to higher institution, I will be able to take care of myself.

“This is aside other things I have learnt in civic education. We have been told the danger of dishonesty and the need to be honest. We were also taught to avoid premarital sex and that it can lead to HIV,” he said.

For Miss Sekinat Amzat, the programme has been a blessing in disguise. Amzat, currently 14 and a student of Ikorodu Government College, never thought the programme could impact on her life. But she acknowledged the transformation it has brought into her life. She cited the life-time experience she had during an excursion to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) in the second week the current edition of the programme commenced.

“I have not been to the airport before now. The programme gave me the opportunity. I never heard about civic education. But I can tell a lot about my civic rights and responsibilities. Already, I have started a vocational training. I chose to learn hairdressing because it will help me to make additional money by the time I gain admission into tertiary institution,” she stated.

Another beneficiary of the programme, Master James Yinusa, 17, and SS 3 Student of Oregun Senior High School said he does not regret partaking in the summer programme because he has learnt photography, a skill he has long yearned for, adding that he can now easily manipulate the camera.

For Miss Mary Dominic, a student of Leelan College, Oregun, her childhood dream has been to learn hairdressing and at 16 years, the dream has come to fruition as the LEARN summer programme has given her the opportunity to do so without paying a dime.

According to her, “I have always been dreaming of learning hairdressing from my childhood. But I was not opportuned to do so because I am not free at home. Aside, my parents decide what I do. We are living in Alausa Police Barracks. In this environment, there is no way I can realise my dream of learning hairdressing.”

At least, 4,200 participants are currently undergoing LEARN’s Summer Empowerment Programme primarily designed to develop vocational skills of secondary school students and to promote moral values among them. Since 2007, the programme has benefited about 13,200 students in the state.

This year’s LEARN Summer Empowerment Programme kicked off on 4 August and will last for six weeks. The beneficiaries in all seven centres across the state definitely have testimonies for their colleagues when a new academic session begins in September.

According to LEARN Project Manager, Mrs. Bisi Awoyomi, the programme was designed to take students away from social vices during the long vacation and train them in a vocation of their choice.

She stated that the initiative was conceived in 2007, basically due to Mrs. Fashola’s passion to groom the future leaders with positive values and rescue young people from going into social vices through strategic engagement during the annual long vacationfrom June and September.

Awoyomi stated that the programme started with about 500 participants, and that it turned out “to be a huge success. In 2008, we had more than triple the number of participants. We have to increase the number of our centres and get more volunteers to teach the participants in courses like moral and civic education, leadership studies and sex education.”

She added that over 13,200 students from different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds “have undergone our summer programme, designed to keep school-age children, especially those in secondary, from social vices; train them in a specific vocation of their choice and prepare them for future challenges.”

The manager said the summer programme was packaged “to reach out to as many young people as possible. This informs why we reach out to them not only in Lagos metropolis, but also in suburbs like Ikorodu and Badagry. By 2012, the Epe centre will be ready. We are not urban-based. We are passionate about young people irrespective of where they are.”

She disclosed that over 50,000 youths had, so far, benefited from other programmes organised by LEARN, apart from the summer programme, explaining that “there are three categories of people, including those in secondary schools, those who have passed out and still seeking admission and those who have passed out of tertiary institutions. Our focus has always been to empower and prepare them for future challenges.”

The project manager said the programme is free of charge for all interested participants, though parents “have to obtain a form at a cost of N500; at least as a demonstration of commitment to the programme”.

Coordinator, Ikorodu centre for LEARN, Mrs. Funmilayo Soneye, said the summer programme is not only to educate the students but also to groom them to take up leadership positions in the future. “So, we do not focus on regular subjects as contained in their school curriculum.”

According to her, LEARN’s objective is to equip young people with vocational skills and moral values, which she said, are essential in their march to future career, adding that “only English and Mathematics are the regular school subjects taught during the summer programme. We essentially teach them moral and civic education, leadership studies and sexuality.

“The programme runs for six weeks, during which each participant has an opportunity of undergoing a vocational training of his or her choice. We have nine different vocations, which include catering, tailoring, barbing, hairdressing, nail fixing, bead-making, hat-making and event decoration. The vocational training has started already.”

She disclosed that 600 students were registered for the programme in the centre just like the other centres spread across the state, noting that at the end of the six weeks, examination would be set for the students while the best students in each of the vocations would be given prizes for excellent performance.

On the challenges encountered, Soneye said that at the initial stage, it was difficult getting the participants to take directives and instruction, adding that the challenges were soon overcome. She said it was also difficult getting volunteers to teach and train the students.

“Things have changed tremendously. Now, we receive letters of appreciation from their parents daily. The participants are becoming more excited about the programme because they are being taught what their regular school curricula do not specifically make provision for. After two weeks of rigorous training, some of them have personally written the LEARN management, expressing gratitude and appreciation,” she said.

The Oregun Centre Coordinator, Mrs. Becky Abu, acknowledged some behavioural challenges, which she said, the tutors “have been having with the participants”. Abu’s concern “is not primarily whether the participants manifest certain untoward traits. One of the reasons for bringing them together is to change their perception about life and inculcate moral values in them.”

“Everything has been fantastic in the last two weeks. We had some challenges with the participants’ behavioural attitude. We did not shy away from these challenges. We have dealt with the challenges accordingly. But the good news is that there is now a major improvement in the manner the participants relate with their tutors and their colleagues,” she stated.

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