Hajia Hajara Titilayo Alayande, the Director of FCT Department of Mass Education, Karu, spoke on efforts by the department to provide inclusive education for all, especially out of school children, uneducated adults and more. Excerpt:
What programme is the department engaged in for mass education?
It is an encompassing platform that gives opportunity to everyone. No one must be left out. So the fact that you were not educated before should not discourage you. It does not make you a useless person in society.
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The platform for mass education is created to give a second chance to every person that didn’t get it right in the beginning. So that is why our motto is ‘It is never too late to learn’. You keep learning and this learning will continue to make you relevant in the scheme of affairs in every community that you belong to.
We have a lot of programmes. For the youth aspect, we have the Vocational Training Centre and we have the Vocational Enterprise Institute. So, they are the young people who are engaged in normal school curriculum and vocational training.
Then we have the women education programme for women in the FCT and we have 32 women centres spread across the area councils such that any married woman who is not fully educated can learn skills to begin to earn money and take care of her family because any woman who is not educated cannot handle her family very well.
So, we always appeal to people to key into our programmes and come back for learning. We have the Continuing Education Centre; it is like a secondary school for adults. You can always key in at any age.
It is run in all the area councils of the FCT and we have about 20 centres of continuing education and anyone who is interested would register and begin to learn. It’s a free class but you may take care of small bills here and there, which is not too high for them.
Do you attract enough adults who want to learn?
A lot of learners are adults and businessmen who have made it in life. In our centre in Zone 4, most of the bureau de change operators patronise us and at the end of the continuing education programme, they write NECO exams and some of them are in the university today.
They have graduated to move on to university. On Thursday, we had the graduation of Kuje zone and come and see the testimony. It was very amazing.
What are the challenges you experience in running this programme?
There is no doubt that government alone cannot do it. Some of our learners don’t have enough funds. It’s still very cheap enough for them to register because they don’t pay any fee but they will take care of their running around, transportation etc. So, some of them still have challenges with that.
As far as we are concerned, we have support from the parent body, National Mass Education and Non-Formal Commission. They give mass literacy exercise books, basic primer books that we normally distribute among all our literacy classes.
What is your assessment of your programmes so far?
Very interesting and encompassing; Last week, we graduated 180 young people that we picked on the street. We trained them in paint production and painting successful. Today, they can produce their paint and they can paint.
Many people would like to be part of this programme but don’t know how. What are you doing to get such people on board?
We sensitise through the royal fathers and the radio. Right now, we go on air, advertising to people because everybody must be skilful and even the certificate is no longer selling. No matter the certificate you have earned, you must be skilful.
Organisations source for skillful people. We have our computer centre in all the zones and we train them in different series of ICT programmes from graphics to all other marketable ICT programmes. We have to drive these young people to be technically inclined.
Do you involve nomadic children in your programmes?
We also have nomadic adult literacy. This cuts across all the areas in the FCT. Recently, the FCT engaged 50 Fulani young people who have degrees and NCE to teach in their communities so that the community would be informed and nobody is left out.
What we are saying in the FCT is inclusive education. Nobody must be left out.
So, if you go to all the areas in the FCT today, literacy education is going on there. All the Qur’an classes in the FCT, most of them are collaborating with us.
What we want to do now, aside from basic literacy and post-basic literacy, we want to include vocational skills in the literacy section.
We found some children roaming the streets; we said NO, if they want to live in Abuja, they must be in school or learn a skill and that is why we have educational programme for the out of school children in the mass education department.
What’s the programme on adolescent health all about?
The programme is to commemorate the international adolescent health week in collaboration with the Centre for Adolescent Education. We have adolescents in our schools and we know the challenges. So it is good that this day is celebrated to inform and educate them and the parents because that bridge between childhood and adulthood is a critical period.
Adolescence is a very critical period that needs to be taken care of, both by parents and by the students.
The children themselves must understand what goes on in them. If they don’t understand, they will not know how to handle the behavioural and physical changes.
With education, knowledge dissemination has empowered them, and we have informed them to go back to their various schools to be our voice and canvass for all the other children to key into the adolescence health education so that they will know what their problems are.