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Nasarawa skills center carries double faces

The signpost that welcomes visitors to Nasarawa State’s Skill Acquisition Board’s headquarters in Lafia, the state capital, still stands as if it was just installed.…

The signpost that welcomes visitors to Nasarawa State’s Skill Acquisition Board’s headquarters in Lafia, the state capital, still stands as if it was just installed. The letters etched therein several years   had defied the rain- still bold and legible. The signpost, according to the board’s General Manager, Ibrahim Adamu is the handiwork of some apprentices at the school’s wielding and fabrication section. “It symbolizes the potentials of the trainees the institution is expected to produce,” he said.
“The board was conceived to be a centre of low level technology, that will serve  as a catalyst to higher technological innovation for the state and country,” he recalled, as his eyes light up with enthusiasm which initially trailed the creation of welding and fabrication, electric and electronic, computer and IT, auto-mechanic vulcanizing, plumbing, fashion and design sections,  among others. However, such enthusiasm has since been lost in administrative bottlenecks of successive administrations in the state,  and with it, gone were the lofty dream of the centre’s founders .
“We were abandoned to our fate by successive administrations in the state; we existed just in name.  Our land were encroached upon by famers, because there was no fence to protect us from intruders. Pedestrians created right of way through our land even as motorists drove through to neighbouring settlements,” the general manager noted.
However, the dream and enthusiasm that welcome the establishment of the centre was again rekindled by the new administration in the state probably due to the growing youth restiveness occasioned by high rate of school drop-outs and rising unemployment in the state.
 And as Bitrus Ayitogo, a JSS 2 drop-out of the Government Secondary School Obi, in Obi Local Government Area of the state harmers away at a school desk, at the centre, where he enrolled under the carpentry section, he hopes that this second chance would not be lost in administrative bottlenecks.
Like Bitrus, the centre is filled with other drop-outs and school leavers whose lost dreams and aspirations seemed to be revived under the youth empowerment programme of Governor Umaru Tanko al-Makura administration in the state.  The programme which is nick-named Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) is supposed to remove about jobless 5,000 youths from the streets across the state in its first phase.
To drive the policy, the state government has awarded a contract for the construction of   60,000 chairs and desks for primary and junior secondary schools across the state at N1. 1 billion through the Universal Basic Education Board. The premises of the centre was turned into a carpentry workshop as the finished products were arranged sky-high against the fence of the institution.
“There were all constructed within the centre by the trainees and other hired hands, and you can see that they are of high quality,” Malam Ibrahim told Weekly Trust. The General Mmanager, who described the gesture as a two-way  partnership that is mutually beneficial to both parties, said it was the first of such gesture by the state government since the establishment of the centre many years ago. He said the gesture will bring out the potentials of the trainees through quality products.
“We will reinvest the proceeds into re-training   our manpower and providing tools for the graduating trainees. There will also be room for expansion as more young people will be incorporated into the scheme,” he explained.
He said already, 20 staff of the organization has been sent to Singapore for further training in different skills under a partnership arrangement.  He said the partnership will enable the centre to depart from the previous archaic method of training of its students to a more modern and advance ways.
“Our aim is that with the Singapore training, youths can compete favourably with any other technician outside the country,” he noted. He listed some of the modern training techniques to be learnt from the Singaporean partners to include electronics, modern roofing to tiling works and modern ceiling fitting.
He said the expatriates from Singapore had     severally visited    the state to study the existing facilities at the various centres   to redesign them or acquire new ones.
  Executive Chairman, Nasarawa State Universal Basic Education Board (NSUBEB), Malam Abdulkarim Mohammed through whose office the centre got the contract  hailed al-Makura for adopting a solution-based approach to youth empowerment and general unemployment problem through the direct labour option.
He said the policy would create a business environment and economic culture which will address the absence of entrepreneurial know-how among the people. “It will in turn stimulate the creative imagination, talent and curiosity of youths in the pursuit of self-development and excellence”, he said.
The governor’s decision to patronise the state-owned skills acquisition centres, he noted, was also aimed at boosting the morale of the prospective trainees, as profits accruing from the contracts would be used to buy working tools for the graduating trainees and disbursement of some cash as start-up capital.
Weekly Trust learnt that apart from carpentry,   the wielding and fabrication section, door frames, sliding windows, tricycles for the physically challenged and play ground equipment for nursery schools were on display.  Also on display were different hospital equipment such as beds, trolley, wash hand basin, stands among others.
Wodi A. Peter,   Head,   Department of  Welding and Fabrication, said 28 trainees under the scheme and 40 regular students are currently under-going training at the section. Activities are also going on at the leather and shoe works; knitting; fashion and design; hairdressing; refrigerator and air-condition sections among others.  
The general manager said the training, unlike what is obtainable in some states, is free. “The state government even pays a monthly allowance of N3,000 to each trainee and on successful completion of their training, government will assist participants to set up their own business enterprises.
He said the governor has directed that about 2,000 trainees who had graduated from the institution be recalled and adequately empowered so that they are properly engaged enough to face the society. The general manager   hopes that the state government would patronize the centre are other products by ensuring that various ministries and agencies buy them.
“It is our sincere hope that the state government extends its lofty gesture to other areas. We produce the best quality chalk-board in the country; we fabricate quality hospital equipment  and many other products. We hope the state government would also patronize all these,” he said.
He said the centre is also reaching out to the open market with its products in the on-going drive to become self reliant. He said one of the constraints militating against the smooth operation of the centre is epileptic power supply.
“Although we have an existing arrangement with the  PHCN for four hours  of uninterrupted power supply every day, we will have to alternate with generator for our energy needs. This costs money, because of high cost of diesel. We also have to go far to get some of the raw materials we require for our work. When we got the contract from the state government to construct chairs and desk for the schools, we have to travel as far as Calabar and some south west states to get mahogany and Iroko for the products,” he said.  
He said the state government’s gesture has lead to the recapitalisation of the skills acquisition centres in Wamba, Lafia, Doma, Assakio and Nasarawa, adding that the board still admits students into its junior secondary programme . “We still admit JSS students where they are thought based on conventional syllabus until their third year when they are expected to specialize in a particular trade,” he disclosed.

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