The Federal government says it is leveraging sporting activities to engage millions of young people and vulnerable youth and children across the country.
The Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Maryam Uwais, said this at the opening of a four-day training programme for some sports coaches in Abuja on Monday.
The programme tagged, ‘Line Up, Live Up (Lulu) training for coaches’ was organised aspart of At-Risk Children Project (ARC-P), a federal government programme launched in January to address the “concerns of at-risk children and provide them with a life of dignity”.
The training seeks to empower sports coaches with the requisite knowledge on life skills to effectively engage out-of-school children and other vulnerable young people to take advantage of new opportunities and become productive.
Ms Uwais, whose office directly supervises the programme with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), had said in July that the project was targeting over nine million Nigerian children exposed to violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and social exclusion in the country.
Speaking to the participants on Monday, she called on them to use the knowledge gained to assist the government in its efforts to give a new lease of life to the target category of people.
She said: “The first thing we realise is that these street children are in such large numbers and they are likely to overwhelm the state structures. We are hoping to get young people who are educated but unemployed to help us on this journey.
“Once we train them to look after the children, and they can mentor those of them that are in need, especially in aspects such as trauma and substance abuse, we will be able to support them through the primary healthcare development agencies and State medical systems.”
She said the target persons “will also be guided to remain in school or encouraged to work in cooperatives, for those who choose to become entrepreneurs.”
The presidential aide also said many of them needed to be aware of skills they could develop.
“So, we are here to give them options that they can validate and develop. I am appealing to you to be patient and support these beneficiaries to acquire life-skills, thereby enabling them to take ownership of their lives,” she said.
Nigeria currently has the largest number of out-of-school children in the world with an estimated number of 13.2 million, a 2018 survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates.
Most of these children are in Nigeria’s northern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, where Boko Haram insecurities have disrupted academic activities.
Also speaking the UNODC national project officer, Akanidomo Ibanga, explained how sports would be used to ensure crime prevention and prevention of drug use among young people.
“Currently we are having a workshop. Training of coaches, under the programme lineup, develop. This is a programme that is using sports in both crime prevention and prevention of drug use among young people.
“It’s a programme that’s done under the funding of the European Union, in collaboration again between UNODC, and the Office of the Vice President.
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“And what we are hoping to do is we are training four coaches from six selected states. And these coaches who then go back and work with at-risk children basically street children, children that are out of school, and through sports, be able to teach them skills, and these skills will then help to protect that child from engaging in substance use and violent crime.
According to him, the initiative is the first of its kind in Nigeria since the programme was developed based on the Doha agreement. “We are the 14th country that is actually being implemented,” he said.
The four-day programme commenced with training for 20 sports coaches drawn from five states, as well as four coaches from the federal government as monitors.
States benefiting from the first phase of the training programme are Kaduna, Gombe, Ekiti, Sokoto and Borno States.
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