By Zariat Yetunde Ayoade
Firdausi Barawa is a 13 years old girl from Gufarawa Village, who had always loved to be a fashion designer, but her parents can not afford to sponsor her apprenticeship. With her dreams hanging high above her, she resorted to helping the family in selling Dankali da Awara—fried potatoes and tofu.
Fast forward to July 2023, she has an array of skills to choose from and learn for free, courtesy of the Skill4all skills acquisition training. And she gave her dreams a shot.
“I chose fashion design because that is what I love. But prior to this training, I didn’t get a chance to learn,” she revealed.
The training is a product of the passion of Team Skill4All, which comprises five students of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS). The team, through July 2023, groomed out-of-school children from the university environs, with the help of volunteer artisans. Though the training targeted 50 children, 70 kids, who didn’t have the opportunity to acquire Western education or skills, turned up for it.
Swinging between her home and Makaranta Islamiyya—Arabic school, the training gave Firdausi more purpose. She now boasts of her ability to make caps without a sewing machine and is confident that the skill will help her in the future because of the marketability of caps.
“I didn’t learn about cap making alone. I can also take dress measurements correctly, all thanks to the organizers of this training and our teachers, who imparted this knowledge to us,” she gushed.
Skill Acquisition: An Unattainable Goal for the Children
10 years old Amina Abubakar had never seen relaxers or shampoo until the training, which allowed her to try out Hairdressing. Beforehand, she had never given serious thought to what she wanted to do with her life, but getting into the training, she found her knack for hairdressing.
Team Skills4All won a subgrant from LEAP Africa to execute the training and, as they envisioned, it helped children like Amina realize their idle potential. Her words, “I am grateful for the privilege of being among the people who joined the training,” conveyed gratitude to the organizers for helping her dare to dream.
The Skills4All team had to visit villages around the university to speak with the heads before they gained access to the children and Abdullah Muhammad, 12, who had never thought he would have an opportunity to acquire any skill, less of shoe making, blessed the moment the Skills4All team found his village.
He said, we barely have the opportunity to acquire a skill. It is either we go to Islamiyya or school. However, with this training, I have acquired a skill, as you can see, waving the carton slippers he made to the admiration of this reporter.
“At first, I didn’t know which skill to learn. But when we got to the training, we learnt about the available categories. Shoe making has always enticed me, but one can rarely find a place to learn, even if you can afford it,” Abdullah regretted.
He proceeded to detail the process of making slippers and sandals and lauded the tutor, exuding confidence that even if he wanted to further the training elsewhere, “I would not start from scratch”.
One of the many things Hanatu Bello doesn’t know is; because her parents didn’t tell her. Having grown up with the belief that, as a girl-child, all she has to do is help her parents, “go to Islamiyya and get married”, she saw the training as a new lease of life and opted for Catering. She bemoaned that “we [her family] can not afford the learning fee [to get a skill], and where to learn is not in our village”.
The training made her realize that she could make puff-puff, chin chin and zobo drinks on a low budget and still earn from it. She told this reporter how she made puff-puff and zobo for her parents and siblings at home and they all liked it, noting that she can keep doing them to earn money anywhere she finds herself. She heaped praises on the trainers and the organizers, asserting that, without them, she would not know anything about Catering.
15 years old Shimawa Bello believes that Fashion Design is a skill every girl shoul, have, and it’s no wonder that she joined this section. From her first day at the training, she looked forward to Saturdays and Sundays, when the training would hold.
She wished that “the training would continue so that we can learn new things and have enough time to perfect what we have learnt. I pray Allah never forsakes the people who made this happen and bless them abundantly”.
The Making of Skills4All
According to LEAP Africa, the Youth Leadership Development Programme (YLDP) aims to empower and develop leadership skills among young individuals by cultivating leadership qualities, promoting civic engagement, and encouraging personal growth among young participants.
Abdulbasit Adeshina Ajibike, the Skills4All team lead and a 400-level student at the Faculty of Agriculture, recounted that he and his team members got into the YLDP individually before going through a series of online training, after which they took an assessment and earned certificates. They would later team up to submit a community project proposal a few minutes before the deadline.
The team initially wanted to do something related to climate change and food security. However, considering that it doesn’t align with the LEAP Africa thematic goal, they settled for a project to empower out-of-school children. In the end, they earned selection to receive requisite funding to execute their project.
Upon getting the first tranche of the funds, the team went for mobilization across four villages around UDUS, Gidan Yumfa, Shama, Gumburawa and Danjawa, which, in the words of the team lead, “are under-served communities in UDUS”.
As skills acquisition requires that students be guided by experts in the particular field, the team put out a call for volunteer student artisans to help train the kids.
According to Abdulbasit, one of the major challenges they faced, at first, was not having enough artisans on board. The volunteers that signed up didn’t appear, with only five persons out of 88 volunteers that registered showing real interest.. The training continued with the team outsourcing for people instead.
He also mentioned how the sudden hike in commodity prices disrupted their budget, making some items inaccessible and that he is glad that “despite all the challenges faced, we completed the [training] program successfully. I can only be grateful to everyone who took part in it.
Speaking on the team’s plans, Zakariya’u Dauda, a 300-level student of Medical Laboratory Science and another member of the team, explained that one of the major objectives of the program is to empower 30% of the kids, which they are yet to do.
“We have only equipped them with the knowledge needed but have not empowered them, which means the project is not done yet. We are moving to a mentorship phase. We have the names of the kids already and will contact them when we are ready,” he assured.
He also share his observation that the kids are just like any other kids who have dreams but don’t have a way to achieve them, recalling that most of the answers they gave him when he quizzed the children on the reason they don’t go to school or why they stopped going to school show that poverty is greatly hindering their growth.
Driven to Make Impact: Volunteers Speak on the Training
When Nimatallah Muhammed, a 300-level student at UDUS, first learnt of the Skills4All training from her coursemate, Umar Faruq Amori, a member of the team, she notified him of her interest in being a volunteer artisan on the project.
“I passionately wanted to be part of the project and immediately I saw the call for volunteers on Facebook, I didn’t hesitate to sign up,” she narrated how she became a Fashion Design instructor.
Being a professional fashion designer who recognizes the need to give back to society, Nimatallah saw the training as a golden opportunity to impart as much knowledge as she could. The children’s consistent enthusiasm and attentiveness equally reassured her that she was doing the right thing.
She, however, bemoaned her limited proficiency in Hausa which affected her communication with the kids. She expressed regret that, sometimes, she didn’t know how best to simplify her instructions, but the kids learnt a lot despite the language barrier.
Regardless, she maintained that “the training was a success”, adding that “It was interesting taking the kids and I look forward to seeing them during the mentorship phase”.
According to Micheal Philomen, the Shoe Making instructor, it is the joy of every teacher to see his or her students do well. He told this reporter that he is happy that the children were able to learn within the time frame.
“I was surprised to see the kids making different patterns of shoes with cardboard and carton after having just one class with them. One of the team members informed me about the training, and I am so happy that I was part of it. The children had the passion and potential for the skills, and it was a good sight,” Micheal concluded.
“A person shall not be discriminated against based on circumstances of his birth” — Human Rights Lawyer
Barrister Emmanuel Okorie, a legal practitioner in Nigeria, opined that education is the best gift society can give the next generation because it allows them to think independently and guide them to be productive.He also asserted that children from less privileged backgrounds can attain their desired height through education if it is structured in a manner that is accessible to all.
“Acquiring a skill or getting a quality education is what the government should focus on to ensure that independent minds are formed out of these children,” he advised.
Referencing section 42 of the 1999 constitution, which provides that a person shall not be discriminated against based on circumstances of their birth, Barrister Emmanuel argued that children from less privileged backgrounds should be given the same opportunity their family would not have ordinarily provided to ensure their future.
“The world is now a global village, it is only education that can make children from less privileged backgrounds compete fairly with children from other continents”, he addressed the relative disregard for education in the northern part of Nigeria in contrast to the southern region.
He also called upon parents to identify the power of education, and why it is important for their children to be educated, concluding that while “you can not force parents to send their children to school, you can only appeal to them” because “It is only right for a child to have both education and skills, or at least have one so as to be independent and not be a burden to the society”.