Examining VSF educational intervention
By Johnson Eze
Identifiable in the list of sad footprints the insurgency is unfortunately registering on Nigerian soil is the random disruption of education opportunities, destruction of school facilities, and rendering to near zero, the ability of children to access formal literacy programs. The danger of this form of challenge when left unaddressed is quite enormous and is even more threatening than most clinical epidemics.
For one to have the feel of what kind of danger awaits a society where the education of its future generation is obscured, one should just cast one’s mind back to life in the Stone Age era when formal education was non-existent and everything was done in its crudest form. That is why society development experts and authorities appreciate this fact and hardly relent in speaking out in favor of education at every slightest opportunity.
For instance, George Washington, the first President of the United States in one of his popular quotes stated that “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom”. Nelson Mandela, the globally recognized freedom fighter and the first indigenous president of South Africa in a similar manner referred to “Education as the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. The Pakistani education Activist and youngest Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai during her visit to Nigeria advocated mainly on education for victims of Boko Haram especially female children.
Bearing in mind the unmistakable fact that when terrorists strike in any settlement, the inhabitants are either disorganized or displaced and knowing that whatever is the case, children abruptly stop schooling for fear of heightened insecurity. It is therefore commendable for Victims Support Fund (VSF) to make education intervention one of its core areas of engagement.
To the delight of education watchers and enthusiasts, VSF has been assisting sufferers of Boko Haram attacks in the dimension of enhancing education access for growing children. The educational intervention so far has focused on providing school materials for school children, talking of all the textbooks and exercise books required, writing materials, uniforms, sandals and school bags. The program started with a total of 21,291 children, covering Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and an IDP centre in Benin and is being scaled up to cover a total of 80,000 children.
Beyond that, the Fund has moved into the area of reconstruction of public schools as an essential component of rebuilding public structures that were destroyed. One of the worst things that Boko Haram did was the destruction of every facility that is out there. Nothing is standing in most of the affected areas and VSF started with Dikwa in Borno state where over 40 public structures in the town have been reconstructed-the schools, the hospitals, police barracks, local government secretariat, government lodges, and bore holes. From that point, the organization has been trying to facilitate quick return of local governance to many of these places that have been completely devastated and now that people are returning, it is important that state institutions, social services are available to support their return. The fund has started the process to begin the reconstruction of public schools and other infrastructure in Buni Yadi, Yobe State and Michika, Adamawa State. VSF has also virtually completed the rebuilding of some public structures in Bama, Borno state.
But beyond all these, the fund has moved into the area of Foster Care, which is another kind of informal education. Home up-bringing is a form of special education. There are many children out there who have lost both parents and are disconnected from parenthood and need to be looked after and for many of them the VSF foster care programme is the only way out. As one of the things VSF has encapsulated in its plans is a foster care system that is unique. Many of these children will be adequately taken care of, given a befitting up-bringing, inculcated with balanced home training and the requisite value system that will enable them to grow up as good citizens of this nation.
There is a consensus across the world that education enhances the capacity for rational thinking hence the ability to contribute more meaningfully to the society. The role of VSF in ensuring that victims of insurgency do not lose the opportunity to acquire the necessary education and be a meaningful part of the society is a step in the right direction which must be cherished on its merit.
Johnson is a Media practitioner based in Abuja.