Raheem Akingbolu looks at the recent of launch of an Education Endowment Trust Fund by the North-East Development Commission, NEDC, and how this may positively impact lives in the troubled region
It was triumph of willpower and the indomitability of the human spirit and a unique victory for the people of the insurgency-ravaged north-eastern part of the country when the North-East Development Commission, NEDC, launched its Education Endowment Trust Fund, NEDC-EETF in Abuja.
The body, set up to improve the infrastructural development of the region and also ameliorate the effect of years of the Boko Haram insurgency, had tried to hit ground and running since it was inaugurated in May last year. After initial hiccups, mainly occasioned by non-availability of take-off funds, the Commission finally set to work and despite subtle campaign of blackmail and calumny, it seems determined to fulfill its mandate as stipulated in the Act setting it up and also meet the expectations of President Mohammadu Buhari who is said to be personally interested in the activities of the Commission.
Realising that education is key to revamping the region and also improving the minds of its teeming youths, the Commission decided to set up the Education Endowment Trust Fund and stipulated that ten percent of its entire allocations will be going into the Fund. Apart from this, the Fund would be administered by a separate Board of Trustees to ensure transparency and accountability. The Commission then chose Mr. David Sabo Kente, a tested public administrator as the Board of Trustees for the Fund.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Fund, Kente thanked the Board for the confidence it reposed on him and rest of the Board of Trustees by counting them worthy to administer such a sensitive and important assignment.
“I wish to express our profound gratitude and appreciation to the Governing Board of the North East Development Commission for finding us worthy of being appointed into this Education Endowment Fund to work towards the development of sufficient human capital in order to acquire adequate capacity for infrastructural and socio-economic development of the North East Region. The decision of the Governing Board to establish the NEDC-EEF is a timely intervention and innovation for the eradication of illiteracy and endemic poverty in the region,” Kente said.
He explained that as a strategic and specialised body, NEDC-EEF is saddled with clearly defined objectives and responsibilities to amongst others: build human capacity for the North-East zone through scholarship endowment; offer citizens of member states equal opportunity in ICT skills acquisition and educational training at graduate and post graduate levels and also provide educational training for families at Ward, Local Government and Senatorial district levels in all the states.
“Further the education of over 2400 beneficiaries of the Safe School Initiative (SSI) beyond secondary school level; offer opportunity for training orphaned children and other vulnerable groups currently not benefitting from the safe school initiative.”
He added that mandate of the Fund also included provision of short term but impactful entrepreneurship training programmes to candidates whose primary school or secondary school education were truncated by the Boko Haram and other crisis. According to Kente, it also included offer special scholarship opportunities to talented youths engaged in sports and also establish a North East Regional Sports Institute in the future and support the training of nurses, midwives and retraining of teachers and vocational training for women and youths.
In his own address, the Chairman of the Board of the NEDC, retired Major-General Paul Tarfa, said the dwindling human development indices of the North-East (NE) region show that the region remains the poorest in the country. He said this was lamentable. His word:
“While, the overall Human Development Index for Nigeria averaged about O.521 as reported by the United Nation Development Programmes (UNDP), unfortunately all the states in the region scored far below the average with Taraba State being the best with an index of 0.428. It is a common knowledge that the North-East Region is the most backward in the country and is characterized by low literacy levels, poor healthcare delivery, wide skill gaps, high rate of unemployment, low rate of youth empowerment, dilapidated infrastructure, etc. The situation was further aggravated by the violent terrorist group- the Boko Haram insurgency which led to massive destruction of lives and property at the level that is unprecedented in the history of the region.”
He said the Commission, which has the mandate and responsibility of rebuilding the region and chart new a course for stabilisation, resilience and long-term socio-economic development considered it mandatory, expedient and timely to intervene quickly in the education sector by establishing the NEDC Education Endowment Fund (EEF) to halt the ugly trend of human development situation in the Region.
“The NEDC Governing Board therefore took a bold decision in to address the need for Human Capital Development and the poor Human Development Index, hence the Board at its Board Meeting of 12th December 2019, set aside an initial seed capital of six billion naira (N6b) for the Endowment Fund to take-off. The Education Endowment Fund aimed at improving the human capital development for the North-East is appropriate, both in relevance and timing.
Apart from the award of scholarships for the teeming out of school children and the youth, the scope of the Fund is also designed to include the training of nurses/midwives, teacher re-training as well as vocational training for women and youths, thereby potentially widening the human capital horizon and increasing the number of beneficiaries of the Fund in all Member States,” the retired general explained.
Perhaps, while many might see this as tokenism, the larger picture they need to see is the impact of this move on, not only on the development of the region but also the psychology of its teeming youths. For so long, these are young Nigerians who have not known peace and stability in, at least, the last ten years of their lives. It has been war, deaths, destruction and displacement of their lives. Beyond this is the fact that their education has been disrupted and many of the could not even remember how the inside of a classroom looks like.
Now, there is a new lease of life for them. And while this might not solve all their problems, at least it will go a long way to remind them that the rest of the world has not forgotten them.
What, however, remains to be seen is if just ten percent of the total allocation of the funds accruable to the NEDC might be enough going by the enormity of the job at hand. For instance, two states, Borno and Yobe, have been the most badly affected of all the states under the coverage of the NEDC. In fact, reports have it that outside Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, one cannot really vouch for safety of lives and property in any other part. Recently, the state governor, Babagana Zulum, was attacked on his way to Baga. Though he escaped unscathed, it was an indication of how volatile the region still was.
Even with these negative indices, the North-east is gradually and inexorably on the road towards recovery. And no other organization will be happier than the NEDC which is spearheading this recovery.