Hafsat Mohammad is the head girl at the Maiduguri Learning Centre, Maiduguri, Borno State, where orphans and displaced children are being rehabilitated, educated and prepared to become better citizens in the future.
The learning centre was established in 2017 by the North East Children Trust, NECT, initiated by Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to provide education and care for children orphaned by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Until 2018 when she and other children were picked from IDP camps and taken to the learning centre, Hafsat did not have any form of education.
In the speech she wrote and delivered at the fifth anniversary of NECT on Monday evening, Hafsat said “education is the most powerful weapon to conquer this complex world” and “through education we can achieve all our goals.”
According to her, the school has taught the children everything, including knowledge, trust and unity.
“Everyone deserves progress, growth and positive things in life,” Hafsat stated, expressing her gratitude to all those who have joined hands with Vice President Osinbajo to provide them an opportunity to learn, interact and prepare for the challenges of life.
“I am glad that everyone here wants us to go further and higher,” she said, adding that the teachers at the learning centre had been “really great friends, mentors and guardians.”
For Hafsat and her school mates, Vice President Osinbajo’s idea in establishing the learning centre was borne out of his “intention of changing our plight of yesterday,” and “he was the one who intends to make us the ambassadors and leaders of tomorrow.”
The displays by the pupils during the anniversary defined what impact the learning centre has made in their lives.
They showed their knowledge in computer programming and robotics, which the impressed audience acknowledged with cheers.
The pupils also performed various dances, depicting Nigeria’s rich culture and competed in forming words from letters written out for them.
At the event, which took place at the Nigerian Air Force Centre, Abuja, Vice President Osinbajo was joined by his wife, Dolapo, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State; former Governor of the Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima; Deputy Governor of Plateau State, Prof. Sonni Tyoden and Senator Ali Ndume.
Among other dignitaries that graced the event were the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubukar; the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero; the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, Finda Koroma, Minister of Women Affairs and members of the diplomatic community.
Prof. Osinbajo said that the idea behind the school came to him in 2016 when he and former Governor Shettima visited a number of IDP camps in Borno State and “came to the conclusion that something had to be done.”
Osinbajo said 173 of the children that were taken to the centre in 2018 have moved on to secondary schools.
“It is so outstanding what is going on in Borno State and it’s such an eye opener.
“I think ultimately, service to the people is what our being in government is about; if we are not able to serve the people with everything that we have and with all of our hearts, then really our role is really quite irrelevant and perhaps unjustified. Even our being there is unjustified.”
In his remarks, Gov. Zulum said that Borno State has about 49, 311 orphans and 50, 000 widows, pointing out that the establishment of the learning centre will go a long way in reducing the number of out of school children.
He noted that an important aspect of the centre is in the development of its curriculum.
“In addition to providing intensive literacy and numeracy to the children, this school also offers strong technical and vocational education to the pupils.
“It offers strong digital literacy to the children and I think this is the type of education we are looking for because it will make the children self-reliant.”
Insisting that lack of education increases infrastructural deficits; increases poverty and climate vulnerabilities, Zulum said that these were some of the root causes of insurgency.
He called on other Nigerians to look into the possibility of establishing more schools in Borno State and other parts of North East Nigeria.
The governor disclosed that the Borno State government has begun closing IDP camps in the state, while efforts were being made to repatriate Nigerians living in neighbouring countries.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, who stated that he established a similar school in his domain, appealed to governors, the federal government and philanthropists to ensure that children are taken out of IDP camps and not allowed to go into the streets.
Others who spoke at the event were the Chairman of the Board of the North East Children Trust, Mr. Jim Ovia; and the Executive Secretary of the Centre, Mariam Masha.
North-east Children Trust holds 5th Anniversary