|Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar & AUN President Marggee Ensign|
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar hardly talks politics presently. He is consumed entirely by a new passion which has brought him so much satisfaction that you could say he is gaining weight by it. It has to do with dirty street children in tatters commonly called “almajiri”. A bar of soap, a daily wash and a meal; a plastic chair and a plywood board the size of a table – and oh yes, add a venue – the cozy surroundings of the American University of Nigeria in Yola is all that is in place, and performing wonders. Atiku Abubakar, one of Africa’s richest entrepreneurs has found out at home in Yola, that those scruffy looking street boys, fatherless it would seem, can respond to a calculated intervention that within a short period, brings out a startling best in them.
A few scores of these begging children that milled around the American University of Nigeria entrance gate, scavenging for crumbs off laborers’ meal plates and surrounding rich parents who drive in and out of high brow AUN, were enrolled in a pilot project called FEED AND READ. The University’s President Marggee Ensign had been moved by how charmingly and affectionately the beggar children responded to generous alms from a cheerful giver, which she was. With the number of beggar children increasing daily, Margee Ensign initiated the pilot project of FEED AND READ as a research tool into how the lives of the university’s host community could be positively impacted upon, with regards to addressing street child begging and providing education for school age children, particularly itinerant males.
Then President Ensign officially announced the Almajiri ‘Feed and Read’ initiative, stating that with the support of the local community the Almajiri children will be receiving “one meal per day, prepared by a local vendor.” AUN’s faculty and student volunteers would assist with the ‘read’ component – a literacy program held every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 5 pm. A peace sensitization curriculum for the children was also incorporated and the pilot scheme, which began with fewer than 20 children raised the enrolment to a little more than 100 enrolled, and rising continually. The program’s Coordinator, Mr. Joseph Oladimeji, was certain that the success would be recorded as the University did not only provide the children one quality meal per day but also taught basic civics and personal hygiene. They got bathing soaps and detergents, their old begging bowls were replaced with new ones, with a new culture of meeting the expectation that they are neat and orderly before joining the breadline each day. The children surprisingly quickly adapted to leading clean and healthy lives, relaxed by assurances that their Qur’anic education continued, only this time with added contemporary subjects.
Education had occupied a special pride of place in Atiku Abubakar’s heart given his sustained interest in developing the American University of Nigeria to global reckoning, but nothing causes him to exude as much satisfaction as the dramatic impact that President Margee Ensign’ s Feed and Read project has made on the almajiri. Many of the children have found their self esteem, and would certainly be happy that project continued onwards to more education and self sustaining vocational skills empowerment. Vice President Abubakar is greatly satisfied that the American University of Nigeria which he has promoted, has researched a usable template for addressing the menace of the Almajiri children such that takes them out of the line of vulnerability.
Northern State Governors in Nigeria do have at the American University of Nigeria, a workable template, using a meal, a bar of soap, a daily wash; a plastic chair and a plywood board the size of a table – and oh yes, a venue as entry point into the dramatic changing of the almajiri narrative as the shame of poverty stricken North. Already, the Government of Adamawa State has also keyed into the program. Governor Mohammed Umar Jibrilla, who came to power in May with a progressive human development agenda tagged Social Change, has sponsored a thousand more beneficiaries to be enrolled. Were more public spirited individuals to accept the template and sponsor directly in their locations across Nigeria, the impact would be awesome. The US Government, through USAID, has provided funding for AUN to launch a mass literacy campaign for 20,000 out-of-school children in Adamawa State as a credit to the displayed humanism of Atiku and Margee.
First, Yola community leaders met at the invitation of President Ensign to address the needs of the Almajiri children. The meeting involved leaders of the Adamawa Peacemakers Initiative (API) as well as other community leaders. Traditional leaders from two wards in the Yola area, Bole and Mbamba, followed up with another visit to the campus to discuss this issue, and how to assist the children, who are mainly from poor backgrounds, with no formal education. They also explored agricultural opportunities and self-sustenance initiatives for their wellbeing.Do you ever witness news, videos, articles, or photos that you believe it's good and rich for our blog?, or do you have a true life story that you would want us to feature on our blog; Adamawa Celebrities News? Kindly submit your stories, pictures, and videos to us now via Email: email@example.com, or WhatsApp: 08051600130Connect on Social Media: @adamawacelebrities