The Federal Government has described sports as a critical tool to effectively engage young people, as well as address the plight of vulnerable children in the country.
The Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Maryam Uwais, said this while addressing participants at a three-day training for selected coaches from five states on Tuesday, in Abuja.
The training was tagged: “Line up, Live up training for Coaches”.
The programme, christened ‘Lulu’ is being facilitated on the platform of the At-Risk-Children Programme, ARC-P.
It is aimed at empowering sports coaches with the requisite knowledge on life skills, to effectively engage out-of-school children and other vulnerable young people, to take advantage of new opportunities and become productive.
It is an initiative of the office of the Vice-President, directly supervised by the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC.
According to Uwais, the programme is one of the many interventions of the ARC-P initiative of the government geared towards addressing the cross-cutting concerns of children at risk, and providing them with a life of dignity.
She decried the plight of a huge number of out-of-school youth and children, urging the participants to take the training seriously to achieve the aims.
The special adviser urged the coaches to use the knowledge gained to assist the government in its efforts to give a new lease of life to vulnerable children and youths in Nigeria.
“We all have a responsibility to support them by making sure they are brought unto a constructive and productive pathway. So, I plead with you to be strong and firm in supporting us in this effort”, Mrs Uwais said.
She stated that the educated, but unemployed, young Nigerians, including National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, members, would be engaged and trained to drive the programme, to achieve its set objectives.
“The first thing we realise is that these street children are in such large numbers and they are likely to overwhelm the state structures.
“We are hoping to get young people who are educated, but unemployed, to help us on this journey.
“Once we train them to look after the children and they are able to mentor those of them that are in need, especially in aspects such as trauma and substance abuse, we will be able to support them through the primary healthcare development agencies and state medical systems.
“They will also be guided to remain in school or encouraged to work in cooperatives, for those who choose to become entrepreneurs.
“Many of them need to be aware of skills they can develop if they do not already have them. So, we are here to give them options that they can validate and develop.
“I am appealing to you to be patient and support these beneficiaries to acquire life skills, thereby enabling them to take ownership of their lives,” Mrs Uwais said.
She thanked all partners of ARC-P, including the UNODC, for their support to the government in assisting the vulnerable youth and children in the country.
The UNODC National Project Officer, Dr Akanidomo Ibanga, said the essence of the training was to use sports for both crime prevention and drug usage among young people.
Mr Ibanga said it was a programme developed under a collaboration between the UNODC and the office of the Vice-President, with funding from the European Union,
He said the approach was to use the instrument of sports to empower street children across the country, with a view to redirecting them away from social vices such as violence, crime, drug abuse, drug trade and human trafficking, among others.
Mr Ibanga said the participants were expected to go back to their states and engage at risk children, basically children on the street and out- of-school, through sports.
“They are to teach them skills that will help to protect those children from engaging in violent crime and use of drugs.”
The participants under the first phase of the training are four sports coaches drawn from Kaduna, Gombe, Ekiti, Sokoto and Borno, as well as four others from the Federal Government, who would serve as monitors.