SPECIAL REPORT: How Buhari’s N-Power programme is transforming lives, improving education
Adeniyi Somade and his wife, Gbemisola, live in Ado-Ekiti, South-west Nigeria. He currently works as an auxiliary staff at the office of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), while his wife teaches ICT at Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, one of the foremost secondary schools in Ekiti State.
In April, the couple welcomed their first child. The Somades said they owe a portion of their gratitude to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, for creating the environment that improved their lives and enabled them start their new family.
Both graduates of Computer Science, their relationship dated back to their days at Adekunle Ajasin University.
Without jobs, marriage was not top on the list for the young couple. Mr Adeniyi narrated how they felt frustrated by the Nigerian system.
“Rough and uneasy are the mildest adjectives to describe our terrible situation at that time,” said ‘Niyi, as he is called.
“After graduation and my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) in 2012, I applied for all kinds of jobs and attended numerous interviews. But I was not lucky.”
Gbemisola finished her youth service a year after Niyi’s, and joined him in the labour market.
“We tried all kinds of petty trade, including selling kerosene,” he said.
Fate eventually smiled on the couple when the federal government introduced the Social Investment Programme which targets half a million youth in the country.
‘Niyi and Gbemisola were in the first set to apply for the N-Power component of the SIP.
“We were sceptical initially because we had Sure-P in the past,” said ‘Niyi. “My wife and I applied, but the programme turned out to give so much money to only an insignificant number of people. We did not get anything.
“Having concluded all the registration as well as the online and physical verification as applicants for the N-Power programme, it was like a joke when we suddenly received our first alert in December 2016,” he recalled.
“We could not believe our eyes even though the N30,000 alert was clearly showing on our phones,” he said.
With the constant N-Power stipend in the past over 15 months, the couple was not only able to save money to set up a little business, they also tied the nuptial knots.
“The steady income from N-Power emboldened us to take the step towards getting married and starting a new life.
The Somades had their beautiful daughter, Oluwafikunayomi (God had has filled up my joy), this April.
“Today, my wife and I no longer worry about what we eat, where we sleep or what to feed our baby with because we have a steady source of income,” Niyi said.
PREMIUM TIMES, in collaboration with Buharimeter (a platform tracking the implementation of programmes and projects of the Buhari administration) recently assessed how the N-Power programme has fared in three selected states; Ekiti, Kano and Niger states.
The assessment reveals that the Somades are not the only ones celebrating the federal government’s SIP. Thousands of Nigerians youth teaching in various schools across the country under the N-Teach sub-component of N-Power are in the same mood. However, there is apprehension among beneficiaries: what next after N-Power?
The SIP, which was part of the campaign promises of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), has four components. These are the Home Grown School Feeding Programme for public primary schools; the Conditional Cash Transfer to less-privileged; N-Power for unemployed graduates; and the Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP) to encourage market women, artisans, traders, and others.
The government in 2016 budgeted N500 billion for the SIP. However, as at May 16, only about N41 billion had been expended on the four programmes with the N-Power gulping N26 billion.
Under the N-Power which is the flagship component of the SIP, unemployed graduates of tertiary institutions are engaged in critical sectors like education, agriculture and health.
The SIP headquarters under the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said over one million Nigerians applied. But after a clean-up of the application portal, about 701, 000 were enlisted. About 200,000 graduates of tertiary institutions were eventually picked for the first phase. Those selected will receive stipends for two years under the N-Teach, N-Agro or N-Health sub-components.
Of all the SIP components and sub-components, the N-Teach is the most popular, due to the large number of youth deployed to teach in public schools.
The Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) criticised the programme. In 2017, the union said the government was trying to kill quality education by deploying unqualified teachers to public schools.
However, PREMIUM TIMES’ checks in the three selected states reveal gross shortage of teachers in public schools; and N-Teach is filling the gaps in most of the schools.
According to James Atoke, the Vice Principal of Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, a precolonial secondary school credited with educating most of the elite of Ekiti, including the current state governor, Ayo Fayose, N-Power teachers have not only proven themselves as good teachers, but have also become indispensable asset.
The 34 years veteran teacher revealed that the N-power teachers even take up management roles in schools in remote communities due to the dearth of qualified or inadequate manpower within the education sector of the state.
Clearly, Mr. Atoke is not on the same page with the NUT.
“If not all of them, a majority of the N-Power teachers have mastery of the subject matter. They have not been found wanting also in the theoretical aspect of teaching. Especially the way they make use of teaching aid in classes; and that is actually very impressive.
“There is one of them who is a Physics teacher now, we have to keep deploying from one class to the other just because we don’t have adequate teachers to cover those classes.
“The one that is taking Christian Religious Knowledge is a born teacher, who is very efficient and very punctual in her classes.”
“We want more deployment of N-Power teachers in our schools and if possible we look forward to government making at least five of them permanent for us in this school. Because if they should leave, we will fall back to a situation where we would be lacking teachers”, said the vice principal.
“Let me confirm to you that in some of the villages in Ekiti, it is these N-power teachers that some schools are relying on as managers of the school because there are no capable hands!
“Most of them are now functioning as vice principals and HODs in their respective schools.”