Capturing the Needs of the Physically-Challenged in Abia

By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

The physically- challenged hold a prominent place in the society. This assertion is supported by some scriptures thus:“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you’—when you already have it with you. — Proverbs 3:27-28; “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” — Proverbs 19:17.

Abia State Government has taken another step in realising the special place of the physically-challenged by inaugurating the Education for Employment (E4E) Special Needs Centre for Abia South Senatorial Districtbin Ohanze, Obingwa Local Government Area of the State recently.The Centre offers training in the following skills: computer training, electronics and phone repairs, electrical works, shoe-making and leather works, fashion and design, and hair dressing.

It will  be recalled that centre came on stream in 2013 as Agalaba Chapter of the National Association of Physically Challenged Persons.Relief came the way of the centre, which was almost moribund when the attentions of the Governor’s wife, Deaconess Nkechi Ikpeazu and the Coordinator of E4E, Mr. Endi Ezengwa, were drawn to the centre.This became the turning point of the centre as government funds to furnish the centre.Also, government has ensured that the programmes meet the standard of for certification by the National Business and Technical Examinations Board.

The centre is also bound  to provide an apprenticeship system that conforms with best global practices. To this end, government is to collaborate  with the organized private sector to teach vocational and technical skills within a reasonable time. While this will boosts the Gross Domestic Product , it will also promote the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) base of the economy.

In Abia, the plight of the physically- challenged has been the centre of most policies of the Ikpeazu- led administration.Recently, the Abia State Government through the State Ministry of Health, and  Partnership with Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation provided care to hearing impaired persons in the State. In a bid to ensure that the hearing impaired have more access to education and other need, the Foundation conducted an assessment, ear screening, fitting assessment, recounseling and final quality control of persons with hearing impairment towards and provided them with hearing kits that will enable to hear properly.

With the above feat, E4E has added another feather to its hall of achievements. The programme few months ago, trained participants in various skill areas at the E-library Complex Umuahia. The programme was expected to locate jobs for those wishing to go into paid employment as well offer start up materials for those wishing to stand alone and also offer monthly stipends to the trainees.

Also, on 3rd August,the first batch programme’s graduates passed out in a grand ceremony in Umuahia. It is incontrovertible that the scheme has assumed the status of a beautiful pride as it has atracted the attention of international donor agencies such as the World Bank. At the local level, even the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has indicated interest In funding graduates of the scheme who wish to set up shop on their own.

Indeed,E4E programme is apt in the face of the acute unemployment problems bedeviling the state for sometime now. It is projected that over six million youths in Nigeria are unemployed and the current economic recession makes the situation more complex as more Nigerians are losing their jobs daily.E4E, as the programme is fondly called, is another initiative of the government which possesses every potential to change tthe narrative of youth employment in the state.The programme is conceptualized around creating employment.

The  concept of the programme is to ensure that education leads to employment by imbuing the youths with the technical skills that would enable them become either self-employed or sought after by others.The Programme is to boost the current efforts of the state to be elevated to a Small and Medium Scale Entrepresises(SME) capital of the country where all kinds of equipment and devices will be imported to boost shoes and garments production.

Another essence of the programme is to launch Abia to technical education.The Programme would be replicated in primary schools across the produce primary school pupils that are ready and prepared to go into technical education and eventually end up servicing the technical needs of Abia people.The Programme is designed to be replicated in primary schools across the state, and for primary school pupils that are ready and prepared to go into technical education and eventually end up servicing the technical needs of Abia people.