The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has assured officials of Ritman University, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, of partnership in setting up a youth development centre in the university.
NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Nsima Ekere, gave the assurance when the founder of the university, Senator Ibok Essien and the Vice Chancellor, Professor Celestine Ntuen paid him a courtesy visit in Port Harcourt.
Ekere noted that the vision of the university, with respect to developing the capacity of students to be self-starters, tallied with that of the NDDC, stating that it was important that young people were given quality education that would prepare them to be self-employed.
He said: “We must be concerned about the quality of education that we are giving to our youths in the Niger Delta. This is a region that is beset with a lot of difficulties and challenges. Youth restiveness is very common in the region and unemployment has reached alarming proportions.”
Ekere said the plan for a youth development centre was the kind of contribution that would teach the young ones how to be entrepreneurs and employers of labour. According to him, “it keys into the vision of the current board and management of the NDDC.”
He said that experience had shown that there was need to develop a special kind of programme that would lead to sustainable livelihood for the youths. “We had trained 23,000 people over the years and they were given starter packs. Unfortunately, some of them sell (sic) the starter packs and return (sic) to the ranks of the unemployed,” he said.
According to him, one of the ways the commission was tackling the problem was through the establishment of enterprise hubs, for which it was partnering with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN.
He observed that SMEDAN had 23 Industrial Development Centers, IDCs, nationwide and four of the centers were located in the Niger Delta. However, he regretted that all the centres had since closed down.
Ekere stated that NDDC recently signed an agreement with SMEDAN to convert the IDCs to enterprise hubs and innovation centres because the region was blessed with the best of brains. He added: “The idea is that we will start with one of the IDC's in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, but ultimately, our intension is to see that all the IDCs owned by SMEDAN in the Niger Delta region are revamped and revitalized.”
The NDDC boss stressed the need to prepare the youths to face the new world and be competitive with graduates from all over the world.
“We are collaborating with a Silicon Valley-based organization called the Digital Learning Network and they are coming with partners like Microsoft. The idea is to replace the hardcopy textbooks that we have in primary and secondary schools, convert them into digital formats,” Ekere said, pointing out that the project would revolutionize education and learning in the entire Niger-Delta Region.
According to him, each student in the secondary and primary schools would be given tablets and laptops that would contain all the textbooks that they need and all the learning instructions and manuals.
Earlier, Essien had expressed satisfaction with the development efforts of the NDDC over the past 18 years. He stated: “The region which was hitherto abandoned has been made to come alive with the numerous infrastructure and human capital development spread all over the region.”
He appealed to the Federal Government to release the outstanding funds owed the NDDC to enable it continue to execute its development projects across the region.
In his presentation, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Celestine Ntuen, said that Ritman University was determined to change the character of teaching and learning in the country. “We want to train students with creative ideas and impart the right type of education which will make them self-starters,” he said.