By STEVE AGBOTA
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, yesterday, approved $450 million (about N67.5 billion) for two projects in Nigeria. The projects are the Nigeria Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) and the Nigeria State Education Programme Investment Project (SEPIP) to boost employment opportunities for young people in 20 states and improve quality of education for millions of school children in the country.
Financed by the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), the credit will support Nigeria’s socio-economic development in line with the Federal Government’s Transformation Agenda. The bank said $300 million (N45 billion) would go for YESSO programmes that would focus on poor youth and the poorest 10 per cent of households in participating states, while $150 million (N22.5 billion) would be for SEPIP, to serve millions of children in Anambra, Bauchi and Ekiti improve the quality of their schooling.
YESSO is expected to provide youths aged between 18 and 35 with opportunities for work and skills training, and improved access to social services for the vulnerable as part of efforts to support government in strengthening Nigeria’s social safety net system. Apart from the project linking financing to results achieved through better teacher deployment and school management, the project helps beneficiaries improve measurement of student learning in government primary and secondary schools in the benefiting states, with qualifying households entitled to regular cash transfers to improve family health and schooling.
The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Marie-Francoise Marie-Nelly, said the bank was delighted to support efforts to develop better schooling and earning prospects for millions of children and young people in Nigeria, while also cushioning some of the poorest families through a stronger social safety net system.
“Investing in people is an essential part of Nigeria’s strategy to reduce poverty and achieve steady economic growth,” Ms. Marie-Nelly said. The World Bank Task Team Leader for the YESSO project, Foluso Okunmadewa, acknowledged the importance of the support by the World Bank, considering that the youth make up over a half of Nigeria’s population of 167million people, with about 38 per cent of them either underemployed or unemployed and their education and skills levels low. “The YESSO Project will help young people earn wages by planting trees or cleaning public spaces, get help with livelihood skills and job placement, and live in less vulnerable households. The project will also help the government create systems that can be used to protect poor households and individuals both now and in future,” she said.
The Deputy Director, Vocational Skills, National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Roslyn Olawunmi, believes the project would benefit poor people, as it would help young people acquire skills and the opportunity to earn a decent living. “Some of the beneficiaries will work for wages, while others will start their own businesses and hire others”, Mrs. Olawunmi said. “At the end of the day, this will reduce poverty greatly among the poorest households.”
SEPIP is aimed at raising the quality of education in the three benefiting states by improving teacher availability in rural areas and for core subjects; introducing standardized state-level testing in English and Mathematics; making technical and vocational education more relevant to the needs of employers and entrepreneurs; and strengthening school-level management and accountability. “Rather than financing the educational system to keep it running, this education project shifts the focus to what the system is actually doing for children, by linking financing to the achievement of agreed results,” said World Bank Task Team Leader for the SEPIP project, Irajen Appasamy.
“The project is designed to make a real difference in the lives of children and youth, particularly girls and those from poor families, so that their education and skills help them join the jobs market as skilled adult workers,” she noted. The innovative and catalytic nature of the two projects helps to establish results and practices which could be scaled up and implemented by the state and federal authorities.