The At-Risk Children Project (ARC-P) will offer protection to the over nine million unprotected children in the country who deal daily with violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and exclusion, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, has said.
Mrs Uwais said this recently while unveiling the programme, a strategic national response to address the problem of vulnerable children coordinated by her office to the Organised Private Sector (OPS) in Lagos.
The Special Adviser explained that ARC-P’s vision is to comprehensively address cross-cutting concerns of at-risk children and provide them with a life of dignity.
“In the family and communities, children should be fully protected so they can survive, grow, learn and develop to their fullest potential,” she said.
The project’s mission, Uwais added, “is to facilitate programmes that will ensure the integration of at-risk children and young adults by creating opportunities for skills and empowerment to reduce their vulnerabilities.”
She further disclosed that ARC-P would nurture children with dignity and respect, raise equality citizens and bridge the poverty gap.
“A key objective of the program will provide protection and hope to youth and children who are vulnerable, for a productive life through learning, combined with improved health outcomes, values and skills. It will also provide meaningful, impactful and pragmatic quality programs that empower the children to become productive to themselves, their families, communities and society,” Uwais said.
The programme, she further disclosed, would “leverage on successful tried and tested intensive learning initiatives. Expand, deepen and broaden the scope of other programmes on the ground. Coordinate, add value and set basic standards through trained facilitators within the State for sustainability.
“In addition to the existing learning options, literacy and numeracy, introducing civics, critical thinking, life skills, entrepreneurship, sports, creativity, technology, farming and vocations, community police training. Address mental and physical health concerns, assess and address vision, hearing and special needs, boost nutrition through a feeding programme.”
She disclosed that the programme would be institutionalised to continue beyond the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and called for support from Corporate Nigeria to implement interventions including basic literacy and numeracy, health and nutrition, entrepreneurial, financial literacy and vocational skills and digital skills.
Uwais said they could sponsor any of the programmes and assured that all monies would be accounted for because good corporate governance is a core of ARC-P.
Responding, some of the companies, including Lafarge Africa Plc, ANAP Holdings, Airtel Nigeria, International Finance Corporation, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Wema Bank, Aliko Dangote Foundation, FBN Quest Trustees, StanbicIBTC, InterSwitch, Murtala Muhammed Foundation and Accelerex Network, all commended the initiative.
They noted that it was an innovation that would help resolve the out-of-school children problem and insecurity.
“This is an outstanding innovation. I’ve been doing this for about seven years, and I’ve never really thought about getting the kids off the street. We do education, but we never looked at it from this angle, so I think this is commendable,” Chioma Okolie, head, Corporate Social Responsibility, Airtel Nigeria, said.
Femi Akinfolarin, head, Corporate Strategy, Wema Bank, affirmed the same.
He said, “This is the single largest problem in Nigeria. Unemployment and these youths coming out without skills, without being able to do anything. So, it’s top of mind right now. We need to position this initiative as a solution to an evolving problem and thus create an urgency that will make the government and private sector accelerate their reaction to what’s going on.”
They also advised on strengthening the initiative for maximum impact while seeking clarifications from both Mrs Uwais and officials of FBN Quest Trustees, the project’s fund managers.
The At-Risk Children Project is domiciled in the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment. It reports directly to the National Steering Committee of the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.