The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has revealed how his administration’s education reforms and youth development drive helped the government address the scourge of illegal migration and human trafficking among youths in the state.
The governor, while speaking to journalists in Benin City, hailed partners and stakeholders, including the World Bank, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Italian Government, among others, commending them for their support towards the gains recorded in tackling the hydra-headed monster.
He noted, “I thank you for the support you all have given us over the last few years. We would not have achieved a fraction of what we have without your support, encouragement and push.”
On how the government addressed the scourge, Obaseki noted, “When we came into office, we had a big problem. Our young people did not want to stay here anymore; they all wanted to emigrate. The traffickers had a full day. The reputation of this state was at its lowest ebb. We had transport services in this town who on a nightly basis carted away young people with a promise of taking them to Europe or somewhere they could get a better life. At one point in time, we had over 30,000 young men and women waiting in Libya to cross over to Europe.
“It was the number one issue we had to face coming into office and in trying to understand what was going on, it was clear that our society had failed our young ones. To them, anywhere else but home and for us, that was dangerous.”
The governor continued: “We realized that if we did not tackle this problem, we would have a social failure. The first thing we did was to admit that we had a problem. Before I came as a governor nobody wanted to talk about it because to them it was a source of foreign exchange and a tree that was supporting families. But we came in and had the courage to say we cannot continue this way.
“Working with the IOM, we were able to set up our task force and promulgate our own laws regulating human trafficking in Edo State such that for every flight bringing in returnees, we had officials of Edo State government go into those planes and welcome our children back home. In that process we were able to collect enough data to unravel the root cause of the crisis - the quality of our basic educational system.”
He added, “The quality of our basic educational system had broken down and children were no longer learning; teachers were not being paid and that was when we cried for help and decided that we had to focus on foundational education. When we went to the World Bank, they promised to support us.
“With the support of partners in the World Bank, with people at UNICEF coming onboard, we have been able to key into the current thinking that foundational education matters; it's what is most important in any system.”
On the success recorded at improving basic education in the state, the governor said, “The EdoBEST programme has been acclaimed a success globally. We have, with the support of the World Bank and financing we have received through the Program-for-Results (PforR), ensured that the EdoBEST programme has come to stay. We have moved to EdoBEST 2.0, beyond foundational education, to see where children who have benefited from the solid foundation move to in the education spectrum, considering how to fix middle and technical education and provide more vocations for these children.
“The focus for us now is the next phase. How do we ensure that we keep the children in schools not only for six years but for nine years under our care to give them life skills so that even though they do not go to school beyond the ninth grade they are able to succeed in life?”