A selection of 21 Quranic pupils best known as Almajirai who have become orphans as a result of the ongoing Boko Haram conflict in Borno state are now certified makers and retailers of petroleum jelly, best known by a household brand name, ‘vaseline’.
These kids were on Thursday issued certificates at a brief ceremony attended by Islamic clerics, officials of the Borno state government and academics from the University of Maiduguri.
The 21 orphans aged between 15 and 8 were selected from different traditional Quranic schools known as Tsangaya in Maiduguri.
The Borno state government has maintained that the over 12 years of conflict on Lake Chad has created about 60,0000 orphans.
A community based non-governmental organisation, Ummin Rashida Foundation, popular for coordinating charity and support for the Almajiris was responsible for the training of the 21 body cream makers in line with the state government policy of equipping the young people with entrepreneurial skills that could take them off-street begging.
Aishatu Adamu, the CEO of the Foundation said the kids were given two-day intensive coaching on how to use locally obtained raw materials to produce the jelly “that is as good as the ones produced by multinational brand names”
The female humanitarian argued that though they are still underaged, “it is still better they are engaged in the gainful enterprise than allowing them to roam the streets begging for alms and being exposed to all kinds of social vices and tendency of being negatively indoctrinated into extreme violence.”
Nasir Askira, whose organisation, …funded the skill acquisition training in collaboration with Ummul-Rashida Foundation said the idea of choosing ‘vaseline’ making as the skill for the kids to learn was born out of the considerations that the trade is “not very common” and it’s a sort after especially during the harmattan season.
Askira said though most of the trainees were underaged, “they can still function as successful startups beaches; they have been grouped into clusters and a supervisor would be appointed in each of their Tsangayas to monitor their activities and report back to the funders.
The 21 kids have been grouped into four and each cluster was given starter parks comprising the required components for making the jelly as well as capped plastic containers.
While preparing their certificates, Ms Adamu said “their certification also goes with a reference card that would enable them to get a discounted purchase of all the material needed for making the local baselines.”
A Director of Youth Empowerment at the Borno state ministry of women affairs and social development Hadiza Buba-Lawan said the state government is open to supporting local community-based organizations like Ummin Rashida Foundation in providing skills as an alternative to kids that are not enrolled in formal education systems “to reduce redundancy and joblessness amongst the young people.”
Ibrahim Umara, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Maiduguri, who was a special guest at the mini-event, commended the local NGO, “for giving lifeline support to a vulnerable section of the population like the Almajiris and kids orphaned by the insurgency.” He said the initiative will go a long way in healing the wounds and strengthening the resilience of the people against all acts of extremism.
Almajirai is seen in this photo trying their hands on the act of petroleum jelly making during training by an NGO in Maiduguri. Photo Credit: Abdulkareem/HumAngle
“In the contemporary global system, emphasis is now shifting to entrepreneurship and skill acquisition techniques and what we have witnessed here is in sync with that global focus.
“Providing the almajiris and orphans with the skills of entrepreneurship even at a younger age gives them that sense of belonging, that sense of being loved, and they a feeling that they are being carried along in the scheme of things.
“What remains to perfect the noble works that these local NGO is doing, is for us to mobilize the society to start patronising and consuming the product of the skills learnt by these kids so that they can develop and become perfect in the acquired skills. If we can do this, the kids will grow up having a positive attitude and it will change their concerns about how they are being considered in society.
One of the trainees, Bilyaminu Goni-Lawan, a 14 years old Islamic pupil and an orphan, said he hopes his new skill gives him a better future.
“I am happy now that I know how to make vaseline,” he said. “They thought us how to make it in two days and now I can do it myself. I hope people will buy our vaseline so that we make so much money to buy things we need, and stop begging for alms.”