By Judith Ufford
Over 40,000 youths in Osun State have been productively engaged since the establishment of the Osun Youths Employment Scheme, OYES, began in 2011. As the Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s administration begins to wind down, Col. Enibunkun Oyewole (ret.), who is the Scheme’s commandante since its inception, speaks on the challenges and successes of the scheme. Oyewole would tell anyone that cares to listen that the scheme is exclusively Ogbeni’s (as the governor is fondly called) idea.
“OYES was conceived as part of his six points’ integral action plan in 2005 when the thought of leading the state was just an ambition. In the 2007 gubernatorial election, he promised to take in 20,000 unemployed youths and engage them profitably in his first 100 days in office. When he got his mandate on the 26th of November 2010, within 98 days of taking the oath of office, he launched the OYES scheme, and the first batch was admitted. What informed the formation of the scheme is the high rate of unemployment among youths when he was vying for the governorship position. In 2011, he launched the scheme. We have had batches of 20,000 youths graduating from scheme. This year another 20,000 would be admitted”, he told Sunday Vanguard.
He went on: “When the scheme began, our first challenge was the perimeter for engagement, what would be the criteria for selection particularly since the scheme is essentially for youths.
“We first looked at the international definition of the youth which is those within the ages of 18-35. So anyone who wishes to engage as a cadet must fall within the stated age brackets and must have a minimum of secondary school leaving certificate.
“You do not have to be an indigene of the state before you’re admitted into the scheme. All that is required is that you must reside in the state. Presently, there are 23 states that are participating in the OYES scheme, that is apart from the state of Osun.
“OYES is a volunteer scheme and, internationally, all volunteers’ scheme may or may not earn money. But since the youth we are taking in as volunteers do need a stipend to buy the rudimentary items of living, we decided to pay each cadet N10, 000. Many people might say it is small. However, majority of them only work for three hours a day, that’s between 7am and 10am. An able bodied that has gone through our trainings and is aware of the Omoluabi and Apalara ethos is not likely to go and sleep after 10am. We expect that when they are done at 10am, they would go in search of other productive engagements. Many of our cadets have taken up this philosophy of what Mr. Governor calls MSI which is multiple sources of income. By the time you have finished with the task each day, you must go and find something else to do and most cadets have keyed into this and between the period of 11am and 5pm, those who engaged themselves in productive efforts earn more than the N10, 000 we give them”.
Oyewole said the scheme has been extremely beneficial.
“What we have done in the last couple of years is to expose our cadets to collaboration in the areas of serving other agencies. This way, they receive extra money. Beyond this, their résumés are built up to enable them meet requirements for experience that is called collaboration. Sometimes, it is more than collaboration because in some instances, it does not last more than six months. It is just a temporary deployment and, after that, they are likely to be disengaged but we take them through existing programme training. During this training, they are taught something new. After the two years volunteer work, we let they go and they are able to earn more money than whatever they earned in OYES and their MSI”, he said.
“During the programme, cadets go through an array of activities ranging from artisan works, agricultural value chain, ICT; they are even allowed to further their education. Recall that Mr. Governor sent some cadets to Germany for agricultural training, some went to India and Pakistan for ICT and info geometric and others to Ghana for ICT among others. Many are now employed in Adulawo Technical Village in Ilesa. Many went to Abuja for renewable energy training. Our cadets are in many of our universities and higher institutions of learning. All these are geared towards making them robust individuals so that, after the two years, they can stand on their own.
“The overall effect of what we are doing impacts on other youths in the state. However, OYES is not the only youth scheme in the state. If you look at the Social Security Investment Programmes in this state, OYES is part of them as well as other programmes that are of benefit to youths in the state.
“Talking about security, there is hardly any armed robbery attack that has been successful in Osun. The youth themselves are very wary of getting involved in crime or doing anything that would put them into trouble. This is because they are aware that what they are looking for they would be able to get working.
“Another benefit is that organisations have come to understudy the scheme on how it could serve as a template to solving the high rate of unemployment among the youth. For example, many governors sent representatives to Osun in 2012/13 to understudy with a view to establishing a scheme similar in their states. We had representatives from Niger, Zamfara, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Kwara, Ondo, Oyo among others. More than that, the World Bank, which saw the relevance of OYES as the youth unemployment solution after a lot of understudy, came up with YESSO. From the name, it sounds similar and they are not bothered by it. They claimed it was borrowed from the OYES but decided to name theirs YESSO and they got over 36 million dollars to establish YESSO in all the states of the federation. The Federal Government under Dr. Goodluck Jonathan also came to understudy OYES and they started with YOUWIN and added SURE-P and other programmes. Under the Buhari administration, the engagement of youth through MPOWER is a direct study and duplication of what OYES is doing.
“We are currently on the fourth batch recruitment. During the first batch, 20,000 cadets were admitted, second batch had only 2000 persons. 20,000 were admitted for the third batch and same number will be taken for the ongoing exercise and the training started on August 27. We have had 42,000 cadets under our belt that have passed through the training of OYES. Over 250,000 applied in the first batch, 150,000 for the second, 75,000 for the third and over 80,000 applied for the ongoing fourth batch. Volunteers with degrees will be taken to schools to help teach our pupils. However, we will carry out verification from our end to ascertain if truly an applicant possesses a degree. After this we generate with a bias for women as directed by Mr. Governor. The reason is that there are more females than males in the state. Also women are more responsible than men and considering the fact that women are more likely to make more mileage than men given resources to start with. This informed his view that 60% of women are taken into the OYES scheme. OYES scheme is divided into local governments and we take the 60% from all the local governments”.
On how cadets are allocated to local governments, he said, “We allocate cadets to the various local governments in the state by weighing the population as well as the land mass and the requirements in each local government”.
According to him, training lasts for three weeks. “It is meant to break the young people, mould them, make them responsible to be able to respond to simple instructions, be time conscious and be able to turn out decently. These are the basic requirements for any human being”, the Commandantee said.
On the mechanism to look after cadets are disengaged, he pointed out: “We have testimonies of those who have built houses; there is a monitoring and evaluation mechanism we employ to track our disengaged cadets. I can assure that if you go to higher institutions of learning in Osun and contiguous states, you will find participants of OYES who have been able to save enough to continue with their studies. If you also check artisans in the state you find out that many who participated in the OYES scheme are doing well there. Same can be said of ICT. I make bold to say that even in the armed forces in the country you would find participants of the OYES scheme. Many of them are in the SSS. I know of two in the EFCC. And so our cadets are even eager to make sacrifice so that when this permanent employment comes their way they would be able to benefit from it. More than this is that OYES cadets are a delight of employers, because they are disciplined, time conscious, aware of themselves and their environment, they are teachable. So employers get their money’s worth”.Related