SOCIAL analysts note that some dissenting voices greeted the decision of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to remove part of the subsidy paid on petrol and pool the accruing funds to finance the country’s social and infrastructural development.
They recall that the critics of the decision then believed that the removal of subsidy would negatively impact on the living standards of Nigerians because of the ripple effect of adjustments in petrol price on the prices of all the essential commodities.
They, however, note that the cynics were sooner proved wrong by the impressive achievements recorded by the various intervention programmes of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) which was inaugurated in 2012.
The Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) is one of the Social Safety Net projects of SURE-P and it is aimed at providing graduates with quality temporary work experience that will make them stronger candidates for job placements after a one-year internship.
Analysts believe that GIS is quite beneficial since it is a common knowledge that most of the employed graduates have no prior working experience and such graduates are often rejected by employers who prefer experienced workers.
In the scheme, the Federal Government pays a monthly stipend of N30,000 to the graduates, while the participating organisations provide adequate opportunities for training and mentoring during the one-year internship.
One of the main objectives of GIS is to enhance the employability of more than 50,000 unemployed graduates across the country through designed internship programmes.
Observers note that GIS has done much by stimulating the development of the technical and vocational sector by enhancing its manpower development capacity.
Besides they believe that GIS has emerged as pragmatic bridge between educational institutions and the labour market, providing a pool of skilled and work-ready graduates for organisations without necessarily going through the hassles of selection.
In his opinion, Dr Adesola Nassir, a member of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ibadan Zone, said that the education sector definitely required such a scheme.
He, nonetheless, underscored the need to overhaul the technical education sub-sector through vigorous infusion of funds.
Malam Sulaiman Haruna, the Head of Public Communications of the GIS, said that many educational institutions across the country had benefitted from the manpower development scheme.
He said that both public and private educational institutions had taken up the services of some graduates, following the satisfactory assessment of such institutions by the scheme.
“When they request for graduates through our website, we give them the conditions and if we are satisfied with their presentations, we deploy graduates to the schools.
“Some of the graduates are also retained after the internship, following appropriate consideration of their abilities by the schools.
“A lot of graduates have gained employment even in other fields, while many others have decided to be self-reliant after receiving relevant training on what they intend to do.
“Many interns have got employment with some organisations as a result of the skills they have acquired and the improved personality which they have developed during internship,’’ he said.
Besides, Haruna said that GIS had held discussions with the National Universities Commission (NUC), as part of efforts to deploy graduates to train university students in entrepreneurship development.
According to him, the pilot stage of the endeavour has started with the Enugu State University of Science and Technology.
He also said that many partners, including state ministries of education, had indicated their desire to engage qualified school teachers, particularly when giving full employment to teachers became a challenge.
“They have resorted to GIS to provide graduates that will fill teaching gaps in the schools, while those who show commitment were employed.
“Private schools and state governments have deployed interns for this purpose; the outcome of this is that more schools have competent teachers to prepare students for better performance,’’ he said.
Haruna said that states such as Gombe, Katsina, Kebbi, Enugu, Ebonyi and Bauchi had employed 75 GIS interns.
Nevertheless, Prof. Ademola Onifade, the Director, Centre for Environment and Science Education, Lagos State University, advised the proprietors of educational institutions, particularly the government, to upgrade and develop their schools’ infrastructure.
All in all, observers note that many states across the country have acknowledged the role of SURE-P in providing qualified manpower for the growth of the education sector.
Citing the case of Kaduna State, they observe that the state’s SURE-P implementation committee, headed by the state’s deputy governor, has some relevant commissioners and the state chairmen of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as members.
One of the committee’s mandates is to identify appropriate projects that could be financed with the state’s share of SURE-P funds.
However, the Kaduna State Government has repeatedly emphasized that its own share of the funds would be spent on health, education, women and youth empowerment, agriculture, security and infrastructure projects.
The state government, in collaboration with the National Mathematical Centre, recently organised a workshop on the need to train teachers in core subject areas on the platform of GIS.
Through workshops organised at Rimi College, Kaduna, Barewa College, Zaria, and Government College, Kagoro, the state government also strove to upgrade the skills of 1,500 teachers of Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Biology,
Speaking at one of the workshops, Gov. Mukhtar Yero stressed that the training was part of efforts aimed at repositioning the education sector in the state for greater efficiency.
By and large, observers believe that Nigerians are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of using internship programmes to prepare jobless graduates for employment.
They particularly note that Katsina State has established its own version of GIS, deploying 600 graduates in a year and paying them N30,000 as monthly stipend.
They, nonetheless, solicit a synergy among the three tiers of government in efforts to key into the GIS project for the overall development of the nation.