By Stanley Onyekwere
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), through its Education Resource Center has designed Books Enlighten and Reading Helps Us Grow (BEARHUG), aimed at building confidence in pupils and students of Junior Secondary Schools across the Territory.
According to the authority, the programme has also helped in keeping children off juvenile delinquency and crimes, since inception of the programme a decade ago, which parents should maximally explore.
The Deputy Director and Head, City Library Education Resource Center, Hajiya Neemat Addulrahim, made this revelation last week in a chat with some media organisations in Abuja.
“The programme seeks to encourage children of ages six to 16 to be positively engaged during the summer holiday and the programme is usually held for both primary and secondary school age children.
“BEARHUG has become a household name for children of that ages, parents call us every year to find out when the programme will be holding. We have also tried to help these children in socialising, as well as brainstorming.
“And what we do during brainstorming is that the children choose a burning issue at a particular time and share ideas among themselves, and it is quite interesting because they go on their own to do research about it.
“It is not just about reading; it’s an innovative programme and some of its activities include reading competition, spelling bee, drama, chronography and beauty pageant and most of our activities are surrounded by the theme chosen for that year. For instance, this year, we are going to include cooking,” she said.
She also revealed that the topic for discussion by the children this year centered on insecurity in the country, where they would also talk about corruption and kidnapping.
She added that it was shocking how they shared ideas on current issues and come up with solutions, and sometimes talk to government on how they should go about certain current issues.
“What we also intend to achieve is to create confidence in children so that they can express themselves publicly and also know that libraries all over the world is intended towards innovative services, it’s not all a out about reading.
“Libraries are now community, they are into capacity building, skill acquisition and so many other things.
“It’s also a way of getting children try to make friends because it involves children from different schools, different backgrounds and different age groups and some of them continue with that friendship after the programme and look into the future.
“The uniqueness of this year’s programme is that we are going to incorporate the almajiri literacy programme into it and you will be surprised that some of these children you see on the streets begging have huge talents.
“We started the almajiri programme since 2016 and some of these children are trained on drawing, painting, making of shoes among others.
“The programme also give opportunity to the privileged children to mix up with the less privileged ones, try to understand and appreciate having to be in formal educational system.”
Commenting on financing of the programme, Addulrahim revealed that only N1000 fee was payable per child for participation, decrying that what was required was always much higher than the token fee collected.
According to her, “You know, the summer holiday is usually long and most parents are usually worried about keeping their children positively busy and away from other activities that are negative and unproductive that could result to crime.
Addulrahim revealed that more than 100 school children turn up for the programme and the figure was rapidly increasing.
She adds: “Our target number has always been 100, but when we started, we had 120 and the number keeps increasing. There was a time we even had to do it twice, but because of cost we cannot do it more than once now, even though we wish we can do it two times a year.”