ABUJA – The Federal Capital Territory Secondary Education Board on Thursday lauded a youth-building initiative “Power Forward” which it said has helped build the skills of its school children, boosted their academic performances and made the FCT get to the finals of national basketball competition, twice.
Deputy Director Sports, FCT Secondary Education Board, Goroh Alhamdu, made the remarks at the 4th Final of ‘Power Forward’ at the National Stadium, Abuja.
Alhamdu said the FCT administration accepted the proposal of sponsors of the project with mixed feelings when they approached government to launch the programme in the nation’s capital four years ago.
The sponsors are Exxonmobil, National Basketball Association (NBA) and a pro-health non-governmental organization, Africare.
The partners use basketball and other learning skills to train students on leadership skills, how to be socially responsible and provide them with reproductive and other health information and kits.
Alhamdu urged the group not to see their investments in the programme as a waste. “Since the commencement of the programme, the lives of the children have changed. Not only their social lives, their academic performances have changed, their attendance in schools has changed. And, most of the prefects in the schools adopted by this programme today are products of the programme,” Alhamdu said.
He urged that Power Forward be extended from its present 20 to other schools in the FCT, especially those in rural areas, even as he called on well-meaning non-governmental organizations to emulate the programme to assist school children in the nation’s capital.
According to him, FCT schools have been able to play in the national finals of basketball through the instrumentality of the programme, and that FCT has been runners-up twice since inception of the Power Forward.
“We would not have achieved this if NBA, Exxonmobil and Africare have not come to support us,” he stated.
In his remarks, NBA legend, Jerome Williams, said engagement of the school children through the programme “has been heartwarming.”
William said more talents are discovered by any nation that engages its youths at tender age, and promised that NBA would continue to offer its best to support the project, as the Power Forward seeks to expand to more schools in the city.
Former NBA player, Frank Traore, said at the event that NBA would keep supporting the project. Traore noted that the children are the future of the nation, and that exploring their potentials at tender age and exposing them to basic health information they need would help them grow to become successful adults.
He thanked the coaching crew for bringing basketball professionalism into the teenagers. He also appreciated Nigerian Basketball Federation for making basketball popular in the country, adding that “Nigeria is taking the sport seriously.”
Country Director, Africare Nigeria, Dr. Orode Doherty told this newspaper that additional 10 schools have been adopted in the past one year, as according to her, benefitting schools have benefitted from life skills, leadership and community interventions.
She said the project is targeting more interventions and sensitization against malaria, Lassa fever, cholera and other emerging killer diseases.
“We are introducing one of our newer programmes which is LPG prevention programme, teaching the children in the school about the important of using clean fuel, which is gas, to cook instead of firewood or kerosene. We are teaching them about the affordability of gas and accessibility to gas, and teaching them about ensuring households are switching safely to gas, not just using gas, but using it safely.”
She went on: “With the goal of reaching 10,000 youths with public health knowledge and personal hygiene, each of the 10 programme in schools has adopted a public school in Abuja where our students step down the knowledge that they acquire from weekly life skills learning to other students in these adopted schools.
“Our students also step this information through community service and interventions in our local communities. From April 28 to May 12, Power Forward students in an effort to ‘end malaria for good’ joined the global community by participating in a series of activities that included the distribution of 1000 long lasting insecticidal nets to 10 adopted schools and to residents of Kpaduma village in Asokoro.
“Targeted families in communities include pregnant women and families with children under the age of five. On the week of June 8, Power Forward students also joined the global community to plant three trees in each of the 20 schools to raise awareness about the importance of a greener and sustainable environment. More than 2,000 students, parents and teachers were reached with information on the need for a greener, friendlier, environment.
“And regarding community projects, we are far from complete; before the end of the year, we will conduct three public health community projects in 20 schools and local communities in Abuja that coincide with international public health dates.…In the last three years, the NBA has supported the programme by providing technical support to increase the knowledge and skills of the students to grow the game of basketball.
“The training has impacted some students of the programme to explore their skills beyond the coast of Nigeria. This year, nine students from six schools participated in the Basketball Without Borders programme and the first ever Junior NBA Africa Festival in South Africa. This once in a life time opportunity allowed our students to not only compete with participants from other programmes in other African countries, but to also represent their schools, their families and their country.”