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Youth Apprenticeships in Nigeria The African nation of Nigeria is prioritizing its growth and development. In a tough economic climate of high unemployment and poverty, the youth of Nigeria are motivated to prepare for the future. While classroom learning is undoubtedly important, students are also pursuing a different type of education, oftentimes on top of their schoolwork. Informal Nigerian apprenticeships provide children with personalized vocational training from the master craftsmen of their communities. The benefits of youth apprenticeships in Nigeria are particularly advantageous for children who face a lack of education and extreme poverty. Youth apprenticeships in Nigeria provide useful skills that increase children’s future employability and help them get a head start on their careers. Up to 49% of children are involved in apprenticeships in some areas of Nigeria.

History of Apprenticeships

The master-apprentice relationship has been around for hundreds of years and its implementation can be seen all over the globe. The Igbo apprenticeship system became the prominent model for the Igbo ethnic group, who reside in Southeastern Nigeria. Once young learners prove their knowledge and ability, learners receive more responsibility in their given occupation until they eventually take over the enterprise from their mentor. Now, this same model has spread to different parts of the country and is an ingrained part of the culture. The modern version of this system is different from before because it is not a strictly patrilineal arrangement. Today, apprentices do not have to be male or of relation to the master craftsman as in earlier times.

Benefits of Youth Apprenticeships in Nigeria

Nigerian apprenticeships are mindful of students’ school commitments. The apprenticeship system does not discourage academics but rather works in harmony with it. Hours are flexible and tend to be after school and on the weekends. In addition, many young people find that having a commitment apart from school keeps them busy and out of trouble. A typical age range for these child apprentices is between 10 and 15. In order to avoid malpractice or exploitation, the Nigerian Child Rights Act serves as protection, “but does not rule out children working altogether.” This specification is in place because working can be very advantageous to Nigerian children and restricting work could actually add to their economic difficulties and prevent their career development and economic progression.

Specialty trades for apprenticeships include farming, weaving, pottery, carving, bricklaying, mechanics, hairdressing and operating market stands. For children who are unable to complete their formal school education, being a skilled tradesman or artisan provides a steady alternative career track. Apprenticeships are generally unpaid, but some do provide small cash payments for children to afford basic necessities such as food and clothing. Even little contributions are extremely beneficial for the well-being of Nigerian families in poverty.

Reducing Rates of Poverty

Nigerian apprenticeships can help to ease pre-existing pressures that stem from high unemployment rates and increasing rates of poverty. On top of the potential money generated from apprenticing, the pupil may have the opportunity to take over the mentor’s position in the future with the knowledge of the inner workings of the operation.

Apprenticeships allow more people to have access to financial freedom and present an antidote to global poverty. Overall, Nigerian youth apprenticeships are bringing positive benefits to the country. The likelihood of youth falling further into poverty sees a drastic reduction and personal development becomes a reality.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr