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Child art… enduring mentorship challenge

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Win Arc Gallery, Ayobo, Lagos, may not be spacious enough to take two many children and teens from age five to 19 at a time, however, it surely provides sizeable room for learners to have their fill sketching on papers, canvasses and cloths.

Godwin Abia, proprietor of the gallery, is bent on making them masters of the palette and brush. The gallery head, whose aim is to see young one have vocational knowledge, called on parents to encourage their children to acquire skills outside of the school system as part of efforts aimed at preparing them for labour market.

He noted that as the labour market becomes saturated and jobs scarce, the need to hone the children’s skill becomes crucial.

The idea, he stressed, is to ensure that young people have something on the side, rather than focusing solely on obtaining school certificates.

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Stressing that parents have a major role to play in identifying the talents of their children, Abia revealed that this could be done by closely watching them at play, at home or engage them in discussions, adding through this means one can identify some of their talents like dancing, drawing, address issues and even acting.

“Acquiring skills while still in secondary school can never be a distraction. Rather, it will make them to begin at an early age to manage their own time. All what parents need to do in this regard is to identify their children’s abilities, assist in developing them and ensure that they acquire training in that area. For instance, a child that loves drawing should be enrolled in a Children/Teens Art Class after school or during the holidays, depending on the child’s time to hone his or her skill and put it to better use.

“In this day and age, one does not necessarily have to depend solely on his or her academic certificate to survive, which is why government and schools must encourage entrepreneurship among youths. And for better result, catching them young while they are still in school and malleable is key.”

Dispelling fears that this will expose these young ones to money and therefore make them lose focus, Abia said on the contrary, early exposure to skill acquisition would teach them tenets, which formal education wouldn’t.

He listed such tenets to include financial principles, time management and discipline, among others, which a business owner needs to survive.

“When a child knows it is not easy to make money, he or she will be prudent in handling money,” he explained, “such child will appreciate the value of dignity of labour. It will also expose them to work environment and business ethics.”

According to Abia, “China and Japan know the value of teens’ skill acquisition, which is why their governments included such in their school curriculum and the countries are the better for it.”

Dr. Raphael James, founder, CRIMMD Skills Acquisition and Research Centre, Lagos, parents should allow their teens to acquire skills early in life, as what they learn at this stage stay longer with them.

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Explaining that acquiring skills is part of education, he said doing it while still in school would boost their studies and keep them busy.

And if a child can be taught such subjects as chemistry and physics, there is nothing wrong if the same child begins to learn how to make handbags or fry bean cakes (akara) or photography in his or her spare time or learn how to draw.

Recounting some of the gains of teens’ skill acquisition, James said when his second daughter was admitted into Yaba College of Technology at 15, in her leisure time, she redesigned her pairs of jeans trousers with some colourful star buttons. Her fellow students admired the embellishment and nine of them in a week paid her N1, 000 each to do the same thing for them.

He said: “She made N17, 000 embellishing others students’ jeans pants. The money became additional cash in her pocket. With such skill, she needs not look elsewhere for money. All my teenage children have skills they can survive on, if they make up their minds that it is what they want to fall back on.”

On his part, Isioma Williams, director at Badejoarts, said with the way the country is now programmed, it would be better to let kids start their skill acquisition programme, while still in school because if their idle time is not put to good use, they would give it to the devil and engage in some destructive activities as cultism and others.

Williams, who noted that life is full of challenges, advised that parents should allow their children to have mix education — 70 per cent formal education and 30 per vocational training.

He called on stakeholders and caregivers to tailor teens’ skill acquisition programmes towards the children’s passion, as this will enable them develop greater interest and also combine them with their studies without hindrances.

Disclosing that money making is one of the benefits of skill acquisition, the dance director noted that parents should monitor their children, while they are still learning any skill so that they are not carried away with the fame and money that come with it.

He noted that for a nation to be industrialised, it must take care of its cottage industries, and that teens’ skill acquisition is the backbone of cottage industry, which is the mainstay of industrialisation.

“It is unfortunate that in Nigeria, government that should take the lead in this regard is looking away. But parents should not allow this to stop them from doing the right thing and building a future where their children would be job creators and not job seekers,” he said.
Williams disclosed that learning a skill while in school would not only make the child understand “life after school, but would begin to instill in him/her the spirit of innovation and self-reliance, which any inventor needs to solve challenges in the community.”

He observed that early skill acquisition would make teen learners to be proficient in the trade or craft they have chosen.

While support some times come from the Korean Cultural Centre, Nigeria (KCCN) for him to teach how to make the Janggu drums from paper and also how to play them, Williams noted that outside that funding does not come easy, as he has to depend on personal income, supports from friends and well-wishers.

According to him, government, sometimes, comes to assist, however, money is not always enough, it, however, helps “to pursue our dream, instead of having nothing.”

For Maltida Azum, a theatre practitioner, the driving force is to see these young ones become great people, leaders of thought and to turn their talents into good use. It is to pass on the skill the older generation to the young ones “because as we have learnt from people before us, they too must learn from us and tomorrow someone will also be under them.”

Azum said: “It is the desire to see young ones become better adults. That is it for me the motive of mentoring these young ones and it is for this the reason that I cannot see something wrong and keep quiet; no, I will talk.”

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On how she raises money to fund her numerous projects, the movie director said, “ It is through personal income, supports from family and friends; and of course, through what we get from performances.”

She disclosed that some time back, she went as far as getting soft loans from friends and well-wishers.

Ihuoma Harrison, founder, Gifted Steppers Academy, noted that her motivation is to take indigent children out of the street, saying she knows what it is to live in street, adding that since her father died while she was a toddler, she grew up in the horrible situation until someone made her join a dance group that changed her life.

The former member of National Troupe of Nigeria and a professional dancer noted that since the arts saved her life, gave her the platform to showcase her talent and to provide for her mother and sibling, she has decided to use it to save children to very poor homes, who cannot afford to eat two times a day and even live in horrible situations; at times in abandoned vehicles in the street.

On how she finds money to take care of the over 30 young ones in her care, she said: “It is from charity and well wishers. We also make use of the money, we get from performance.”

According to her, the goal is not to make money, but to give these children a new phase of life; give them hope to live.

“I train them on the arts, make them use it to better their lives and move away from the streets,” the marketing graduate of LASU said.

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