NIGERIA: Salesian programs provide education and social supports to aid poor and at-risk youth
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries wrapped up a summer full of youth-focused activities at the Salesian mission of Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria. Salesian summer programs were attended by 272 youth and 25 young educators. Father Italo Spagnolo, who oversees the Salesian activities in the community, has spent the last 35 years as a missionary working with poor and at-risk youth in the country.
“Thanks to Salesian workshops this summer, youth learned how to make bracelets and handbags, learned to cook, make electrical repairs, and cut and sew, among other activities. Every day was an opportunity for the joyous growth for these young students,” says Fr. Spagnolo.
In addition, 46 Catholic students from the Tai Solarin University celebrated their graduation. Fr. Spagnolo notes that Salesian missionaries donated their time to these students, mentoring them and offering advice, encouragement and support. Salesian missionaries serve as university chaplains and are currently accompanying another 150 graduates toward completing their studies.
The Salesian parish in the region also underwent renovations this summer. The church roof was repaired before the rainy season, which ensures that youth and Salesian staff are able to engage in educational and social activities in shelter away from the poor outside weather.
Salesian missionaries also have a new small plot of land near the school and church where they will be able to build a home close to the community where they work. The goal is to continue to provide education and other social development services for poor youth as efficiently and effectively as possible.
“Access to quality education provides a stepping stone out of poverty for poor youth but we know youth must have a stable environment for them to really be able to focus on their studies,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian schools provide that stable environment so youth can learn the basics in education like reading and writing in order to build on their skills later with vocational or technical classes so they can acquire the skills needed to lead a productive life.”
According to UNCIEF, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the ninth most populous country in the world. With an estimated population of 150 million, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian. The country has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world. By U.N. estimates, Nigeria will be one of the countries responsible for most of the world’s total population increase by 2050.
While Nigeria has the second strongest economy in Africa, it also has extreme rates of poverty with 100 million people living on less than $1 a day. About 64 percent of households in Nigeria consider themselves to be poor while 32 percent of households say their economic situation had worsened over a period of one year, according to UNICEF. Poverty still remains one of the most critical challenges facing the country and population growth rates have meant a steady increase in the number of people living in conditions of poverty.
UNICEF – Nigeria