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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 8 NO 1, JUNE, 2010


DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS AND SKILL LEVELS OF YOUTHS IN THE NIGER DELTA REGION OF NIGERIA

D.O.Arubayi
Vocational Education Department, Delta State University, Abraka
E-mail:darubayig@yahoo.com

 

Abstract
The purpose of this study was to examine the demographic characteristics of the youths in the Niger Delta Region and the level of skills they possessed.  The population of this study comprised  210 youths who were purposively selected. Out of the two hundred and ten (210) questionnaires sent out, 207 (two hundred and seven) were returned in usable form. One research question was raised to cover the demographic characteristics of Age, Educational background, gender marital status and the skills they possessed. The instrument for data gathering was a questionnaire made up of two sections. Section A solicited for the demographic variables while section B had a list of identified skills, and youths were asked to identify what they possessed. The data gathered were analysed using simple frequency counts, means and percentages. Findings revealed a low level of skills possessed when the demographic variables of age, educational background, gender and marital status were considered. Based on these findings, some recommendations were made: - that the way out of massive illiteracy, unskilled and massive unemployment is through a reformation in the educational system to place emphasis on skill acquisition and entrepreneurial skills. Skill acquisitions centres should be opened in the Niger Delta Region to equip youths with saleable and life skills.

Keywords: Demographic, youths, Niger delta, gender, marital, skills


 Introduction
The Niger Delta Region is about 70,000 square kilometers which transverses the branch of the River Niger and empties itself into the Atlantic Ocean.  It is a mangrove forest which is a delicate and fragile environment.  It consists of three ecological Zones, with sandy coastal beaches with largely brackish and saline mangrove, fresh water swamp in the middle, constituting permanent and seasonal swamp forest, while its hinter land is the dry land. It is the third wetland in the World after Mississippi and Pantanal (NDDC, 2003). The whole area is transversed and criss-crossed by a large number of rivulets, streams, Canals and creeks.

The Niger Delta Region stretches across the South-South, South West and south East States and it is comprised of Nine States, which include: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers States. According to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC 2003), this region has 185 local government with a population of about 20 million.  The youths of the Niger Delta Region have continued to live with a lot of environmental problems, from health hazards due to lack of safe water and arable land. Despite the rich oil wealth which accounts for 90% of its earning from oil and gas and 60% of its revenue from the Federal Government, the youths of this area remain largely unfulfilled and neglected in poverty.

Wollen (2003), sees this region as one with the most crushing poverty level in the world.  This writer, identified poverty as one of the greatest problems.  He explained that about 70% of the people in this region are on poverty line and the poverty level in this region is well above African standards.  He stated that over two million youths are unemployed and seem to have lost hope, faith and dignity in life, while 40% of the people are illiterates.

The Niger Delta Region have been characterized by youths restiveness as a result of the deprivation of lands and environmental degradation due to oil producing activities, which leaves the oil producing communities no farming land and fishing waters.  The primary occupation of the people includes fishing, farming, forest product gathering and craft usually at subsistence level, (Olojoba, 2005).

Edukugho (2007), opined that the youths restiveness and disturbance in the oil producing communities could also be traced to the large number of uneducated, unskilled and unemployed youths.  These youths are aware of the large amount of money being made from their ancestral lands, yet have nothing to show for it. For any nation to be economically viable, the quality of skills possessed by its member will determine the success of the nation’s economy. The peculiarity of the geographic location of the Niger Delta Region has brought about high unemployment rate, massive illiteracy and high unskilled youths who wander about in frustration.

Looking at the terrain and the on going crisis in the oil rich region, Denga (2001), affirmed that the way forward is to equip youths with vocational skills that would provide equal opportunities for youths to become employable and maintain their employment status.  Again, equipping youths with vocational skills would empower the youths economically. The need to equip youths with saleable skills are highlighted in the National Policy on Education document (2004). This document emphasized an educational experience that is functional and skill oriented, that is capable of equipping the youths with saleable skills that will enhance their productivity, provide job opportunities and self employment. As youths are gainfully engaged in constructive work, the unemployment rate will be reduced through economic empowerment as a result of acquired skills, thus helping to alleviate the harsh economic conditions felt by the youths. Hence Akinseinde, Kpeke and Kpangban (2003), saw the poor economic conditions faced by the people as; inability of a high number of youths and adults to complete schooling, harsh terrain, inadequate vocational training, unfavourable business climate and limited industries.  Skill acquisition is the way out of the harsh economic conditions as explained by these authors. Okorie (2001), defined a skill as an organized sequence of actions proficiency, executed and usually displaying a flexible but, systematic temporal patterning.  Skills can only be acquired through learning and practice.

From the ongoing, there is the need to look into some demographic characteristics of the youths such as age, sex, educational background and marital status and the skills they possess. Spore (2004) defined a youth as a period of life between childhood and maturity and a time of freshness and vitality and it can represent the first 30 years of life.  The youthful period of life is characterized by activity, agility and restiveness, there is the need to engage these youths in constructive work and keep them busy with skills to mobilize them.

The following skills were identified by NDDC (2003) as skills needed by youths in the Niger Delta Region for occupational mobility such as Canoe carving, Distillation of gin, Arts and Crafts (Cane, Chairs, tables) block molding, Electrical works, Refrigeration Engineering and Repairs, Small Scale and Subsistent Farming of food crops, Fashion Designing, Catering (indoor and outdoor) Bread making, Cloth Weaving, Tailoring, Plumbing works, Computer operation, Auto electrician, Auto Mechanics, Wheel Balancing and Alignment. Others include Wood Works and Furniture Making, Panel Beating, Bicycle Repairing, Watch Repairing, Rubber Work, Fabrication, Air Conditioner Repairs and Maintenance, Vulcanizing, Hair Cutting, Graphics, Sculpturing, Shoe Making and Repairs, Spray Painting, and Fine Art. Apart from these 33 skills listed, the researcher identified 6 additional skills such as: Fishing Net Making, fishing net repairs, Hair plaiting/Weaving, Hat Making, Hair Dressing/Fixing of Wigs and Bead Making. From the above list of identified skills needed, how many of these skills do these youths possess? Considering the peculiar characteristics of the youths and the importance of skills to occupational mobility.

Problem statement
Woolen (2003), observed that despite the rich resources in the Niger Delta Region, the area is characterized by neglect, poverty, unskilled, unemployment and high illiteracy level. Another challenge faced by this people is that there are limited opportunities for occupational mobility and there are a lot of youths restiveness, frustration, abuse and economic disenchantment. Statistics showed that 70% of the people are on poverty line and about two million unemployed youths while a striking 40% of the people are illiterates. There is a serious problem to be addressed here, how can an oil rich region be characterized by high poverty level, youth restiveness, illiteracy, high unemployment, food insecurity and land degradation? What are the level of skills possessed by the youths in this region vis-à-vis their demographic characteristics? To provide answers to the problem stated, the following research question was raised.

Purpose of study
The purpose of this study is to examine some selected demographic characteristics of youths in the Niger Delta Region, such as gender, educational background, age, and marital status in relation to the level of skills possessed.

Research question
What are the levels of skills possessed by the youths of the Niger Delta Region when the demographic
characteristics of age, educational background, gender and marital status are considered?
 
Methods and procedure
This research study adopted an ex-post-facto research design which is descriptive in nature. There was no manipulation of variables. The researcher only studied events after they had occurred. The target population consisted of all youths estimated to be 8,000 in the Niger Delta Region. A purposive sampling technique was adopted to select 210 subjects for the study. The questionnaire was administered and 207 (96%) completed questionnaires were returned in usable form. 

To generate the data for this study, a questionnaire with a list of identified 39 skills was used. The questionnaire was made up of two sections – section A solicited for information on the demographic information such as Age, Educational level, Marital Status, and gender. While section B consisted of 39 skills identified as needed. The data collected was analysed using simple frequency counts and percentages. The total responses of each item was tabulated and the findings were analysed below:

Results
The analysis of data was based on the response of the 207 participants of this research study. Simple frequency counts and percentages were the statistics used to analyse the data. The results have been presented in Table 1.


Table 1: Demographic characteristics of youths and the skills possessed


Demographic Characteristics of Youths

Frequency

Percentage
(N = 207)

Skills possessed

Percentage

Age

 

 

 

 

15 – 20 years

94

45.4

4

10.25

25 – 30 years

113

54.5

7

18

Gender
Female

 

88

 

42.5

 

7

 

18

Male

119

57.4

3

8

Educational Background
Secondary
N.C.E.
Graduate

 

148
35
24

 

71.4
17
12

 

3
8
9

 

8
21
23

Marital Status
Married
Single

 

75
132

 

36
64

 

6
4

 

15.3
10.2

 

 

 

Mean of 5.66

14.6


Presented in Table 1, are the demographic characteristics of youths in the study. Findings from this study on the demographic characteristics of Age, revealed that youths within the age range of 15-20 years were 94 (45.4%), and these youths possessed only 4(10.25%) of the needed skills. Those within the age range of 25-30 years were 113 (54.5%), and possessed 7(18%) of the needed skills. Findings on gender revealed that 88(42.5) were females and they possessed 7(18%) of the needed skills, while 119(57.4%) were males and possessed 3(8%) of the needed skills. Findings from the study, further revealed that when Educational Background was considered, 148(71.41) had secondary education and they possessed 3(8%) of the needed skills, 35 (17%) of the respondents were N.C.E. (National Certificate on Education) holders and they possessed 8(21%) of the needed skills while 24(12%) of the youths who were graduates, possessed 9(23%) of the needed skills. Again, findings on the demographic characteristics on Marital Status, revealed that 75(36%) of the respondents were married and they possessed 6(15.3%) of the needed skills while 132 (64%) of the respondents were single and they possessed 4(10.2%) of the needed skills.

Discussion of results
Findings on the demographic characteristics on the age of youths revealed that the category of youths in this age of youths in this research study fell within the age bracket defined by spore (2004) that a youth is a period of life between childhood and maturity and represents the first 30 years of life.  Looking at the findings, the level of skills possessed by the youths in this age category was low, thus insignificant. This could explain the problems of massive unemployment, unskilled, and high poverty level in this region. These findings are in support of Woolen (2003) and Edukugho’s (2007) assertion that high level of unskilled and unemployed youths abound in the Niger Delta Region who wander about in frustration.

Another notable finding, was on the issue of gender and the skills they possessed, findings revealed that the males in the study were more and they possessed very low level of skills while the females were fewer but possessed more skills than the males. This finding came as no surprise, as there has been known crisis and youths restiveness in the oil rich Region of the Niger Delta Region. The youths are aware of the large amount of money being made from their ancestral land, yet have nothing to show for it. Still on the issue of youths restiveness, if the male folk who ought to be gainfully employed wander around with such low level of skills, this problem should be given serious attention. Olojoba’s (2005), finding further complicated the problem when he said that the primary occupation of youths was fishing, farming, forest product gathering and crafts usually at subsistent level. Skills possessed at subsistent level cannot sustain the individual or a family.

Another finding from Table 1, on the educational background of the youths and the skills they possessed revealed that a large (71.4%) of youths in this region had basic education up to secondary school level, while the percentage of those who got higher education  became smaller as they progressed from N.C.E. (National Certificate of Education) level to the University. This findings supports the high level of the uneducated, unskilled and unemployed youths who were unable to complete their schooling due to the harsh economic condition as stated by Wollen; Akinseinde, Kpeke and Kpangban (2003) respectively.
 
Finding on the demographic characteristics of youths based on their marital status and the skills they possessed revealed that 64% of the youths were single and they possessed a very low level of skills. The married youths in the research study were few and possessed a low level of skills.  Looking generally at the level of skills possessed by the youths in the Niger Delta Region when their demographic characteristics of Age, Gender, Educational Background and marital status was put together had an overall mean of 5.56 for the skills they possessed which made 15%. The mean average of the level of skills possessed by the youths of the Niger Delta Region was so low that it could not be compared with any bench mark. The researcher would rather yield to the advocacy of Denga (2001) and the National Policy on Education documents (2004) assertion that the way out of this low level of skills possessed by youths is to equip them with vocational skills that would provide equal job opportunities that would make them employable and maintain employment status.

Conclusion
It is evident from the research that the demographic characteristics of the youths in the Niger Delta Region fell within the age bracket described by Spore (2005), which is between the ages of 15-30 years of age and that the youths in this age category were restive, agile and active.

  1. That there were males and females youths, but it was sad to note that the level of skills possessed by males and females put together was only 26% which was way below the expected.
  2. That the educational background of youths showed that a high percentage of  the youths had basic education up to secondary school level. The level of skills possessed when their educational background was considered, was very disheartening, this explains why the continuous crisis in the oil rich Niger Delta Region because of low level of possessed skills thus their energy is not channeled into productive work, but rather into kidnapping, fighting and destructive tendencies.
  3. That the marital status of the youths showed that there were more singles than married youths. The level of skills possessed by these group of youths also painted a gloomy picture of low level of skills.

Recommendations
            Based on the findings from this research study the following recommendations were made:
-     That skill acquisition centres should be opened in the Niger Delta Region to equip youths with saleable and life skills.
-     Governmental bodies responsible for capital and human development should ensure that investments are done in the areas of needs, so that youths are equipped with knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes required for a new technological take off.
Educational and curriculum planners should review the curriculum in line with the new national policy on Education (2004) so that entrepreneurial based skills are emphasized.
-     That the way out of massive illiteracy, unskilled and unemployed youths, is an educational system that placed emphasis on practical experiences through which skills are acquired and utilized in harnessing the natural resources available in this peculiar terrain to help curb youths restiveness and encourage high level of productivity for economic development.

References
Akinseinde, S.I., Kpeke, E.E., and Kpangban E. (2003), The Situation of Vocational Training in Delta State. Lagos: Coordinated by GTZ/Wilbahi for the Preparation of the Master Plan for the Niger Delta Region, Nigeria.

Denga, D.I. (2001), The Place of Vocational Education in Universal Basic Education in Democratic Nigeria. Internal Journal of Education Development (IJED)4 (1).

Edukugho, E. (2007) Nigeria, Mass Literacy Commission Grounded. Vanguard 31st May. Accessed 9th August, 2007, from http://allafrican.com/stories/70070503100016.

Niger DeltaDevelopment Commission (2003) Niger Delta Development Commission Annual Report

Nigeria(2004):National Policy on Education Revised (2004), Lagos:Federal Government Printer

Olojoba, A.O. (2005), Oil Pollution and Health Hazards in the Niger Delta Region: Implications for Health Education. Ph.D. Thesis, Delta State University, Unpublished.

Okorie, J.U. (2001), Vocational Industrial Education Owerri: League of Researchers in Nigeria.

Spore (2004), Youth and Rural Development, Spore, Number 109, pp 1-2.

Wodlen, H. (2003), Niger Delta Development Commission Annual Report