• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Umar Bindir brings 40 years of science and tech work to elevate poor children in Yola

What do people do after leaving high levels of public service? For Engr Umar Buba Bindir, PhD, the answer is community service. The former Secretary to the Adamawa State government and former Director-General of the National Office For Technology Acquisition spends his time upskilling and training poor children in Yola, the capital of Adamawa State.

The Bindir Knowledge Development Centre International (BKC), located in the heart of Yola, is more than just a social entrepreneurship venture for Umar Bindir. It’s a beacon of hope, a place where children and teens in the area gather to learn and grow.

The Bindir Knowledge Development Centre is not just a place for learning. It’s a comprehensive support system for the community. It offers free training to children (5-12 years old), free revision classes for older students, career guidance to youth, assistance on government programmes, provision of community information, and training on livelihood skills.

Bindir said he built the BKC after surveying the environment. Poverty, poor environmental sanitation, child neglect, and the rapid rise in the number of out-of-school children were acute. He invested his savings and retirement income to build the multipurpose centre.

BKC is now a community development centre, business development and services hub, and technology and entrepreneurship development hub. Since all work and no play yields dull Musa, Dr Bindir added recreational facilities: lawn tennis, badminton courts, and facilities for other games.

The intervention is yielding exceptional results. Pupils and students in the community have improved performance in primary schools, and there is an improved interest in science and technology. Binder, an engineer and tinkerer, takes the children through workshop sessions where they work on various items. He reports that the hands-on exercises and training have been a hit with the recipients.

The BKC enhances community spirit and bonding, leading to branded education, sports, and community service activities.

There is a more pressing concern for the retired bureaucrat. Bindir reports that the phenomenon of out-of-school children is a time bomb that could explode in Nigeria with more devastation than Boko Haram. The numbers keep rising.

It is a nationwide challenge. He fears that the declining incomes and poorer living conditions of citizens since 29 May 2023 will worsen the numbers.

As a Fulani, the numbers for the Fulani and Kanuri sub-groups depress and frighten him. It also activated his entrepreneurial instinct and drive.

Dr Bindir spent 30 months researching the challenge. What is it? How can we improve the learning of the Almajirai and bring them to modernity? He found, for instance, that while President Goodluck Jonathan invested considerable sums in Almajirai education, all it yielded were schools without infrastructure.

The primary tool for Almajirai education has been the slate board. The pupils write their Islamic notes on the boards and cram.

Bindir worked to change the board into an electronic tablet stuffed with apps and tools, including and beyond the Koran. It mimics the physical shape of the slate but offers so much more to the children. He calls it the Digital Allo.

Bindir states: “The Digital Allo aims at supporting the Alternate School Option/Almajiri education system into the 21st century and transform the kids into knowledgeable and active agents of productivity in the fourth industrial revolution. With it, you can teach and produce a “high-tech child” at the age of nine under a tree.”

He got musical star DBanj to serve as a model and brand ambassador. The Digital Allo costs $200 per unit. There are about five million almajirai. The Gordian knot is mass-producing to ensure that the concept, beloved in tests, gets into the hands of the target audience.

Bindir hopes that politicians can adopt it as constituency or CSR projects customised for them to help tackle the challenge of out-of-school children and high numbers of illiterates in the north.
Dr Umar Buba Bindir, from Yola Town, studied mechanical engineering at the University of Maiduguri and obtained his MSc and PhD from the UK.
He is an agricultural power and machine engineering specialist with broad local and international experience in academia, industry, and civil service. He was a director of NAPEP and a director of sports at the Federal Ministry of Sports and Social Development, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. He was the Director General of the Nigerian Office for Technology Acquisition (NOTAP). He then served as Secretary to the Government of Adamawa State from 2015 to 2019. His most recent public service role was as Director of the National Social Investment Programme