The Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home organised an event to celebrate the 16 teenagers who recently graduated from the centre having completed the six months diversion community rehabilitation programme; a scheme of UNICEF in collaboration with Lagos State Ministry of Youths And Social Development and the Home.

The graduation ceremony which took place at the Ilupeju playground on Monday, April 8, 2019, had in attendance the commissioner of Lagos State Ministry of Youths And Social Development (MYSD), Mr. Agboola Dabiri; the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry (MYSD), Dr. Mrs. Sherifat Bolajoko Balogun; Lagos state officials; the President of Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya represented by Pastor Tayo Kujore; wife of former Governor of Lagos state, Alhaja Jakande;  Local government officials; Community leaders; UNICEF child protection specialists; Parents, and well-wishers.

In her welcome address, Mrs. Bolajoko Balogun applauded the joint efforts of UNICEF and the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development for giving children, who are in conflict with the law, a diversion community rehabilitation programme which would reform them and remould them into becoming better adults instead of taking them to prison. She also commended the efforts of the Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home for ensuring the children sent to them are thoroughly reformed and rehabilitated. She, therefore, urged the society and parents not to be afraid of reporting any child in conflict with the law because they would be rehabilitated instead of taking them to prison.

In his goodwill message, Pastor Tayo Kujore, who represented the President of Grace Springs Rehab Home, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, also commended the continued support of UNICEF in making sure children who are in conflict with the law are reformed and the collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development  and Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home to divert these children in conflict with the law from the criminal justice system to the child justice system.

According to him, catering to children living on the streets by providing counseling, vocational training, educational supports, family reunion, parenting supports, and referrals have been one of the core responsibilities of The Fountain of Life Church for over 15 years, and over a thousand children have benefited from it.

He, therefore, called for a synergy between the community, law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, the state, and the parents in order for this laudable initiative of rehabilitating children between the ages of 10 and 17 who are already in conflict with law to be successful.

Mr Agboola Dabiri noted that The Fountain of Life Church, through Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home has set a pace for other faith-based as well as private organisations to follow. According to him, the children have been reformed through counseling, vocational trainings with good character development and management to ensure their stability. He then implored the society not to reject such children; “let us accept them fully and encourage them by employing them,” he urged.

Speaking on behalf of UNICEF was Mr. Dennis Enoise who affirmed that children in conflict with the law should not be imprisoned but rehabilitated. He also advised parents to listen to their children more, as this would prevent them from seeking attention outside their homes. “It is our responsibilities as duty bearers to work with these children so they can behave well,” he noted. He further assured the audience that UNICEF will always be interested and ready to partner with Lagos state and Grace Springs Home as long as they continue to reform these children.

The Divisional Officer of Shomolu Police station, Superintendent Lawrence, while speaking on behalf of the law enforcement agencies, assured other stakeholders that the police force will always support the rehabilitation programme because it will further help the society curb the rate of crime. He also advised that there should be wider awareness for other states to benefit.

In response, the parents of the graduating children were happy and they expressed their appreciation to the Home for helping reform their children. They also encouraged every parent who has a child in conflict with the law to take advantage of the programme.

Certificates were presented to the graduands after which the audience was led to the exhibition corner where the students’ products were displayed.

Reported by Becky Olorunpomi