Last Month, at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari urged the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to coordinate a national plan to address the issue of out-of-school children in the country.
The FEC meeting coincided with the 2021 International World Education Day. Nigeria joined the rest of the world to commemorate the Day, with the theme, ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’.
No development conscious observer can turn a blind eye to the upsurge in the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, especially with its tendency to further increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic that kept children at home for almost a year.
In some quarters, the perception was that it was a Northern issue. Interestingly, in December 2020, a survey by the National Population Commission revealed that 22 per cent of children in Oyo State are still out-of-school.
The total figures of out-of-school children vary from year to year. According to a report from the United Nations agency, the number of out-of-school children was estimated at 13 million in Nigeria. During the second convocation ceremony of Chrisland University, Abeokuta in 2020, former President, Obasanjo noted that about 14 million children are out of school in Nigeria. An NPA report conducted on public and private basic education schools in Nigeria estimated 10.2 million out-of-school children in the country.
“In three of the least performing states (Yobe, Taraba and Zamfara States), four out of 10 children were out of school. In six other states (Sokoto, Borno, Rivers, Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa), one out of every three children are not in school for primary education”, according to the report.
The report further showed that “In nine states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Kogi, Niger, Jigawa, Ebony, Bayelsa, Edo, Osun and Ogun states), one in four children was out of school. Only four states and FCT had less than 20 per cent of their primary-school-age children out of school. The four states are Anambra, 15 percent; Imo, 17 per cent; Ekiti, 17 per cent and Lagos, 19 per cent.”
However, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu last year expressed excitement that the number of out-of-school children in the country that stood at 10.1 million in 2019 has reduced to 6.9 million in 2020. This reduction is certainly a reflection of the state that recorded a significant number of back to school children. For instance, the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal revealed that the state has enrolled 75,650 (31,100 boys and 44,550 girls) out-of-school children into schools. He made this known at the launching of the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) at Government House, Sokoto. The Gombe State Coordinator, Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA), Mr Mohammed Bappah, also reinstated that 120,000 out-of-school-children have been brought back to classrooms in the state.
President Buhari’s address on the reduction of out-of-school children is very imperative for sustainable national development. It was in this light that Obasanjo stated during the Chrisland University convocation that lack of formal education and stagnated development were parts of the biggest problems confronting the country.
Also, World Bank Director, Shubham Chawdry, while echoing his organisation’s commitment to the improvement of Nigeria’s education sector, emphasised that education is a sure way of eliminating poverty.
Before the presidential call, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire in the 2020 Arise Women Conference in Lagos made it known that the Federal government is working hard to reduce the number of uneducated children in Nigeria.
Likewise, in July last year, the Federal Government called on the World Bank to support the country’s commitment to the reduction of out-of-school children from the current 10.2 million to 5 million by the year 2023. Adamu revealed that the reduction of out-of-school children from 10.1 million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020 was made possible with the sum of $611 million secured through the World Bank credit facility to support Universal Basic Education, which recorded a massive enrolment of out-of-school children in 17 states.
Mr Adamu pointed out that the goal of the current administration was to ensure that Nigerian children have access to qualitative education, irrespective of their economic backgrounds.
As a way to further decrease the rate of out-of-school children in Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari gave a mandate for the coordination of the deployment of a national plan to address the issue of out-of-school children in the country.
Notwithstanding, the security of children has to be ascertained as frequent attacks on schools and the kidnapping of school children act as major obstacles to the success of this goal. Also, the education system needs to be revamped, with the government providing adequate facilities needed in both rural and urban schools.
In a way to better the education sector, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, demanded an upward review of budgetary allocation on education in Nigeria from 15 per cent to 20 per cent. This was done in the commemoration of the 2021 International World Education Day.
AAN gave a complete guide on the solution to this disturbing fact. It said, “Provide free quality education for all and halt the dangerous trends of privatization and commercialization of education; Ensure inclusive educational systems and institutions; improve the quality of teaching through adequate recruitment, remuneration, and continued teacher training and re-training.
“Ensure evaluation of existing safety measures in schools to identify gaps and take corrective measures followed by regular risk assessment at the Federal, State, and LGA level. Provide leadership and funds to support logistics of monitoring teams at all levels. Enforce compliance to COVID-19 safety rules and measures; and braze up security architecture in places where insecurity has affected learning.”
The statement also pointed that, “With less than a decade to 2030, and in a world thrown into turmoil by COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that the Federal Government takes concrete actions to recommit to honouring the UN commitments and mobilize all available resources to deliver on SDG4 thereby ensuring that no child is left behind.”
Besides, the inclusion of out-of-school children back to the classroom will mean the construction of more schools. Not leaving out the fact that the curriculum needs to be improved.
There is no better way to emphasise the importance of reducing the rate of out of school children than with the popular Chinese proverb “if you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people”. This also confirms the words of respected world leader, the late Nelson Mandela that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
Faith Omo Ohioze