By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
With the recent passage for the second reading of the Bill for an Act to establish the National Commission on Child Destitution in Nigeria, it is now evident that the nation handlers’ have finally come to the sudden realization that history has over these years thrust upon our generation an indescribably important destiny – to complete the process of learning and modernizations which our nation has too long developed too slowly, but which is our most powerful for world respect and emulation.
The bill, if passed, would provide the legal and constitutional frameworks for the eradication of child destitution in Nigeria. The bill would also result in taking formidable steps to mitigate the effects of the recurring cases of child destitution in the country. When established, the commission would serve as an intervention programme that would eradicate, rehabilitate and prohibit the menace of child destitution in Nigeria.
Without a doubt, there are many reasons that qualify the development as a right step taken in the right direction.
First, separate from the painful realization that 17 states in the country with the highest number of out-of-school children, 14 of them are in the North, and if the rate of out-of-school children is not curtailed, it would further worsen the insecurity that is currently bedevilling parts of the country. There is an accompanying belief that the latest bill, when passed, will strengthen the already existing Universal Basic Education Act 2003, which among other purposes is aimed at enforcing quality, compulsory, mandatory and free education up to secondary school three or equivalent and other purposes.
The second is that successive administrations in the country have done very little in arresting the situation. A particular report in 2013 described as mind-numbing the awareness that about 10.5 million Nigerian children of school age are not enrolled in schools. Out of this number, the report explained that about 9 million are children of beggars, fishermen and other less privileged people in the society.
The survey further showed that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria had risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world, noting that; there is still a huge number of those who are in school, but are learning nothing, as schooling does not always lead to learning. In Nigeria, there are more non-learners in school than out of school.
Regardless of what you hear or read on the pages of the newspaper, this piece believes that despite the proposed National Commission on Child Destitution in Nigeria, it is still not an easy road for the Nigerian education sector but a tough and tumble ride. Even the practice of democracy in the country, contrary to earlier beliefs, has not helped to stop the pangs of challenges experienced by Nigerians in the sector.
Among many other comments in the recent past, I heard some say that across the globe, funding education now comes with a crushing weight that the government alone can no longer bear. To this group, it calls for public-private partnership and support from good-spirited individuals to the rescue.
Within this span, I have equally read an argument that our educational system is faulty just like every educational system is faulty. The United States educational system, they added, is faulty. If there is no fault in any system, then, there is no improvement. They concluded that what we call fault is a challenge and that is the basics of development. To the rest, our educational system is not faulty as it remains one of the systems that are still very sound and applauded across the world.
To illustrate this belief, the ongoing strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to ensure the government stops reneging on agreements with the union has more than anything else made it clear that the nation’s public universities, principally the federal government-owned universities, are in trouble.
Aside from the fact that this is the second industrial action in less than two years, coupled with the fact that the system continues to frustrate the ambitions and aspirations of our youths; those that will provide the future leadership needs of the country, there are indeed reasons that characterize the current happenings as a troubling reality.
The most fundamental of the reasons is that the strike came a few days after President Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja, while receiving members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) led by the co-chairs, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, promised that the federal government remains committed to honouring promises made to ASUU to prevent disruptive strikes, engender uninterrupted academic programmes and improve funding of educational institutions.
The second stems from the words of Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, president of ASUU, who during a reported interview with the Channels Television, not only contradicted but proved as untrue the above pledge by Mr President. He ‘religiously’ explained how the FG has seamlessly become reputed for not keeping promises.
Let’s listen to him; “For the past nine years or so, they have been giving us promises but once the strike is over, they relapse. While noting that his colleagues are tired of these promises which they don’t fulfil, he added that what they want is action, maintaining that the union has sacrificed for the country’s educational system, concluding that ASUU will not back down on the current industrial action, since the federal government has become reputed for not keeping to its promises.
Looking above, it is evident that if the time-honoured aphorism which considers education as the bedrock of development is anything to go by and if the age-long belief that; with sound educational institutions, a country is as good as made, the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and projects remains a valid argument, then, we all have reasons not only to feel worried but collectively work hard to deliver the nation’s education sector.
Specifically, these challenges come in two forms; the first lays out the dilemma posed by the government’s underfunding of the public universities which as a consequence; impedes lecturers from carrying out scholarly research, truncates the academic calendar with strike actions, laces Nigerian universities with dilapidated and overstretched learning facilities with the universities producing graduates devoid of linkage with the manpower demand by the nation’s industrial sector.
The second challenge stems from the first but centres more particularly on thoughtless demand for fees of varying amounts/proposed by the school authorities-a development that is financially squeezing the life out of the innocent students and their parents.
The dilemma and menace posed by this practice indicate considerably higher risk and unless the government commits its resources to get to the root of the challenge, the potential consequence could be higher than that of other challenges currently ravaging the education sector.
By not taking the education sector seriously, one fact that the federal government failed to remember is that when human beings, through sound education, develop a higher order of thinking, the society gains an advantage in being able to anticipate emerging threats, they gain the ability to conceptualize instead of just perceiving.
But when they fail to acquire or deny the need, they will also gain the ability to conceptualize an imaginary threat and when a group of people are persuaded to conceptualize this imaginary threat, they can activate the fear response as powerfully as the real threat.
This fact partially explains the current fears and insecurity that have recently enveloped the country.
To further avert all these, governments at all levels must unlearn this attitude of the progressives’ non-recognition of the right to education as a human right despite their membership in a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right is respected.
Above all, the Buhari-led federal government must urgently commit to mind that globally; ‘the relationship between employers/employees is always strained, always headed toward conflict. It is a natural conflict built into the system.
Unions do not strike on a whim or use the strike to show off their strength. They look at strikes as costly and disturbing, especially for workers and their families. Strikes are called as last resort’. And any government that fails to manage this delicate relationship profitably or fails to develop a cordial relationship with the workers becomes an enemy of not just the workers but that of the open society and, such society will sooner than later find itself degenerate into chaos.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based non-governmental organisation (NGO). He can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374
Airtel to Accelerate Digital Learning for Nigerian Children
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Nigerian children have been reassured of the commitment of Airtel Nigeria to accelerating digital learning in the country.
As part of activities to commemorate World Children’s Day, the telecommunications service provider partnered with UNICEF to host Augusta Anuguo (Esther), the differently abled child star featured in Airtel’s latest TVC, Esther.
During the ceremony at the Airtel headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos, Miss Anuguo had the rare privilege to function in the capacity of Airtel Nigeria’s CEO and MD, Mr Surendran Chemmenkotil, as she emerged CEO for the day.
Using this privilege and executive powers as CEO, she remarkably led an advocacy campaign for Nigerian children, especially the differently abled, as she signed a policy for Airtel Nigeria to continue to pursue opportunities that will accelerate digital learning for all children in the country, regardless of ethnicity, location, or ability.
Impressed with her performance, Mr Chemmenkotil awarded the sum of N1.5 million to Miss Anuguo to support her education and her advocacy for Nigerian children as a key influencer.
“I am also happy to offer Miss Anuguo a scholarship of N1.5 million to support her education. This gesture is to encourage her to continue her advocacy for differently abled children as she champions their cause as a key influencer. Thank you for all you do, Anuguo,” he said.
The Airtel Nigeria boss also stated that, “Airtel Nigeria joins UNICEF and the entire world to mark World Children’s Day. As a company, Airtel is committed to Nigerian children and will continue to support initiatives that will create a better future for all children.
“We are happy to mark this day with Esther as well as all Nigerian children, and we shall continue to support platforms and initiatives that will lead to a better future for all children in our dear country, Nigeria.”
World Children’s Day was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and is celebrated on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide and improve children’s welfare.
Egbeyinka Elizabeth Shines at 8th Glorious Vision University Convocation
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A student of the Department of Chemical Science of Glorious Vision University (GVU), Ogwa, Edo State, Miss Egbeyinka Elizabeth, was the cynosure of all eyes at the institution’s 8th convocation ceremony held recently.
Miss Egbeyinka emerged as the best graduating student with a 4.82 Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA), sweeping several awards and cash gifts at the event.
Business Post gathered that the brilliant student went home with the Vice-Chancellor prize for Overall Best Student, TACN Remo Area prize for Best Graduating TACN Member Student, and Departmental prize for Best Student in the Department of Chemical Sciences.
She also won Professor (Mrs) May Foluso Ogbe prize for Overall Best Graduating Female Student, Professor (Mrs) Olusola Omueti prize for Overall Best Graduating Student in Bio-Chemistry, Deaconess (Dr) P. A. Akpan prize to the Best Graduating Science Student, and Dean, COLBAS prize for Best Student in the College of Humanities.
At the programme, Miss Egbeyemi was commended for her brilliance and charged to continue to be a good ambassador of the institution by imbibing the knowledge she has acquired from the school.
In his speech at the convocation, the Visitor and Chancellor of Glorious Vision University, Pastor Emmanuel Segun Awojide, congratulated the graduating students, saying the accomplishment was worth celebrating.
He also tasked Nigerians to keep praying for the country, especially as the nation prepares for the general elections in 2023, stating that Nigeria, especially the church, is in dire need of the right leaders to steer the ship of the country to the Promised Land.
The cleric, who doubles as the National Vice President and LAWNA Territorial Chairman of The Apostolic Church Nigeria (TACN), emphasised that Nigerians must cry out to God, who he said owns Nigeria.
The man of God, represented by the Vice Chairman of LAWNA Territory, Pastor Okpako Uyeh, also used the occasion to thank members of the church for supporting GVU, which used to be known as Samuel Adegboyega University (SAU).
“Let me thank all sponsors and members of The Apostolic Church Nigeria LAWNA Territory for their overwhelming support to the growth and development of the Glorious Vision University despite the current economic hardship in the country. This sacrifice will not go unrewarded in Jesus’ name,” Pastor Awojide, who is also the National Chairman of the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN), stated.
A total of 100 students graduated with various degrees at the 2022 convocation attended by several persons. The school, established by TACN, awarded diploma degrees to three students, first degrees to 94 students and second degrees to four students.
Adeniran Praises Makinde for Allocating 18.78% of 2023 Budget to Education
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Governor of Oyo State, Mr Seyi Makinde, has been applauded by the Chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board (Oyo SUBEB), Mr Nureni Aderemi Adeniran, for allocating more funds to education in the 2023 budget.
Speaking recently on a live programme on the Oyo State Broadcasting Corporation (BCOS) in Ibadan, the state capital, the educationist said this was commendable.
According to him, education has the second largest allocation in the proposed 2023 appropriation bill presented to the Oyo State House of Assembly by Mr Makinde.
He said with a budget of N58.2 billion, the government has recorded an unprecedented affection for education.
Mr Adeniran said Governor Makinde had maintained an unbroken record of allocating huge funds for the overhaul of the sector, especially the basic education sub-sector he supervises.
“Governor Makinde’s record of allocating funds for education conforms to UNESCO standards of 15-20 per cent of the budget. In fact, this time, education is 18.78 per cent of the total budget proposal,” he said.
Speaking further, the Oyo SUBEB chief lauded the current administration for consistently maintaining an 18 per cent to 22 per cent budgetary allocation.
He insisted that this has helped the state in regular payment of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) counterpart funding and received matching grants, “enabling us to execute numerous projects in the education sector.”
“Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board has so far completed over 56 model schools and constructed and renovated over 700 classroom blocks across Oyo State, among other projects,” he affirmed.
He, therefore, appealed to residents of the state to re-elect Governor Makinde for a second term, saying his efforts to make Oyo better could be further actualised with continuity.
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