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Tackling Nigeria’s Out-of-School Children Menace

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Out-of-School Children

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

As both the federal and state governments in Nigeria continue to allow the rate of out-of-school children, especially in the northern part of Nigeria, to swell in number, even when it is obvious that the streets are known for breeding all forms of criminals and other social misfits who constitute the real threat in the forms of armed robbers; thugs, drunkards, prostitutes and all other social ills that give a bad name to the society, Nigerians are beginning to view government’s approach to the challenge as not yielding the targeted result.

The latest of such worry came from Kogi State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Wemi Jones, who recently during a 2-day North-Central Zonal Meeting on Draft Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP), held in Lokoja, called on stakeholders in the sector to find a lasting solution to the problem.

While lamenting that out of the 17 states in the country with the highest number of out-of-school children, 14 of the states are in the north, Jones said if the rate of out-of-school children can be curtailed, it would help check the insecurity that is currently bedevilling parts of the country, and would to a large extend signal goodbye to insecurity threats across the country.

Though he said it in a different way, venue and time, in the real sense of it, Mr Commissioner may not have said something new or different from what Nigerians have been worried about all these years.

To prove how 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.

Again, in 2018, a UNICEF survey 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.

The UNICEF survey says something else; there is still a huge number of those who are in school but are learning nothing, noting that schooling does not always lead to learning. In Nigeria, there are more non-learners in school than out of school, it concluded.

Indeed, going by the facts below, UNICEF in my views may not be wrong in its postulation.

With the nation’s current population of over 195.9 million, 45 per cent of which are below 15 years, there is a huge demand for learning opportunities translating into increased enrolment. This has created challenges in ensuring quality education since resources are spread more thinly, resulting in more than 100 pupils for one teacher as against the UNESCO benchmark of 35 students per teacher and culminating in students learning under trees for lack of classrooms.

Basically, there exist in my opinion about three major troubling realities that characterize the situation as a crisis.

First is the awareness that Nigeria is not in short supply of policy measures and laws to ensure that no child is left behind in education. Yet, the number keeps swelling each year.

As argued elsewhere, there is free and compulsory primary and junior secondary education to cater for children aged five to 14 years.

To explain this point, the Universal Basic Education Act 2004 is the legal framework that provides for compulsory, free and universal basic education of all children of primary and junior secondary school age in the country. There is also the Child Rights Act, which reinforces this as a basic human right by prescribing schooling up to junior secondary school.

UBEC intervention funds, as we know, are focused on collaboration with other state actors towards improving access to basic education and reducing Nigeria’s out-of-school children.

The budgetary allocation for education for example in 2020 is N671.07 billion constituting 6.7 per cent. Of the N671.07 billion allocated to the Federal Ministry of Education, the sum includes the statutory transfer allocated to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which is N111.79 billion. Yet, most of the states cannot draw from this fund as a result of their (states) inability to provide the counterpart funding.

So what benefits is the fund?

It was such encumbrance I presume that recently prompted the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, to call on the federal government to remove counterpart funding as part of basic requirements for states to access the federal government funding of UBEC.

The second factor fuelling the out-of-school challenge in Nigeria stems from the awareness that despite the universal declaration of education as a fundamental human right for everyone and this right was further detailed in the convention against discrimination in education, Nigerian governments, particularly the northern governors, failed to turn more of their energies in, or focus their creativity on the useful things that will translate to the empowerment of the people.

They made policies that view education as very narrow and restricted.

Presently, what the region and Nigeria by extension need is a restless determination to make the idle of governance a reality.

At this critical point of our nationhood, the northern governors must do this work-and in doing the work, stimulate their people particularly the youths to learn and acquire higher levels of skills and techniques for economic independence.

There are certain technical steps that must be taken.

First, it is time to recognize that any region desirous of securing the future of its people must invest in education. This is more urgent in the north where it is agreed that historical underdevelopment in Western education is responsible, more than the diversity in religious loyalties, for the social imbalance between the region and the south.

Similarly, the hour has come for the governors from the region to adopt and support the 2030 sustainable agenda- a United Nation initiative and successor programme to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty.

And has at its centre; partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.

The reason for this assertion is barefaced.

A few years ago, it was reported that Mathew Hassan Kukah- a well-informed, self-contained and quietly influential Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto had during a four-day workshop tagged Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement for Christians and Muslims in Minna, Niger State that the Kukah Centre (TKC), promised to introduce skill acquisition centres in the northern part of the country where about 10 million Almajiri children will acquire vocations of their choice.

For sure, with the slow economic but high population growth in Nigeria particularly in the north, such a programme would have been an effective tool for fighting unemployment and consolidating economic growth. But for yet to be identified reason(s), no governor from the north bought into that opening provided or encouraged their youth to access such opportunity.

Regardless of what others may say, it is in the interest of the government to educate its people on different skills that create jobs for the youths as a formidable way of curbing crime and reducing threatening insecurity in the country.

It should be done not merely for political consideration but from the views of national development and sustenance of our democracy and the best place to start from should be a deliberate effort to drastically reduce the number of our school children.

When this is achieved, it will in turn bring about sustained peace; result in improved hygiene and medical care, greater educational opportunities. State governments are hereby enjoined by this piece to embark on aggressive education of their people, ensuring its compulsion to a certain level.

To catalyse this process, a shift in action is important as ‘we cannot solve our socio-economic challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it.

The governors need to bring a change in the leadership paradigm by switching over to a leadership style that is capable of making successful decisions built on a higher quality of information.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374. 

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Education

Entries for Ecobank National Essay Competition Close Saturday

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essay competition

By Dipo Olowookere

The national essay competition organised by Ecobank Nigeria Limited to commemorate Children’s Banking Month is gradually gaining momentum, especially as the window for the submission of entries draws closer.

According to the financial institution, all entries are expected to be filed to AllENG-ConsumerProductsTeams@ecobank.com, with the contact details of the parent/guardian on or before Saturday, May 21, 2022, at 12 noon.

Results would be sent on all entries by Wednesday, May 25 at 12 noon and winners will be celebrated and given their gifts on May 28, 2022, as part of activities to mark the International Children’s Day.

The contest is for children between the ages of 13 and 16 and the topic is What will you consider as the future of banking. Participants are required to write the essay in 400 words, in font size 12 with one and a half line spacing. Winners would be given laptops, educational tabs, and several consolation prizes.

The Head of Consumer Banking at Ecobank Nigeria, Mrs Korede Demola-Adeniyi, in a statement made available to Business Post, explained that the bank initiated the competition to expose children to financial education early in life, adding that it is also part of the lender’s commitment towards the Nigerian child.

According to her, “the month of May is set aside by the bank to celebrate childhood and how our children enrich our lives. We acknowledge the importance of our customers, young and old, to Ecobank’s ongoing success story. The bank, whose vision is to build a world-class pan-African bank and contribute to the economic development and financial integration of Africa, sees educational development as a fulcrum for positive integration.”

Mrs Demola-Adeniyi called on school proprietors, administrators, parents, and guardians to encourage their students, children, and wards to participate actively in the essay competition, stressing that beyond the prizes, the competition is also part of the process to push the frontiers of academic excellence among the young ones in society.

She stated that Ecobank has a MyFirst Account which caters for children and young ones, noting that, “This is our savings account specifically designed for children and teenagers aged between 0-16 years old.”

“If you are a parent, the account allows you to save money in your child’s name, which they can redeem when they are older. It is the perfect way to save for their education or kickstart a fund for future projects. It gives your child the best start in life,” she added.

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Education

Stanbic IBTC Funds University Education of 100 Students

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Increase Funding to Education

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A total of 100 students will receive funding support for their university education in Nigeria from Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, a member of Standard Bank Group.

Each of the undergraduates in 33 universities across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, will receive scholarships valued at N400,000, which would be disbursed in tranches of N100,000 across four academic years.

The beneficiaries were chosen through the scholarship scheme of the financial institution designed to provide financial aid needed to fulfil their educational needs and pursue their dreams.

The 100 Nigerian youths selected this year excelled in the University Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) organised by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

Asides from the first tranche of disbursement, subsequent disbursements would be subject to beneficiaries maintaining their enrolment in their respective universities and degree programs they were admitted into, adhering to the academic and administrative policies of the university, and the provision of a letter of good conduct issued by their respective departments.

Also, beneficiaries would be required to maintain a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of at least a second class upper range, amongst other requirements.

Commenting on the initiative, the chief executive officer of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Mr Demola Sogunle, stated that it was borne out of the need to empower hardworking and diligent young Nigerian undergraduates, who aspired to pursue their tertiary education in any state or federal university in Nigeria.

“We believe that everyone deserves a chance to access quality education and we believe in rewarding students who have shown remarkable academic excellence.

“This initiative will go a long way in easing the financial burdens of these undergraduates who participated in the UTME and gained admission into various Nigerian state and federal universities for the 2021-2022 academic session.

“We are pleased to announce the 100 winners of this year’s scholarship scheme for undergraduates in 33 universities across the 36 states and the FCT. We wish them great success in their academic journey.”

Mr Sogunle further added that education remains one of the keys to facilitating a nation’s prosperity, hence the introduction of the scholarship initiative.

Stanbic IBTC remains committed to driving value-added initiatives like the university scholarship programme to contribute to the educational development of the Nigerian youth.

The scheme, which commenced in 2019, now has had almost 200 recipients. The beneficiaries were chosen across the six geo-political zones in Nigeria through fair screening processes.

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Education

Consider Plight of Students and Suspend Strike—Buhari Begs ASUU

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plight of students ASUU

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been urged to consider the plight of students and suspend the ongoing strike.

Speaking at the 19th National Productivity Day in Abuja on Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari said efforts are being made to resolve the lingering issues between the union and the federal government.

ASUU had earlier embarked upon a two-month warning to force the government to honour the agreement signed in 2009 but after nothing was done, it extended the industrial action for another three months.

At the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award (NPOM) on 48 eminent Nigerians and organisations in both the public and private sectors, for their high productivity, hard work and excellence, President Buhari disclosed that his administration recognises that the future of any nation is contingent on the standard of its educational system, promising to uplift the standard of the educational system in the country.

According to him, he earlier directed his Chief of Staff, the Ministers of Labour and Employment, Education, Finance, Budget and National Planning to immediately bring all parties to the negotiation table to again critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU.

Mr Buhari expressed optimism that all the issues would be resolved, appealing to the lecturers to exercise patience. He also urged students in Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions to give the government time to address the nagging issues in the nation’s university system within the ambit of the resources available.

While speaking on the theme of this year’s celebration, Achieving Higher Productivity through Improved Education System, the President disclosed that efforts would be made to “transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy.”

“Quality educational system is good not just for the national economy; it is also good for the citizens,” he disclosed, emphasising that, “Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion.”

According to him, “It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity, without improving our educational system.”

He stated that the administration was aware of “the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system.”

Some of the awardees were the late Dr Stella Adadevoh and Mr Babatunde Lawal.

Other were recipients the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Abdullahi Adamu; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha; immediate past Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chike Ihekweazu; Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi; Chairman and Founder, BUA Group, Mr Abdusamad Rabiu; Chairman of Globacom, Mr Mike Adenuga Jnr; Professor Stanley Okolo, Director General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO) and Allen Onyema, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, among others.

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