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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

Lagos Monarch Asks Government to Increase Funding to Education

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Increase Funding to Education

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Adeboruwa of Igbogbo, Lagos State, Oba Semiudeen Orimadegun Kasali, has appealed to the government to increase funding to education so as to develop the nation.

The Lagos monarch said this when he addressed newsmen over the weekend in Oyo State when he was honoured alongside some members of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association (UIAA), Oyo State branch.

The lawyer-turned traditional ruler also said apart from the government, parents, guardians and corporate organisations have roles to play if the educational sector must be better.

“I support the call for the government to increase funding for education and there is an internationally acceptable standard and we would urge the government to do more in that regard. I will continue to be an ambassador of the call that a large chunk of our budget should be allocated to education so that we can have an improved educational standard in the country.

“But, we know that government cannot do it alone, for instance, in my own little capacity in my domain, I have utilized every opportunity to mobilise resources for an improved education through construction of classrooms, award of scholarships to indigent students and we will continue to organise lectures to educate our wards on the dangers of joining bad companies and dangers of gangsterism in all ways,” Mr Kasali said.

The ceremony, which precisely took place on Saturday, September 11, 2021, in Ibadan, was held to recognise the old students for their various contributions to their field of endeavours.

Other recipients also echoed the thoughts of the monarch as they agreed that quality education would secure the future of Nigeria.

The Director of Program Operations, Children Community Services, New York, United States of America, Mr Rafiu Afolabi Laguda, in his submission, said parents need to train up their children to be independent, especially in their actions and decisions, lamenting that many students fell to the trap of joining cultism as a result of peer pressure.

Mr Laguda, a youth mentor and coach, who was honoured with the Worthy Ambassador Award, said getting the best of the country’s educational sector requires a collaborative effort from the government, parents, corporate organisations, and every other relevant stakeholder.

“The government is trying, parents need to support. When you talk about institutions abroad, it is not only government that is funding them. It is a collaborative effort.

“But in Nigeria, we tend to leave a bulk on the table of the government and we think that government is the superman to do everything and address all the problems.

“Parents, corporate institutions, government, all of us have roles to play in the educational development of our country.

‘On cultism and hooliganism, these are social vices driven by peer pressure. We all had the option and choice to join a cult group but we did not when we were in school,” he said.

“I know many youths who are well trained from home but who missed it when they got into campus. Parents must train up their children to be independent and learn to take independent decisions.

“Let them be accountable for whatever decision they take so that they know the task and responsibility ahead, let them know that they are always responsible for their actions and decisions,” Mr Laguda added.

In her remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Oyo State Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Development, Social and Poverty Alleviation, Mrs Christianah Abioye, described the honour as a rude shock as she was not aware that her efforts in the fields of social work were being monitored.

She assured that the Worthy Ambassador Award conferred on her will help her expand the scope of her work and facilitate opportunities for more youths, less privileged and vulnerable to be impacted through synergy with the UIAA and members of the community.

Mrs Abioye noted that government cannot handle all the issues facing the society alone but that some people have left everything in the hands of the government, adding “but it is not so. We need to come out as parents, elderly ones, brothers and sisters, teachers, neighbours, colleagues, we need to do it together. We need to change society.

“We need to let the children who are not finding it easy know that it is a matter of patience and time while also encouraging them to concentrate on their studies and or vocation and let them know that they will through that part achieve a lot more for themselves and the society at large,” she stated.

Other awardees at the event included the Sabiganna of Iganna, Oyo State, Oba Salau Azeez (Royal Ambassador Award), Dotun Sanusi (Outstanding Alumnus Award 2021) and Dr Fola Akinosun (Commendable Philanthropist Award), amongst others.

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Education

Akwa Ibom to Establish College of Science and Technology

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College of Science and Technology

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

The Akwa Ibom State government has announced plans to establish a college of science and technology with the collaboration of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in the areas of personnel training and manpower development.

The Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, said this on Monday while receiving a delegation from UNILAG, his Alma Mata, led by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.

According to the Governor, the college will run as an intermediary programme to prepare students for science and bridge the gap of effective science learning preceding tertiary education.

Speaking at the meeting, which was held at the Government House in Uyo, he said that the state was ready to carry out collaborative programs and entrepreneurial courses packaged to establish students after their school year.

This will see the rearrangement of the curriculum of education generally and that of Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU).

“So, we are trying to rejig the curricular, we want to bridge a gap of intermediary education the way you see in other places, so we are thinking of establishing a College of Science and Technology that will serve as an intermediate programme that will prepare people to come into science

“Because in most cases students leave secondary school and gain admissions into the University, and most secondary schools don’t have the same standards, so we are trying to bridge that gap and it is an area we need a whole lot of assistance,” Mr Emmanuel disclosed.

Soliciting collaborative efforts, the Governor added, “We want collaboration with you in our tertiary institution AKSU. I’m sure the Commissioner for Education with Vice-Chancellor of AKSU will make a presentation at the exco very soon in these areas we want collaboration especially in the area of training our people, lecturers and a whole lot, this is because the original vision of that institution was to specialize in science and technology.”

Mr Emmanuel further disclosed that preparations were in top gear to formalize empowerment programs at the skills acquisition centre established by the state government to create job opportunities for Youths.

He then called on the University of Lagos to partner with the state in areas of manpower development and entrepreneurial courses in the centre.

In response, Professor Ogundipe lauded the efforts of the Akwa Ibom government in areas of industrialization and power and expressed readiness to partner with the state.

He said, “We are bringing on board two major things, we are ready to collaborate with you concerning the young university, just like the Borno State University that we are going to train their lecturers and some of their lectures who had to do PhD we will be able to assist them because of the collaboration we have with other tertiary institution outside the country it will be easy for them to do their research work.

“The second thing is a collaboration with the government in areas of studies, you want to test your feasibility, and we will do it.”

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Education

Governors Not Funding State Universities—ASUU Laments

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Funding State Universities

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has expressed concerns over the failure of Governors in funding state universities across the country.

The Chairman of the union, Calabar Zone, Mr Aniekan Brown, said this on Wednesday. He said most state governors now rely on Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) in improving their universities structure.

According to him, such funds are sometimes diverted to establish a new university, which is not encouraged.

He urged state governors and university administrators to put all hands on deck to avert an impending crisis in the state-owned universities.

In addition, Mr Brown said that the union was also worried about the establishment of universities by state governments without backing the same with laws, noting that the university system should be without politics.

“This is worrying that only seven state-owned universities have their laws in conformity with the Universities Miscellaneous Provision Amendment Act of 2012, while 26 are partially compliant,” he said.

Urging them to follow the laws as recorded in the Universities Miscellaneous Provision Amendment Act of 2012, he cited that the autonomy of the universities is trampled by usurping the powers of Governing Councils and the Senate.

“Evidence of this could be gleaned from the manipulation of the composition or non-constitution of Governing Councils. For instance, the Yobe State University law stipulates a five-year single tenure but it was repealed and replaced with a four-year renewable tenure for the position of vice-chancellor.

“In Ebonyi State University, there is no chancellor and the state government is yet to constitute a new Governing Council since it was dissolved in November 2020. At Enugu State University of Science and Technology, the vice-chancellor has acted for 15 months.

“Currently, the autonomy of the Kaduna State University is under intense threat as it is placed under the supervision of both the state Ministry of Finance despite the existence of governing council,” Mr Brown explained.

He said ASUU, therefore, calls on all concerned stakeholders to immediately set in motion necessary steps for the domestication of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provision Amendment) Act to allow for the exercise of autonomy in these state universities in line with the national and global standards.

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