By Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna
Following the recent alarming data revealed by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) that over 13 million Nigeria children are out of school, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on Wednesday in Kaduna, commences a “Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on “Out of School Children”.
UBEC, at the conference noted that 80% of the out of school children in Nigeria are in the northern part of the country, just as UNICEF, said the children are not faceless but leaves in the communities.
Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, Executive Secretary, UBEC, who was represented by Dr. Yusuf Gambo, Deputy Executive Secretary, said, available statistics showing that more that 80% of the figure of out of school children in the North, calls for a re-think and active participation of all to checkmate the situation.
“That today Nigeria has over 10.5 Million out-of-School Children (with the figure going much higher if IDPs in Boko Haram ravaged North-East and secondary school figures are included), with available statistics showing that more 80% of this figure is in the North, calls to re-think and active participation of to checkmate the situation.
“The North has to wake up from a long deep sleep. The world is moving fast with science and technology and the other parts of Nigeria are struggling to cateh-up with the rest of the world through their children education, but the north is wobbling and being drawn back by wrong perceptions of what constitute education and its true value in human and national development.
“It is in the North that majority of the socio-cultural barriers to formal schooling have found a seemingly permanent dwelling place: Early marriage, especially of girls; pervading almajirai’ all over the northern streets; child labour; negative parental attitudes towards education of their children and wards; low parental literacy level; etc.
“It is a source of worry and concern that the Northern Nigeria which hitherto had standing history for educational pursuit and development is today scornfully looked down upon nationally and being pity by the International Community for lack of educational development and fervid poverty.” UBEC boss said.
He however assured all that, “with the commitment, guidance and backing of the Federal Government, active collaboration and participation of the International Developmental Partners, Non-Governmental Organizations the Organized Private Sector and other key players in the education industry, the Universal Basic Education Commission will vigorously pursue any agenda that targets eradicating the Out-of-School Children challenge to advance the educational development of Nigeria.”
In her remarks, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, noted, “when we speak of out-of-school children, who are they? It is too easy to keep them nameless and faceless. The latest Mics data tells us that 69% of out-of-school children in Nigeria are in northern states. Bauchi has the highest number of out-of-school children -1.1 million and Katsina comes in second with 781,500 children out of school.
“These children are in your communities, on your streets, in the households in your council area. There are several reasons why these children are not in school. Gender is an important factor in the pattern of educational marginalization. In northeast and northwest states of Nigeria, more than half of primary school aged girls are not in school. Equally, poverty is a barrier. In the conference, we unicef for every child will not only discuss these barriers, we will focus on actions that need to be taken to reduce them.
“Many parents in northern Nigeria prefer Islamic education over formal education but they are not mutually exclusive. Children need both. They also have a right to learn to read a write, mathematics, and develop the knowledge and skills that will enable them to be contributing citizens of Nigeria. One approach to address both needs is the integration of basic education subjects into Islamic centres: Qur’anic, Islamiyya and Tsangaya to reach more children with basic education skills. Approximately 26 % of Muslim children in northern Nigeria only attend Islamic education.”
She said, UNICEF recognizes the importance of the Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of School Children and the key role of traditional institutions in northern Nigeria to positively influence parents and ensure that children under their Councils are literate.
“UNICEF recognizes the leadership of his Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto for this conference and the partnership with the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development, FME, UBEC and NMEC as well as development partners in changing the story of children in their communities. By working together, we can give all children in Nigeria the right to read and write.
“When we invest in our children, we invest in our collective future. On behalf of UNICEF, I would like to once again encourage the establishment of a strong partnership between the traditional leaders, government and civil society to engage at the community level with parents and influence the political decisions to ensure the right to quality education for all children in Nigeria. For Nigeria to achieve its Sustainable Development Goal targets for education, this is essential. Only quantum leaps today will enable Nigeria to achieve its social and economic goals for the future.
“If all the traditional leaders gathered here today to commit to key actions within their jurisdiction and beyond, mobilize parents, remove barriers, and advocate to relevant government agencies to increase funding can we make a real change in children’s lives across Nigeria. Every child in school and learning to reach their full potential, the full potential of Nigeria.” Ironside, added.
The conference was organized by Federal Ministry of Education Commission, Universal Basic Education, National Commission for Mass Education and Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development in collaboration with UNICEF.