Nigeria needs political will, consistency in policy delivery and good leadership to tackle the out-of-school children problem in the country.
This was the position taken by stakeholders at the ongoing national conference on out-of-school children in Abuja, which opened on Monday.
They also argued that there should be adequate and consistent funding and deliberate investment in basic education by the government.
Adamu Adamu, Nigeria’s Minister of Education, who declared the conference open, noted that Nigeria’s education is too strategic and too sensitive to be left in the hands of the government.
The Minister, who was represented by Dr Folake Davies, the director of Basic Education at the Federal Ministry of Education, called for a review of approaches to addressing the out-of-school children problem.
Adamu challenged all stakeholders to bring to bear greater courage to reposition basic education in Nigeria.
“The federal government has made a significant investment in the sector and provided quality education in response to our developmental needs,” the Minister said.
“The ministry has taken steps to strengthen inter-agencies programmes that target the OSC phenomenon. We plan for the open school programme that will help OSC to access learning opportunities.”
“There is, therefore, need for all and sundry to show commitment towards the success of addressing the phenomenon for better outcomes,” he added.
The Chairman of the House Committee, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, identified political will, and consistency in policy delivery as major factors needed to address the Out of School Menace in Nigeria
He called on presidential candidates in Nigeria’s 2023 elections to prioritize the issue of OOSC and answer several questions emanating from the challenges posed by the menace.
“The challenge we see at the House of Representatives is poor leadership, lack of commitment, and poor delivery of services,” he said.
“OSC is more dangerous than banditry, and it is as if we are breeding an army of threats to the nation, so to say political leaders should take the issue as a priority is an understatement we will request that all Presidential candidates should tell us what they will do with OOSC problem Nigeria is facing.”
Dr Hamid Bobboyi, the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), identified the need for development partners to re-strategise and synergise better to be on the same page in tackling the OSC problem.
Dr Bobboyi said for Nigeria to meet up the needs of children who trek to post-basic schools across the nation, Nigeria needs a total of 20,000 Junior secondary schools, which he said must be within 3km.
“There is a need to plan together and ensure that resources are judiciously utilised to have collective results,” he said.
“We must also take full responsibility for our actions or lack of them and be able to receive enlightenment on education and society and enlighten our communities the truth about lifestyle which encourages child neglect and out of school phenomenon.”
He tasked stakeholders to take responsibility for addressing the issue of the enlargement of communities while the government and other partners revamp the basic education sub-sector.
UNICEF Nigeria Chief Education Saadhna Panday acknowledged that the world is facing an unprecedented OOSC crisis.
According to her, “25million children are out is school globally with a chunk of them in Africa and South Asia, this is majorly caused by COVID-19, schools were closed intermittently, and this affected all schools across the globe.”
Panday identified the economic status and location of schools as major challenges hindering the enrolment of children in schools.
The UNICEF Chief stated that Nigeria had recorded major progress in the enrollment of girls into school.
She added that poverty is a major force driving the OOSC phenomenon in Nigeria.
Country Representative of the World Bank in Nigeria, Dr Tunde Adekola, called for timely and reliable data management.
He tasked the government with adequate coordination of a coalition of partners, both actors and non-actors.