Stakeholders in the education sector have sought for more political will, adequate funding and improved strategies to tackle the menace of Out-of-School Children (OOSC) in the country.
The stakeholders made their position known at a National Conference on “Rethinking the Approaches to Addressing the Out-of-school Children Phenomenon in Nigeria” in Abuja Monday.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, said that the challenges of OOSC had continued to impede on the growth of the education sector and must be addressed.
Adamu, represented by the Director of Basic Education, Dr Folake Olatinji-Davids, said that the Federal Government had not relented on her oars in addressing the problems.
He disclosed that the Federal Government FG had reinforced the review of UBEC mandate to ensure all school age children acquired quality education.
“The Federal Government has made significant investments in the sector and provided quality education in response to our developmental needs.
“The ministry has taken steps to strengthen inter-agencies programmes that target the OOS phenomenon. We plan for the open school programme that will help OOSC to access learning opportunities.
“There is therefore the need for all and sundry to show commitment toward the success of addressing the phenomenon for better outcomes,” Adamu said.
In his remarks, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education and Services said that lack of political will was responsible for the OOSC phenomenon.
Ihonvbere said that over the years, there had been misplacement and misapplication of funds which had hindered progress in achieving the menace.
“Our political leaders must take this issue as a priority. Also, all presidential candidates must tell us what they will do about OOSC. This way, they will focus on how to tackle it.
“If we neglect this aspect, then we will be creating a future army of bandits, kidnappers in the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr Hamid Bobboyi, said that the various interventions of the government had helped in stabilising the number of out-of-school children.
Bobboyi said that the conference was therefore geared towards rolling back to ensure that the number reduces on a yearly basis.
According to him, the 2018 National Personnel Audit (NPA) data put the number of out-of-school children (OOSC) ages 6-11 years at 10,193,918.
Bobboyi said that by the data, the figure of 6,192,081 was established for ages 12-14(Junior secondary school age).
He said that the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report which provided new data for OOSC, rather than repudiating Nigeria’s data, served to validate most of the age categories provided by NPA.
“Most significantly, the primary school data had also shown some stability especially between 2018 and 2022 with the latter registering a noticeable decrease from 2020 to 2021.
“It is very important to build on these modest successes to galvanise action on sustaining the trend in the reversal of this crucial category.
“It should also be pointed out that the new figure of OOSC given by UNESCO is not because of any substantial increase in the 6-11 and 12-14 years category.
“In fact the UNESCO figures are much lower than Nigeria’s NPA data,” he said.
Bobboyi, therefore, called for a multifaceted approach to address the phenomenon, saying, ”this would be achieved if stakeholders strategise and synergise to solve the problems.”
While also calling for a means to revamp funding of education, the executive Secretary urged that focus should also be geared toward catering for the needs of the teachers, as well as schools infrastructure.
Similarly, the Chief of Education, UNICEF Nigeria, Dr Saadhna Panday, said the world was facing an unprecedented education crisis, which in the recent past was occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic leading to schools’ closure.
Panday said that 258 million children and youth were out of school globally, a situation which individual countries must find ways to rectify.
In the same vein, the Chief of Measurement for Results (M4R), UNICEF, Claes Johanson, commended Nigeria for taking steps at the 2022 UN Secretary General Transforming Education Summit on reducing out-of-school children with specific focus on girls.
Johanson said 10.2million children in primary schools age and 8.1million children in junior secondary schools were out of school, saying that insecurity, lack of infrastructure for school learners were some of the factors responsible for the menace.
He, therefore, urged that as Nigeria’s population continued to grow, ”there must be swift action to stall the problems.”
Johanson also called for equal participation of boys and girls in education.