Official records being bandied around indicate that no fewer than 13.5 million children of school going age are out of school in Nigeria. But recently, the former minister of education, Adamu Adamu said the number of out-of-school children in the country now stands at over 16 million.
Adamu stated this while fielding questions from senators during the ministerial screening. He told the senate that the 16 million figures was based on a February 2019 census.
Adamu noted that out-of-primary-school children stood at 10 million, while children out-of-secondary-school are six million.
He blamed the high number on poor funding of education in the country by states and the federal government.
Of course stakeholders have stressed the fact that it is the responsibility of all to get these children out of the streets.
Only recently, an anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, petitioned the International Criminal Court over the rising number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.
The group asked the ICC Prosecutor, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, to investigate whether the failure of the Nigerian leaders to address the problem of the out-of-school children in Nigeria was not tantamount to violence against children and crime against humanity.
In a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP urged Bensouda to push for the trial of all indictable Nigerian leaders, present and past, at the ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands.
“Investigating and prosecuting high-ranking Nigerian officials and providing reparations to victims will contribute to serving the best interests of Nigerian children, the most vulnerable citizens in our country, and ending the impunity that is denying them their right to education and a life free of violence and fear.
“These out-of-school Nigerian children have been exposed to real danger, violence and even untimely death. Senior Nigerian politicians since 1999 have failed to understand the seriousness of the crime of leaving millions of children out of school, and have made an essential contribution to the commission of the crime.”
In Nigeria, a lot of children are deprived of basic education as a recent National Personnel Audit of both public and private schools revealed about 10.2 million children are currently not in school even though primary education is officially free and compulsory.
Despite the fact that the federal government has been adopting measures to tackle the issue of out-of-school children through various policies and intervention, the figures keep increasing.
This has engendered calls for more intervention initiatives including involvement of other key stakeholders rather than allowing only government to confront the situation.
Perhaps in response to these calls, many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are now working with the people in rural areas and urban slums to provide non-formal education to some out-of-school children as a means of taking them off the street and making them more productive.
One of such NGOs, which have taken the bull by the horn to save Nigerian children from shame of not acquiring formal education, is FlexiSAF Foundation.
The NGO, which stemmed from FlexiSAF EduSoft Limited, was officially launched in December 2018 with the mission to provide access to a future-ready education to vulnerable out of school children.
The Foundation is providing solutions to the scourge of illiteracy and the high numbers of out-of-school children in Nigeria.
“Our programme advocates for education to be prioritised and targets children who are least likely to receive an education. The expected outcome of the programme is that all children access and complete quality education within a safe learning environment, gainining the skills and knowledge for lifelong learning,” says Foundation’s Coordinator, Amina Abubakar.
Through its accelerated Learning Program (AccLearn), a community-based initiative aimed at combating the high rate of out-of-school children in Nigeria through informal accelerated learning, the organization is prioritising quality as well as speed and accessibility in the Nigerian educational system.
AccLearn Program compresses the 3-year early learning curriculum into 18 months with the features to adopt the Montessori model for learning, flexible learning customised to the child’s needs, safe spaces for learning, child feeding initiative and women empowerment through the feeding initiative.
“The goal of the AccLearn Program is to equip out-of-school children with the necessary tools needed to ensure a 100% transition into the formal education system within a period of 18 months,” Amina enthused.
To achieve this goal, the Foundation recently partnered with the Center for Girls Education, Zaria to come up with a comprehensive but accelerated curriculum, which includes three basic subjects of literacy, numeracy and life skills.
The children are taught basic numeracy skills at an accelerated pace and the life skills which are designed to equip the children with what they need to become active members of society, model citizens and also to adapt better to their environs.
There is also curriculum for life skills include which covers basic hygiene, social skills, health, civic duty, manners and etiquette.
Undoubtedly, one of the most unfortunate challenges is the massive number of children and youth who have no hope of ever getting empowered with a good education.
Bothered by this, Amina said the Foundation is committed to identifying inquisitive out-of- school children and equipping them with quality education, including guidance and counseling.
“In a little over a year, FlexiSAF Foundation has embarked on numerous projects which have transformed the lives of over 150 out-of-school children in over 10 communities across the country,” she added.
The Foundation has also adopted partnership with other organisations as an approach to securing the future of Nigerian child through quality education.
Of note is its partnership with Nigerian Muslim Forum UK (NMFUK) where both organisations’ active and systematic identification and enrollment of out-of-school children into quality schools within their communities, is yielding significant result.
Another is the Connected Development (CODE) where the organisations, apart from identifying out-of-school children and providing quality education, also aim to ensure attainment of SDG4 and SDG17, to reach these targets ahead of 2030.
All these efforts are geared towards providing access to quality education for disadvantaged Nigerian children in order to complement government’s efforts in curbing the trend.
This is in tandem with the fact that the issue of out-of-school children in Nigeria needs all hands on deck to come out with good result. It is in order to take this fight to the next level that Nigerian government recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Commonwealth of Learning to begin the implementation of the Open School learning in the country.
Speaking on the importance of public, private collaboration in reducing the number of out-of-school children, the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, Dr Hamid Bobboyi said Nigeria is now ready to eliminate the scourge completely in order to reach every child with quality education.
Bobboyi called for involvement of State governments in the Programme saying there was the need to build synergy among all stakeholders.
“It is important to include all agencies directly involved with determined efforts to ensure that the problem of out of school is addressed in proper way.
“The federal government does not own a secondary school neither does the federal government own primary schools aside the federal government colleges across the country, most of the secondary schools belong to States while the primary schools belong to local governments.
“There is need to build synergy to mobilise traditional leaders, local government chairmen, State goverments and in fact all stakeholders to ensure that we tackle this scourge.”
With the intervention of over 4,552 NGOs in Nigeria as reported by Vconnect.com, coupled with government’s efforts, there is hope of a better future for the out-of-school children.
Culled From Leadership Newspaper