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UNESCO’s out of school children data queried

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By Timothy Akintola

EWAN calls for independent and accurate collation of data in the country.

In September, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared that Nigeria had one of the highest numbers of out-of-school children globally, at about 20 million of the globe’s 244 million children and youths ranging between ages 6 and 18. However, some of Nigeria’s government officials have queried this recent global data of out-of-school children by UNESCO. At an event, officials from the federal level and Lagos State Ministry of Education expressed their concerns for the recent list that places Nigeria with India and Pakistan as the countries with the highest out-of-school children globally.

These government officials, speaking as the panelists at the Yearly Education Summit, themed “Toward Safe Schools in Nigeria”, organized by the Education Writers’ Association of Nigeria (EWAN) noted that there was a poignant need for an independent data collation and accurate system in the country rather than the dependence of this data collation from independent agencies. Binta Abdulkadir, the Director of Senior Secondary Education, the Federal Ministry of Education termed UNESCO’s statistics as inaccurate, stating that the Federal Government, through the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) initiative, have been able to immensely reduce the out-of-school children’s situation in the country. The Basic Education Commission also earlier disclosed that 17 of the country’s 36 states were granted N65 billion intervention fund as of July 2022, to help them curb the growing out-of-school situation in these states.

Insurgency have left 2.8 million students in need of emergency funds.

Also, the Federal Ministry of Education, as of November 2021 also reported that about 925,590 of the previous 10.2 million out-of-school children in Nigeria had been successful integrated back to school on the BESDA programme. Tokunbo Wahab, the special advisor to Lagos State Governor on Education also expressed his doubts over UNESCO’s data, urging reporters to make their research and query some of the data from international agencies before using them. Despite these claims, schools in the north-west and north-central parts of the country remain fully or partially closed due to the recurring terrorists attack where students in these cases, are kidnapped for Ransom.

Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education, represented by Vivian Watagire, Director of General Services of the Federal Ministry of Education stated that the attack on schools is not limited to Nigeria. He admitted that the Insecurity that has ravaged the country has had a domino effect on the education status quo, with insurgency destroying over 497 classrooms, leaving 2.8 million students in need of the education-in-emergency support. He also noted that 6 out of 10 under 18 years of age have experienced forms of violence had also aggravated the already challenging out-of-school menace in the country. He however pointed the government’s commitment to creating a safe ambience for education with the safe school policies, being evidence of this commitment.

Students should be covered under the National Health Insurance scheme.

On the global access to healthcare, the newly appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Folasade Ogunsola noted that students should be covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme. She also pointed out that the psychological health of students was as important as their physical health, as most students battle depression as a result of bullying, Sexual Harassment and other vices. Using the University of Lagos as a reference point, she stated that the institution had enacted sexual harassment, bullying and anti-bullying policies which employees are allowed to read and sign. Emphasizing the need for immense funding, again recommended renovation of educational institutions to accommodate people with disabilities.

Mojeed Alain, Chairman of EWAN admitted the Security concerns in the country were crucial and must be addressed immediately, noting that other issues like Economic Growth and Unemployment cannot be addressed without first sorting out the security issues. He reiterated that everyone has to be responsible for schools’ safety. Mr. Wahab however highlighted the commitment of Lagos State Government to ensuring vast quality education. He noted that different initiatives have been put to play for the sim of scaling up the security measures in public schools and institutions in the state, one of which is the provision of perimeter fencing across all public schools in the state. Also, public schools’ usage for social events have been banned, as well as sensitization programs towards educating students about the dangers of drugs and violence.

Panelists recommend the use of CCTV cameras in schools.

The panelists however recommended for a close-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in schools, to ensure the monitoring of lives and properties. Binta Abdulkadir indicated that a high-level safe school initiative was being developed collaboratively by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education. She stated that the administration was working to ensure that every school in Nigeria is provided access to these facilities to ensure that insecurity is overtly minimized. The Commander-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, Ahmad Audi who was represented by Edenabu Emeka, the Lagos Commandant, stated that the agency has been charged with playing an advocacy role both to the school, ministry government, traditional institutions, and other relevant Investors.


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