By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
Action needs to be taken to address the factors responsible for more than half of the girls of school age in two geopolitical zones, North West and North East who are not in school as a result of poverty and other barriers.
Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Pernille Ironside expressed this, while speaking at the Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of-School Children in Kaduna on Wednesday.
“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,” she said.
She recalled that in 1999, Nigeria took a bold step by declaring its commitment to provide free basic education for all children.
“This commitment was followed by the establishment of the Universal Basic Education Commission in 2004 to enable the Government to fulfil its commitment to provide free basic education for all children. The right to education is also enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution.
“While these are commendable actions towards guaranteeing the right to education for all Nigerian children, we at UNICEF are concerned about the slow progress,” she observed.
She explained that the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan states that Nigeria has 10.5 million children aged 6-14 out of school. Other sources say the number of out-of-school children is higher.
“But the focus is not the precise number of out-of school: the focus should be on boys and girls in your communities who lose out on education lose out of livelihoods, and lose out on hope and the future they can have for themselves, their families, their communities and their country. Nigeria loses out on a literate and skilled workforce it needs to grow economically.
“Nigeria needs to take leap to bring more children into education and into learning Partnerships and collective actions are essential. This is the reason why we are here today at the Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on out-of-School Children. Together we can take the quantum leap to give more children the opportunity to go to and stay in school,” she assured.
She noted that tere are several reasons why these children are not in school, with gender as an important factor in the pattern of educational marginalization.
“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.
“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 stated.
Ironside stressed that 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,” she said.
for the future.
The UNICEF Deouty Representative said that all the traditional leaders gathered were 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,” she stressed.