A survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) last year indicated that the population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world.
Although most of these children are in Nigeria’s northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, where Boko Haram insurgents have disrupted academic activities, the bulk of the figure also comes from the other 16 northern states.
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The consequence of this large out of school children is that there is a ready pool of children who can easily be manipulated to be agents of destruction and crime. For girl child, there is a close relationship between lack of formal education and cases of VVF and early marriages with all their attendant challenges.
While the educational challenges in the north remain huge and could take deliberate and conscious efforts by the governments of the northern states to address, there seems to be a glimmer of hope after several years of neglect. It appears that something is being done both at individual level and at the level of Northern Governors Forum.
For instance, in Kaduna state, Ben Agande reports that since coming into office in 2015, Governor Nasir El Rufai has made education one of his priority areas. Apart from allocating over twenty percent consistently to education in all the budgets he has so far implemented, governor Nasir El Rufai has taken conscious efforts to improve the educational infrastructure in the state. Several dilapidated schools in the state have been fixed while many more are still being fixed.
In order to ensure that more children of school age are not denied the opportunity of going to school, the Kaduna state government has made education free and compulsory for all school age children from primary to secondary school levels. Efforts are already in place to implement a legislation that will not only outlaw out of school children but will hold parents and guardians of school age children found outside during school hours culpable of an offence punishable by law.
But one of the most radical steps taken by the state government to demonstrate its seriousness in addressing the educational challenge was the decision to sack 22,000 primary school teachers who failed assessment test. Although so much pressure was brought in to bear on the state, the governor stuck to his gun. But he employed 25,000 new teachers to replace the sacked ones. His argument was that, there can be no proper education if the foundation was not properly laid.
The state was one of the first to commence the implementation of the school feeding programme, which saw a significant increase in the enrollment of school children. For the 2020 fiscal year, the state plans to spend over N25 billion in uplifting the standard of schools and provision of infrastructure. It is believed that if the reforms are sustained, Kaduna in the next three years will exit from the ignoble chart of states with the highest level of out of school children.
Our correspondent, Abdulmumin Murtala in Kano reports that as the most populous state in the north, Kano expectedly has the highest number of out of school children which is put at 3.5 million. Despite this, it has a fairly encouraging record of the girls’ child education in the state when compared to other northern states.
But the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje whose administration has identified education as one of the top priorities has moved to frontally tackle the challenge. As a first step, he has declared basic education free and compulsory up to secondary school and up to the tertiary for physically challenged persons.
Similarly, Kano state government has since commenced the direct funding of primary schools in the state in line with the new policy of free and compulsory basic education introduced by the state government.
Again, the state government has provided school uniforms to 779,522 newly enrolled pupils (boys and girls) at the total cost of N381 million, while it is also in the process of engaging 3000 volunteer teachers to teach in the various public and Quranic schools across the state.
Also, Ganduje said his administration has concluded plans to complement Federal Government’s primary school feeding programme as it has earmarked N357 million to feed pupils in primary four to six classes.
There are plans to initiate legislation that would declare the type of punishment for those who refuse to send their children and wards to school. This is in line with his plans during his last tenure to ensure that education becomes as priority in the state.
It is hoped that with this policy, the Kano state government will proffer a lasting solution to the problem of out of school children which will also enhance the growing awareness about the girl child education in the state.
In plateau state, Marie-Therese Nanlong reports that factors like poverty, ignorance and insecurity had kept children out of schools in Plateau State but the administration of former Governor, Jonah Jang took some steps to address the issues as he declared a ‘state of emergency’ on the education sector, paid backlog of counterpart funding and directed the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB to refurbish public schools across the three senatorial zones of the State to provide conducive learning spaces.
That administration also partnered with the Operation Safe Haven, OpSH (the special task force keeping the peace in the State) for some of their personnel to teach in schools in conflict-prone areas in the hinterlands; reviewed upward the academic qualifications of teachers in primary and secondary schools and trained and built their capacities to deliver on current trend in education but that zeal was dimmed by different factors towards the end of his second tenure in office.
Jang’s successor, Governor Simon Lalong acknowledged the gaps which kept children out of schools and through SUBEB, continued on infrastructural development, employed fresh teachers, engaged in community sensitization for parents/guardians to enroll their wards in schools.
The spokesman of SUBEB, Richard Jonah said, “This government, through the Management of SUBEB has deliberately created a friendlier teaching/learning environment in order to attract learners. We are constructing more school in more communities with the aim of making the schools easily accessible.
“The Governor gave approval for the purchase of essential instructional materials to enhance effective classroom activities. Apart from the construction and renovation of schools across the state, furniture is being provided. Through our social mobilization department, we have also carried out sensitization of parents on the need to send their children to school.
“Plateau is one of the states implementing the school feeding programme; these are deliberate measures towards improving on school enrollment. We also have in place a school enrollment committee comprising of notable personalities for the purpose of Schools enrollment drive in the state.”
Quoting the UNICEF Chief Field Officer, Bauchi Field Office, Bhanu Pathak, Femi Bolaji in Jalingo reports that there are no fewer than 500,000 out of school children in Taraba state.
According to the state Secretary of the National Social Investment Programme, NSIP, which oversees the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, NHGSF, Idris Goje, although the enrollment into school has spiked with the introduction of the programme, more than 200 schools were displaced due to communal crisis and activities of bandits in seven local government areas of the state.
He said the LGAs include, Takum, Wukari, Donga,Ibi, Ardokola, Jalingo and Lau LGAs, while the cooks were reassigned to host communities where the displaced schools were relocated.
While he noted that the initiative of the Federal government has yielded positive results, he said over N6 billion had been spent on the project since it commenced in the state in 2017.
He also disclosed that over N50 million of unused funds generated from the accounts of unknown, deceased and defaulting food vendors were ready for repatriation to the Treasury Single Account, TSA.
Official statistics obtained by VANGUARD from the state office of the NHGSFP, reveal that the number of Primary 1-3 pupils captured under the programme when it commenced in 2017 was 171, 835, but has now increased to 399,091 as at September, 2019 due to more enrollment of pupils.
But with the continuing insurgency in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the number out of school children is expected to have risen significantly because many people from these states are now domiciled in Taraba as Internally Displaced Persons.
Aside this, pockets of communal conflicts in rural communities have contributed to the growing number of out of school children now in various IDP camps.
The state government is taking measures to boost school enrollment and improve education. Apart from infrastructural development, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU with the NHGSFP, especially in monitoring and evaluation. The state government in late 2017 also recruited 3000 to bridge inadequate manpower in the education sector.
BALA AJIYA in Yobe reports that even before the insurgency that has ravaged Yobe state for almost ten years, the state is one of the least educated in the country. The insurgency has worsened the educational situation in Yobe.
It will be recalled that at the height of the insurgency, Boko Haram terrorists invaded a boarding school in the state and slaughtered several students in their hostels. Recently, it abducted some female students in Dapchi and took them hostage. Although all the students but one were released, it has made the case of convincing parents to send their children to school more difficult.
Poverty is another factor that is contributing to out of school children, according to education experts. Apart from the insurgency, Yobe is one of the poorest states in the country and the poverty level of most residents has made it difficult for many peasant families across the state to fend for themselves let alone enrolling their wards in school.
But in order to tackle the problems of education, the incumbent governor, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, has declared state of emergency on education. Education summit was held to chart a way forward in the state.
Aliyu Dangida in Dutse, Jigawa state reports that education has suffered several years of neglect from successive administrations. Apart from dearth of manpower, teaching and instructional materials, there are not enough schools to fend for the large number of school age children.
The state Commissioner of education, science and technology, Lawan Yunusa Danzomo said National Education Data Survey (NEDS) survey of 2015 has shown that there are 764,586 Out of School Children in Jigawa state with 14 LGA’s of the state having the highest number of OSC.
He said the state government has targeted a total of 18,330 out of school children in the 14 local governments with the highest number of out of school children, stating that there are 10,119 girls and 8,211 boys who will benefit from the program before the end of 2019.
UMAR Yusuf in YOLA in his reports says ADAMAWA State has been rated as the second most under developed and educationally disadvantaged state in the North East political zone, ahead of only Yobe state.
Though Successive administrations have been battling to reverse the trend such efforts have been like a drop of water in the ocean. for instance, former Governors Murtala NYAKO and Mohammed JIBRILLA Bindo’s regimes did their best to improve the ugly educational imbalance in the state , their efforts could not achieve the desired impact due to non-implementation of government policies and programs as a result of bureaucratic bottleneck .
When the Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri government came on board on the 29h May this year, new measures were planned and adopted, even as the old educational policies were modified to suit the present realities and improve the system.
To start with, Fintiri’ s government immediately ordered the takeover of payment of SSCE and NECO examination fees in all the government Secondary schools throughout the state.
Government sees the examination fees as a serious impediment to the growth of the younger generations as most parents find it difficult to pay the fees owing to the present economic crunch.
It also went ahead to commence the rehabilitation of more than two thousand primary and junior secondary schools in different parts of the state.
The school Feeding Programme which was hitherto restricted to primary schools has now been extended to junior secondary schools as a way of encouraging school enrollment.
The state government has also reiterated its determination to put the education back to light and has therefore injected more funds into the cash strapped Universal Basic Education Board, UBE to make it more functional and responsive to the present realities of educational development.
The move is also intentionally intended to equip the UBE board to embark on pragmatic approaches to curb the ever growing rate of school drop outs in the state.
It is estimated that close to four million children are out of school in the state, including the roaming Almajiris.
According to statistics made available to Vanguard, girls constitutes 60% of the out of school kids while their male counterparts form 40%.
A current document from the State’s ministry of Education shows that UNICEF, Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children: Nigeria Country Study, 2012 indicates that in Katsina State a total of 1,125,905 children are of primary school age, out of which 620,667 are Out Of School Children, OOSC representing 55.1%.
Rather than being overwhelmed by this staggering statistics, Bashir Bello in Katsina reports that the state government has put in place measures to reverse the trend.
Some of these measures include an increase in access and retention to Basic Education for all children especially girls through Enrollment Drive Campaign (EDC), Cash Transfer and School Feeding arrangements, Improve Child Friendly School (provision of adequate instructional materials, furniture, water points, toilets, laboratories, libraries and construction of additional classrooms, playing grounds and child safety).
Improve teachers’ quality and quantity, and timely employment and deployment to meet increasing demand as well as continuous Teacher professional development including use of Reading and Numeracy Activities, RANA pedagogy and sustainable and improved quality of female teachers (provision of scholarship for girls on Female Teachers Trainees Scholarship Support scheme, FTTSS Scheme, PRESET & INSET).
Scale up Educational Management Information System, EMIS training received from UNICEF and ensure sustainable functionality of digitized EMIS in State Ministry of Education, SMoE to meet the minimum NEMIS requirement (include functional EMIS nodes in relevant Agencies and LGEAs) and enhance capacity of EMIS staff on use of ICT.
When he took over the reins of affairs as the governor of Bauchi state, Senator Bala Mohammed said improving education was one of his top priorities. Charles Agwam reports that according to UNICEF, Bauchi has about 1.2 million out- of-school children, second only to Kano state in the north.
In order to reverse this ugly trend, governor Mohammed, apart from declaring a State of Emergency in the education sector, employed 1,000 female teachers to make up for the shortfall in teacher to pupil ratio in public schools while partnering with local and International development partners to boost education, with special emphasis on increasing school enrollment of the girl child in the state.
The governor, in a recent rally organized to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, emphasized the need to invest massively in the education of female teenagers who are transiting from childhood to early adulthood, rather than sending them to hawk goods or giving them out for early marriage.
“The education of the girl child is a priority of our administration, and efforts are on top gear to provide adequate financing and other logistics support for the promotion of girl child education. My administration met a comatose system when we took over but I assure you that there’s hope because the education sector has received a lot of interventions that have reflected positively in the lives of children of school age,” he said.
Worthy of note also, is the disbursement of the World Bank 2019 Schools Improvement Project (SIP) grants to selected five local government areas in the state.
The project was designed to finance minor issues in schools in the areas of renovations, rehabilitation of twin desks and repairs of water points, and to strengthen public schools operation through good governance and accountability for sustainable educational development.
While presenting the cheques of N500,000 to each of the benefiting schools, Bala Mohammed pledged to improve the funding of education as part of efforts to tackle the menace of out of school children in the state.
He said his administration is focused on restoring the lost glory of basic education in the state, through provision of infrastructure, rehabilitation, training and retraining of teachers.
Nasir Muhammad Gusau, in Zamfara reports that like in other areas, zamfara has been on the list of educationally less developed states. For the past 20 years the state has recorded consistent poor performance in virtually all indicators of education, such as, literacy and gross enrollment rate. Poor results and low number of students getting admission into universities all emanating from poor education foundation. This continues to paint an ugly picture about the state.
Even though the law establishing ZSUBEB provides for free and compulsory basic education for every child at primary and junior secondary school age, Vanguard investigation had found out that, parents deny their children this opportunity while some even withdraw them after enrolling them in schools.
Officially, there are only 1,314 primary schools in the state but our investigations reveal that some of the public schools only exist in name because they have no single structure. Some operate in makeshift structures, Mosques, Quranic schools and under trees.
Even where there are structures, a large number of them are dilapidated with the ones in urban and suburban areas being over crowded while the other schools in rural areas are virtually empty.
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According to the information obtained by Vanguard reporter in Gusau, the total number of enrollment for primary schools in the state is 383,055. However, given the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA) goals, the target was to get all the 666,544 school age children in the state in school by the year 2012.
Our findings also revealed that, the number of qualified teachers is grossly inadequate, as only 35% are qualified to teach, while the remaining teachers are unqualified.
But the state governor who is tackling Zamfar’s numerous challenges as his administration major preoccupation has vowed to reverse this trend.
According to the Director General Press Affairs to the governor, Malam Yusuf Idris Gusau, the present administration of Governor Matawalle has put measures to ensure that the ugly situation is changed for the better.
According to Malam, Governor Matawalle has awarded contract worth billions of naira for the construction and total rehabilitation of all the primary schools in the state while also paying the backlog of NECO/WAEC fees that he inherited from the immediate past administration.