By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to coordinate the deployment of a national plan to address the issue of out-of-school children in the country.
The President gave the directive while inaugurating the 18-member Presidential Steering Committee on Alternate School Programme, ASP, co-chaired by the Ministers of Humanitarian Affairs and Education at State House, Abuja, yesterday.
Buhari said it was unacceptable to see children abandon formal school to engage in menial jobs and labour in the markets, streets and workshops.
He said the National Plan to be deployed by the Federal Government, through the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry, would ensure a holistic and comprehensive inclusiveness of appropriate basic education for vulnerable children.
President Buhari said: “To commence this special education initiative, emphasis should be given to first provide a limited scope of subjects in Mathematics, English language, Basic Science and Social studies.
‘’Gradually, the initiative will be scaled up to ensure the acquisition of relevant technical skills in the process that can enable the beneficiaries to participate in gainful economic activities.
“Some United Nations agencies that report a disturbing level of out of school children estimated at 13 million,” the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry had identified the critical need to further address literacy inclusiveness, especially among these vulnerable children.
“While we continue to sustain our efforts on providing formal and conventional education through the activities of the Universal Basic Education Commission under the Federal Ministry of Education, it is still a common sight to notice children abandoning formal school to become apprentices in shops, workshops and markets, whilst many others choose to loiter at markets, become cart pushers and hawkers.”
He reiterated the commitment of his government to deal with key challenges of absolute poverty and propel Nigeria and Nigerians to a better way of life and development.
Reviewing the administration’s programmes on poverty eradication, President Buhari expressed delight that many countries were now admiring and imitating Nigeria’s social investment programmes as effective strategy in the fight against poverty.
“In our first term, we commenced many programmes and projects based on firm policies with the fight against poverty being the main goal. The National Social Investment Programme, NSIP, that includes the conditional cash transfer, N-Power, National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme and The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes are today gaining admiration and imitation by many countries as effective strategies.
“Based on the need to sustain these efforts, we have launched the policy of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030 at the beginning of our second term in 2019 to further consolidate the gains of the NSIPs through effective coordination and institutionalization.
“This led to the creation of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development with the mandate to ensure full coordination of all poverty eradication efforts of government for enhanced impact,” he said.
Other members of the Presidential Steering Committee on ASP are the chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Minister of State, Education, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Sustainable Development Goals, Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Director General, National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, and the National President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON.
Others are Representatives of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO; United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF; Global Partnership for Education; chair, Private Sector Advisory Group – SDGs; and chair, Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development.
Also included in the membership are the chair, Senate Committee on Basic Education; chair, House Committee on Basic Education; while the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development will serve as Secretary.
President Buhari listed the four terms of reference of the committee to include: Refine and focus the vision of the initiative, ensure engagement and effective uptake of the ASP initiative across the country, review and approve all work, implementation plan, expected deliverables, feedbacks and reports as proposed, undertake any other task that can enhance the effective delivery of the initiative by the Ministry.
He implored the members to take the assignment with utmost seriousness, saying “the future of our young people is at stake.”
In her remarks, Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the success of the programme would be a turning point in the nation’s development history as it would accelerate its drive towards sustainable development.
“It is important to note that this success extends far beyond attaining quality education, Goal 4 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It also directly impacts SDG 1, poverty, as it will provide better future outcomes for our children,’’ she said.
The Minister also said the success would impact SDG Goals 2, 5, 8, 10, and 17.