Returns 300,000 children to school
By Ben Ngwakwe – Gombe
Gombe State Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya has confirmed that there are currently no fewer than 700,000 out-of-school children in the state whose future is at risk and should be rescued.
The governor, who spoke at an event to lay the foundation for children under the Federal Government’s ‘At-Risk-Children Project’, called for urgent action to salvage the vulnerable children.
He said his state was happy to key into the project. which is an initiative of the Federal Government designed to provide a multi-pronged approach for the rehabilitation and reintegration of vulnerable children and youths at risk in society.
Governor Yahaya pointed out that there are 13.2 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, an equivalent of seven per cent of the country’s population, whose future remains bleak except an urgent measure is adopted to save them.
The Governor said nearly 70 per cent of the vulnerable children are found in Northern Nigeria where the menace of the Almajiri system is widely practised.
Yahaya said: “In Gombe State, recent enumeration conducted by our administration through the Better Education and Service Delivery for All (BESDA) project estimates that there are over 700,000 out-of-school children spread across all the 11 Local Government Areas quite above the UNICEF estimated figure of about 550,000.
“The Almajiri system as practised today is characterised by child neglect, abuse, social exclusion and chronic poverty thus churning out young people with little or no formal education and lacking employable skills thereby posing significant social and economic challenges to themselves, the government and the society at large.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the issue with the deportation of thousands of Almajiri children from different states without any protective safeguards despite their multiple vulnerabilities.
“To add to this, our girl-child population is mostly exposed to street hawking, child labour and often end up in commercial domestic services rather than pursuit of formal education in a bit to provide livelihood to their families. This exposes them to sexual exploitation and various degrees of gender-based violence.
“Other categories of vulnerable children whose plight still remains of great concern to governments include drug and substance users, child hawkers and labourers and a growing population of unemployed young adults. These young people often become easy targets for recruitment into armed groups including violent religious extremism and insurgency.
“In order to address these issues, the federal government through the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment came up with the At-Risk-Children Project (ARC-P) alongside other social intervention programmes so as to mop up these children and young adults from the streets and give them opportunities to realize their full potentials through a number of mechanisms being implemented at the state and local government areas level.
“Addressing this phenomenon will no doubt help to reduce poverty and insecurity while also addressing the health, educational and social challenges facing this very important demographic group.
“On our part, our administration has keyed into all existing social intervention programmes and introduced new initiatives tailored towards finding and implementing local solutions to address the menace of out-of-school children, reduce poverty and provide job opportunities to our teeming youth.
“So far, we have mopped up over 300,000 out-of-school children and returned them back to classrooms.
“Similarly, we have established 290 girl-child non-formal learning centres across all the LGAs and enrolled about 47,126 girl-child. Our girl-child skills acquisition programme has seen us training over 3,000 girls on beads making, bakery and cosmetology and provided them with starter packs to enable them to engage in decent means of livelihood.
In order to domesticate the convention on the rights of the child, he said they drafted the child rights bill, which is presently before the state House of Assembly and has passed second reading.
The governor disclosed that the state had also created a database that has already captured no fewer than 17,000 unemployed persons with a view to linking them with available jobs and skills.
The governor announced that with the take-off of the project and the signing of the MoU with the ARC-P, the state would support at least 100,000 children and youth across our 11 LGAs to secure a means of livelihood through appropriate skills.
“Through this partnership, we shall equally train and engage not less than 2,000 youth for the enforcement of environmental sanitation and protection as well as road traffic regulations in the first phase of the project,” Yahaya said.
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Hajia Maryam Uwais, lauded the Gombe State Governor Yahaya for being the first state governor in the country to key into the programme.