December 21, 2023

We’ll take 15 million out-of-school children back to classrooms by 2027, says FG

entry age to universities

It’s embarrassing that Nigeria is continually associated with highest number of out-of-school children in the world

Begins operationalizing establishment of National Commission for Almajiri and Out-of-School Children

Approves policy on Early Child Care Development Education, ECCDE

By Joseph Erunke, Abuja

The federal government says it is working towards returning 15 million out-of-school children to classrooms by 2027, even though it was evasive on the current number of children that are out of school.

But the government, which disclosed that it has so far brought a total of 230 out-of-school children back to school since the beginning of the present administration, said it was an embarrassment that Nigeria was being continually associated with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.

Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, speaking on Thursday in Abuja at a press briefing, said government had not only begun operationalizing the establishment of the National Commission for Almajiri and Out-of-School Children but also approved a policy on Early Child Care Development Education, ECCDE, as well as commenced engagement with state governments on removing bottlenecks that negatively impacted their ability to optimally utilise the Universal Basic Education funds.

Reading from the text of the briefing he tagged, “Short Time But Impressive Gains for Moving Education Forward,” the minister assured that the government would be paying particular attention to “this unacceptable phenomenon and in line with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s commitment.”

“I would not want to bother you with the number of out-of-school children in the country; suffice it to say that it is an embarrassment that Nigeria is continually associated with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.

“We would be paying particular attention to this unacceptable phenomenon and, in line with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s commitment, would work towards returning 15 million out-of-school children to classrooms by the year 2027.

“A National Basic Education in Nigeria Bootcamp (BEN-B) Summit was held in September 2023 to re-invigorate our focus on basic education, including ensuring harmonisation and coordination of resources and activities amongst all tiers of government and development partners. This was followed by a National Conference on Learning Crisis in Nigeria, which has resulted in a framework of action to address identified challenges and bottlenecks to foundational learning in Nigeria.

“A national policy on senior secondary and re-entry guidelines for adolescent girls who dropped out of school prematurely has also been developed and adopted by the National Council on Education. These two policies would considerably advance our interventions for returning more Nigerian children to school.

“To do this, we are placing a high premium on foundational and basic education, strengthening integration of existing non-formal schools into formal education systems, scaling up adult literacy and non-formal education interventions, increasing opportunities for girl-child education, and forging partnerships with all tiers of government as well as our development partners.

“We have, therefore, begun operationalizing the establishment of the National Commission for Almajiri and Out-of-School Children, approved a policy on Early Child Care Development Education (ECCDE), and commenced engagement with state governments on removing bottlenecks that negatively impact their ability to optimally utilise the Universal Basic Education funds, “he said.

He explained that the briefing was designed to inform the public on what the Federal Ministry of Education has been doing under the current leadership, with the guidance of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, since his swearing-in as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on August 17th, 2023.

“The Honourable Minister of State and I would like to use this opportunity to thank God for the opportunity to serve and also appreciate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the confidence reposed in us by entrusting the management of unarguably the largest and most important ministry in the country to our care.

“We both remain resolute in our conviction that once we get education right, we will get our development right and place our country back on the right trajectory. This is so because a population with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and attitude would engender a society with the right economic model for delivering services to the people.

“I also want to thank all stakeholders in the education sector and indeed all Nigerians for the support they have given us so far, and we will continue on with more of this as we march positively forward in revamping Nigerian education.

“All our strategies, implementation, and intervention are focused on the fifth priority of Mr President’s eight-point priority, which is inclusivity: drawing on all skills, he said.

Speaking on the ministry’s strategic direction, Prof. Mamman recalled that upon assumption of office, the ministry reviewed existing strategic plans and inaugurated a committee to develop a roadmap tagged “Education for Renewed Hope Agenda: Roadmap for the Nigerian Education Sector 2024–2027, noting that this was subjected to stakeholder review, adoption, and approval for implementation by the National Council on Education at its 67th session held on December 14 and 15, 2023.

He said, “The roadmap contains practical, problem-solving, and realistic approaches across thirteen thematic areas delineated to allow for concurrent implementation as parts of a synergistic whole.

“The Roadmap underpins the Ministerial Deliverables, a compact signed between the management of the Federal Ministry of Education and Mr President for which our tenure would be held accountable. It is also worth mentioning that the 2022-2023 Nigeria’s Annual Education Conference, which was held from September 11–12, 2023, provided an opportunity for knowledge and experience that was useful in developing the Roadmap.

“The Federal Ministry of Education has further distilled the implementation of the ministerial deliverables to a more detailed implementation with turn-around strategies that would be measurable and capable of providing results that would be very visible to the Nigerian public.”

He explained that the partnership compacts the federal government would be entering into with states and development partners will focus commitment to improving governance accountability, coordination, and relentless focus on results at all levels; Federal and State Governments commit to increasing public financing as well as transparent and timely release of funds; jointly agreed counterpart obligations on efficient programme execution and achievement of results; and funding from the federal government and development partners to the states should be performance-based and disbursed on achievement of agreed results on policy reforms and service delivery outputs and outcomes.”

Tertiary Institutions

On tertiary institutions, the minister, while noting that, “No Nigerian would be happy with the epileptic delivery of academic activities in our tertiary institutions occasioned by long-unresolved agreements”, explained that under the guidance of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu the ministry engaged in informal consultations with the tertiary institutions based unions and have began to build trust as exemplified by the resolution of the following issues:35% increase in salaries of workers in our tertiary institutions; four months payment of salaries for the eight months they were on strike in 2022; Removal from the Integrated Payment and Payroll Information System; and granting autonomy for recruitment.

“The Federal Ministry of Education would work with the Honourable Minister of Finance/Coordinating Minister of the Economy, and Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to ensure a seamless implementation of the above issues.

“I want to sincerely appreciate the uncommon understanding the unions have shown for this administration and assure them that we will soon implement all the above. I want to apologise to the two unions we have yet to interact with and promise them that we will do so early in 2024.

“In line with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s directive to stagger the establishment of already approved tertiary institutions, we have taken over the sites for the establishment of the following Federal Colleges of Education: Federal College of Education, Ilawe Ekiti, Ekiti State; Federal College of Education, Ididep, Ibiono, Akwa Ibom State; andFederal College of Education (Technical), Yauri, Kebbi State.

“We have also concluded all the administrative processes for their take-off for academic activities by 2024.

“With regard to the Adeyemi Federal University of Education, Ondo, Ondo State, and the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Imo State, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been directed to enlist them as universities, and this would offer Nigerians opportunities for specialised study in the fields of education at the university level,” he said.

Prof. Tahir explained, “Presently, we are awaiting the Delta and Adamawa State governments to hand over sites for the Federal University of Medical and Health Sciences, Kwale, Delta State, and Federal University of Agriculture, Mubi, Adamawa State, respectively.”

On Safe School

Speaking on the Safe School Initiative, the minister said the Federal Ministry of Education, like President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was highly concerned about the cases of insecurity involving youths and students.

He said, “Though we must concede that this is decreasing tremendously, we are strengthening collaborative mechanisms with communities and the security agencies to eliminate it from our schools at all levels. The Emergency Response Centre established by the National Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) as well as programmes in the Safe School Initiative (SSI).

“Similarly, we are addressing concerns about social vices in our tertiary institutions and have, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Justice, finally developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for addressing school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV), which has provided requisite guidelines for handling SRGBV cases, with special attention on cases prevalent in the Basic and Secondary Education stratum/level. 

“To complement this, the Federal Ministry of Education has also concluded work on eliminating sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions. which would ultimately culminate in prosecuting perpetrators in line with the SOP.

“The blueprint Against Social Vices Amongst Children and Youth has also been disseminated to reduce the occurrence of all forms of vices in our school system.

“Master Trainers are being trained on Safe Schools Implementation for Education Secretaries and Safe Schools Desk Officers, and a Capacity Building Workshop for Teachers on Education in Emergencies (EiE) Strategies was also conducted. Complementing this was a capacity-building training/workshop and empowerment for traditional rulers on the role of traditional rulers in ensuring the safety and security of the senior secondary school environment.

Technology for Education

“We have started deepening the application of technology to the education sector by opening up discussions with the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and engaging MasterCard in exploring innovative teaching materials, the integration of digital tools into technical education, and developing a digital public infrastructure for education through data capture, analysis, and information exchange that would be readily available and possible.

“In line with the above, we have enhanced the capacity of FME Desk Officers on Geospatial Technology for Education Technologies [GIS & GPS] Application in governance and social development planning as well as improving the capacity of Informatics and Documentation Officers on Data Gathering, Collation, Editing, and Video Coverage for effective reportage of programmes and activities in the Education Sector.

“The Ministry has also completed the full business case for establishing a national education, research, and database (NERD) system, which would be developed through a public-private sector partnership and is based on existing policies on ICT in the country.

“The NERD The National Education Repository and Databank System (NERDS) is a digital platform for the historical digitization of all academic and educational outputs ever generated in the history of Nigeria, starting in 1932, when the first polytechnic was established, and ending in 1948, when the first university was established. Under the NERDS, the nation will go back in time to preserve its historical knowledge, mainstream live digitization for existing education documents, and set up a credential verification system for the validation of all education-related credentials.

“Similarly, we are also deepening discussions with the Nigerian Mid-Stream and Downstream Regulatory Agency (NMDRA) on finding lasting solutions to the power issues in our tertiary institutions, including the use of compressed natural gas.

“Digital resources centres have been set up, through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), for the development of electronic digital content for basic education delivery in the 37 smart schools and 111 effective other schools.”

International Positioning

The minister recalled that at the recently concluded 42nd United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) General Conference in Paris, Nigerians were elected to the following UNESCO’s Executive Board and Intergovernmental Bodies: UNESCO Executive Board Membership (2023-2027); Intergovernmental Council of the Management of the Social Transformation Programme (2023-2025); Intergovernmental Council of Hydrological Programmes (IHP) (2023-2025); Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) (2023-2027); and Committee for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Events of Armed Conflicts (2023-2025).

“Similarly, Nigeria was elected as the Board Member for Africa 3 constituency (West Africa) on the Board of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) held in December 2023 in Zanzibar.

“Nigeria was also elected as a member of the ICESCO Executive Buruea for the Environment in the Islamic World with Saudi Arabia as Chairman during the 9th Session of Islamic World Conference on Education, Science, and Cultural Organisation (ICESCO) Conference of Ministers of Environment in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in October 2023.

“Our board membership in these international bodies provides an opportunity for ensuring that we take our place in the community of nations on education matters.”

Teachers’ Improvement

Speaking on teacher improvement, Prof. Tahir said, “Conscious of the importance of teachers in the education system, especially at foundational and basic levels, we have revised the National Teacher Education Policy (NTEP) in collaboration with all stakeholders.

“The review intends to chart the course for teacher education and development in Nigeria and ensure that it equips our educators with the tools, knowledge, and skills they need to provide high-quality education. The draft document would be validated by stakeholders early in 2024 for implementation.

“An Exhibition and Competition for Hoisting of Innovative Projects and Skills (E-CHIPS) maiden edition in Colleges of Education as a means of taking technology top our Colleges of Education.”

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