Northern Traditional Rulers led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111 and the United Nations Education Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday aired their views on the increasing number of out-of-school children in Northern Nigeria with a view to tackling the scourge.
Speaking at the 2-day conference tagged ‘Building Collective Committment and Action on Out-of-School Children in Northern Nigeria: Issues and Reaponsibilities’, the Sultan admitted that Northern Nigeria contributes the largest number of out-of-school children from the total figure of 13.5 million of out-of-school children in Nigeria.
He said the conference organised by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), National Commission for Mass Education and the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development will go along way in addressing the daunting challenges facing the sector in the region.He added, “Nigeria does not lack solutions and recommendations to our problems, but what we are lacking is the will to implement these recommendations.
“The narratives to change for better, hence the need for all stakeholders to work closely and collectively to breach the gap.“This conference must not go the way others have gone in the past”, the Sultan emphasized.
In her speech, the Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Pernille Ironside said 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.
“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”, she said.
Speaking further, she said, “Together we can take the quantum leap to give more children the opportunity to go to and stay in school.”
She opined that investing in the children is like investing in the future of a society adding, “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 for the future.”
Executive Secretary, UBEC, Hamid Bobboyi said the Out-of-school in Northern Nigeria is a cancerous phenomenon which if not address will lead to the collapse of the entire Northern Systems and their total demise.
“The North has to wake up on a long deep sleep. The world is moving fast with scienee and technology and the other parts of Nigeria are struggling to cateh-up with the rest of the world through their children education, but the north is wobbling and being drawn back by wrong perceptions of what constitute education and its true value in human and national development.”
“It is in the North that majority of the socio-cultural barriers to formal schooling have found a seemingly permanent dwelling place: Early marriage, especially of girls; pervading almajirai’ all over the northern streets; child labour; negative parental attitudes towards education of their children and wards; low parental literacy level; etc.”
“It is a source of worry and concern that the Northern Nigeria which hitherto had standing history for educational pursuit and development is today scornfully looked down upon nationally and being pity by the International Community for lack of educational development and fervid poverty”, Bobboyi said.
Present at the meeting where the Shehu of Borno, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Emir of Kano, Badeh, Daura, Zamfara, Hadeja, Katagun, amongst others.
The Sultan also commissioned the office complex of the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development.