The education of the boy-child before now has never dominated public discourse, because males have always been viewed as more educationally advantageous than their female counterparts. In this report, OSBY ISIBOR writes on the Federal Government’s Back to School programme in light of such past unsustained programmes.
The national campaign on back-to-school for the boy-child in the South East – recently launched by the Federal Government in Enugu State – may not have come at a better time than now.
There are several men from the South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria who never had access to formal education. Investigation shows that many adolescent males in the region prefer to take up a vocation in trading than continue in formal education, which has created a huge gap in boy-child education in the region.
It is in view of the above that the Federal Government launched the Back to School programme to address the challenge of boy-child education in the zone. African women have historically been side-lined from the mainstream of society, but this has slowly changed over the years and we now see a new generation of women rising to positions of power on the continent.
At the inauguration of the Back to School campaign in Enugu on June 19, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan directed the Ministry of Education to construct additional schools in the South-East to address the challenge of boy-child education.
Jonathan directed that such schools should be constructed within one year to address the gap in the boy-child education in the zone.
He said that closing the gap would also improve the potential of individuals and make them effective in a decentralised global economy. The President, represented by the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai, reiterated the Federal Government’s effort towards providing adequate infrastructure to improve the education of the boy-child in the south east.
He said that the participation of youths in formal education will boost small and medium scale enterprises and enhance economic activities in the country.
The Back to School programme could be seen as a replica of the Almajiri Education System also launched by the Federal Government, but in the northern part of the country, which is expected to take children off the streets. There are estimated 9.5 million indigent children on the streets begging for alms in the Northern part of the country.
They constitute an army of helpless children who lack adequate care and education and over the years, these children have been abandoned and forgotten on the streets with no hope for the future, eventually becoming a ready tool in the hands of politicians to perpetrate violence.
Economic analysts observed that unlike in northern Nigeria, where there is a preference for boy-child education due to religious and cultural factors, the reverse seems to be the case in the South Eastern zone. Several reasons have been put forth for this ugly trend.
Some attribute it to the get-rich-quick syndrome of an average youth in the zone and their penchant for money-making ventures. For many others, lack of funds to keep their children in school could also be responsible. These indigent children cannot afford basic formal education and that is why the government has risen to the occasion to tackle the challenges posed by this growing phenomenon.
Stakeholders in the education sector described the move by the government as a welcome development. They argue that the goals of the programme can never be achieved unless parents resolve to change their long-held beliefs and perceptions regarding boy-child education. They also underscore the need to sensitise parents on the significance of boy-child education in efforts to develop the South-East region.
Mike Ikpeama, a school administrator, urged the youths to jettison their ‘get-rich-quick’ syndrome and instead strive to acquire quality education. He stressed that such an approach will stimulate the development of the South-East zone and the country at large.
However, another major concern for most Nigerians is the sustainability of the programme by the government. The lack of proper supervision and monitoring of Federal Government’s huge investments in the education sector over the years has largely remained the bane of the sector; hence the results do not justify the huge investment of resources in the sector.
They called on the Federal Government to ensure thorough supervision and monitoring of its financial commitments, so that its huge investments in the education sector can achieve the desired results. But the government has assured, as always, that the programme has come to stay and would be a success.
For instance, the commissioners of education in the South-East recently resolved to construct a roadmap for parallel efforts to support the boy-child education project in the zone. The road map, according to the education commissioners, will particularly strengthen the implementation of the Back to School programme.
Dr Simon Ortuanya, Enugu State’s Commissioner for Education, said that the stakeholders’ position would be articulated in the proposed roadmap. He emphasised that states in the South-East zone will educate the people on the setbacks the zone has experienced as a result of the reduction in the school enrolment of the boy-child.
Considering what many have termed the dwindling nature of Nigeria’s education sector over the years and the government’s resolve in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, measures must be put in place towards achieving this enviable feat. The earlier this is done, the better for all of us.