To further cushion the menace of out of school children in Nigeria (OOSC), HENRY TYOHEMBA explore experts’ views postulating that it requires efforts of the federal government, together with efforts of the parents, community members, local governments and states to tackle the ugly trend.
Towards the end of his speech at the 66th National Council on Education (NEC) meeting in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu flayed the states for the continuous rise in the number of out-of-school children in the country.
More precisely, Adamu was concerned that states were not complementing what the federal government, through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) was doing in tackling the out of school children in the country.
UBEC has instituted a wide range of programmes, activities, and services which target the improvement of access, ensuring quality and equity in UBE service delivery to broaden access and create learner-specific opportunities for all classes of the OOSC population.
However, beyond that efforts, ensuring education for all, or combatting the out of school children’s syndrome in Nigeria, without doubt needs all hands to be on deck, according to experts.
Over time, there have been conflicting reports on the issue of out of school children in Nigeria, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) reporting recently that the country has about 20 million children who are not going to school while the federal government has a figure below 10 million.
UNESCO, in the report said there are over 244 million children and youth between the ages of six and 18 worldwide who are still out of school and “the region with the second highest out-of-school population is Central and Southern Asia with 85 million.” The top three countries with the most children and youth excluded from education are: India, Nigeria and Pakistan, it stated.
This is happening despite the federal government interventions to reduce the scourge of out-of-school children through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Unfortunately, lack of collective action to support the government policies, beginning at the individual to local and state levels is hindering progress on the issue.
Against the background, experts have said the government interventions through UBEC cannot yield the desired results if parents, community members and others are not willing to complement the efforts.
The Federal Ministry of Education in an unpublished response titled, “UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2022 and the Phenomenon of Out-Of-School Children in Nigeria,” which was obtained by LEADERSHIP said although UIS has attempted to justify the methods used in arriving at the 20 million figure, the fact remains that this report is capable of misinforming the public, misrepresenting the actual situation of the out-of-school children in Nigeria and underrating the significant efforts made by the government in addressing the OOSC challenge.
Experts List Causes Of Out-of-school Children
Some experts in the education sector have examined factors that prevent these children from attending class, in spite of interventions to include Socio-cultural norms, poverty, insecurity, Exclusion of children with disabilities in the policy drive, amongst others.
Dr Aminu Abdu Bichi who recently, spoke on the “Root Causes, Dimensions and Manifestations of the Out-of-School Children Phenomenon in Nigeria,” said the Economic, demand-side barriers that causes OOSC is poverty, children engaged in labour; residence location/rural-urban migration, and pursuit for material wealth by youths and limited employment opportunities for school leavers.
He said the socio-cultural barriers that are hindering children’s access to continuous education include being too young to attend school, early marriage, poor perception of western education, lower status accorded the Girl-child in the family and peer pressure.
At the individual level, he said such factors include interest in schooling, age (over-age children are more likely to drop out); sex and gender-related issues such as early marriages, domestic violence, gender stereotyping, menstruation management; and access to schooling.
“The direct and indirect costs of schooling are more likely to induce families at the lower end of the income distribution to substitute child education for child work, whether at home or in the labor market,” he added.
Another educationist Marcus Aba said gender is also a major hit from the effects of religious and cultural beliefs on girl-child school attendance and has become a major causal factor of the out-of-school population in Nigeria. “The marginalization of the female population particularly in education is a major challenge in the Northern part of Nigeria.”
While stressing that collective action is needed to tackle the out of school children in Nigeria, he said violence has also been a persistent phenomenon over the years especially in the North-East and North-West regions of Nigeria where the activities of ‘Boko Haram’ are predominant. Over 1,500 schools were destroyed between 2014 and 2017 in North-East Nigeria
UBEC Efforts To Address The Out-of-school Children
UBEC’s strategic response in this regard seeks to provide increased access to learning space and infrastructure, instructional materials, quality teaching, equitable practices, special programs for specific OOSC populations, skills, and vocational education.
At the national level, it builds the capacity of education stakeholders and provides resources to implement interventions to address. At the state level its Targeted operations (projects) aimed at improving access to quality education:
These include the Integrated Quranic and Tsangaya Education (IQTE) Program, the All-Girls Model Schools Initiative, the Boy-Child Vocational Schools Project, Girl Education Programs (GEP 1-283), Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) Programme, the All-Girls Model Schools Initiative, the Boy-Child Vocational Schools Project, Girls Education Child Project Phase 3 (GEP 3), building and equipment of 70 Junior Girls Model Secondary Schools in 32 states and the FCT, amongst others.
Also, the implementation of the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) with a view to reducing the number of OOSC using both formal and non-formal approaches in the 17 States with the highest number of OOSC in the country.
The target of 3 million children set in 2019 to be brought into school through the BESDA programme has been surpassed. Between 2019 and 2022, there were a total of 5,076,830 learners in the non-formal centres made up of 1,600,123 in cohort 1 (2019/2020) and 3,476,707 in cohort 2 (2022), as verified and confirmed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
A paper on addressing the challenges of out of school children phenomenon in Nigeria, obtained from UBEC said the sustainability of interventions targeted at OOSC depends not only on available resources at the country level but also on the political will and commitment of governments and partners to a rights-based model of education.
It also stresses the need for community accountability in mobilising positive response towards addressing out of school phenomenon. “Engaging stakeholders is crucial because it can help build ownership, help adjust the policy to ensure it reaches schools and learners, inform on stakeholder’s readiness, willingness and capacity to change their practice and build trust between stakeholders and policymakers.”
It added that there is urgent need to refocus the strategic efforts and rethink the approaches in dealing with the OOSC phenomenon by developing new financing mechanisms to reach the most vulnerable children,including girls and children with disabilities.