“In an age where community involvement and partnerships with civil society are increasingly being recognized as indispensable, there is clearly a growing potential for cooperative development and renewal worldwide”.-Kofi Anan
Frequently in my past pieces on this platform, I have reiterated continuously that, tasking the errand of educating the teeming numbers of out of school children in the country to the government alone, will only result in a slow paced improvement in the ugly status quo. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, data from various international and domestic organizations did not favour the educational sector in Nigeria, it‘s no news that we continually parade figures that are as embarrassing as are saddening when it comes to access to Education in the country. Furthermore, the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian education system has particularly slowed down whatever gains that were and are being made in this very germane sector.
The current realities of our time brought about by COVID-19 has left gaping complications in the government’s move to solve the menace of out-of-school children in Nigeria. Hence, there is an urgent need for collaborations with private corporations, non governmental organizations, and Civil Society Organizations to diffuse this looming time bomb. Citizens will have to go beyond criticizing government‘s actions and inactions as regards educating vulnerable kids up North and down south. The armchair recommendations, and sometimes pseudo elucidations on issues of out of school children in Nigeria will have to give way for actual ACTIONS! Citizens will have to understand the peculiarities of the times we live in and pick up the gauntlet by doing their bit (in whatever piece) to see to the education, and all round literacy of vulnerable children in their immediate community. Nelson Mandela once put it that ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’
The need to fix these issues regarding out-of -school children has resulted in the recent massive enrollment program being undertaken by Flexisaf Foundation and the initiative for the Advancement of Waste Management in Africa (aka W.A.S.T.E Africa) and sponsored by the Coca Cola foundation. Both of these Non governmental Organizations in Nigeria have collaborated to identify and enroll 600 vulnerable out-of-school children from four (4) vulnerable communities in the F.C.T Abuja to formal school systems. The Project, which is a major landmark in Flexisaf Foundation’s continued quest to ensure that the rate of out of school children in Nigeria drops to the barest minimum, has received enormous support from the Coca Cola foundation, through W.A.S.T.E Africa, a leading recyclable waste collection and recycling social enterprise in Nigeria, which seeks to promote (SDGs) #3, #4 and #13 particularly in Nigeria and Africa. The project which is scheduled in phases is expected to take off immediately, amidst very positive and heartwarming feedbacks from the parents of the beneficiaries, community leaders, and relevant stakeholders. Also, the policy brief of the project involves monitoring the progress of the beneficiaries, and partnering with the schools involved to scale up future outreaches to accomodate more vulnerable children.
This project is very timely and beneficial even as this is a challenge to private organizations, citizens and even the government at all levels to step up actions in the bid to rescue the most vulnerable of our population, by giving them the most potent tool for self development-EDUCATION. Support in terms of scholarships and sponsorships can be given to Organizations like Flexisaf foundation that have this, as their mission, information can be shared as regards communities and settlements that need intervention, and even private persons can decide to enrol vulnerable child(ren) in their immediate domain…and as the saying goes ‘an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
–Olubunmi Ayantunji is a Lawyer, Legislative Draftsman and Child Education Advocate. He writes from Abuja-