Senate moves to tackle 20m out-of-school children menace


By Olugbenga Salami

Worried by the alarming 20 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, the Senate on Wednesday urged the judiciary in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to take steps towards setting up mobile courts for the enforcement of the Universal Basic Education, UBE Act.

This was even as the Red Chamber enjoined government at all levels to implement targeted intervention programmes that would address all factors militating against free access to quality and basic education, particularly multidimensional poverty and insecurity.

Similarly, the Senate mandated its Committee on Education (Basic and Secondary) to engage the Federal Ministry of Education with a view to paying attention to the issue of out-of-school children with the ultimate goal of drastically reducing the number.

While also urging the ministry, its related parastatals and agencies like the UBE stakeholders to bring up new strategy to effectively deal with the problem as well as rekindle consciousness on the importance of education to the growth and development of the country and the benefits of having majority educated population, asked them to set time limit of two years for the diligent implementation of the UBE Act as stipulated in Section 2(2).

These resolutions were sequel to the consideration of a motion, titled: “Compelling need to tackle the challenge of out of school children in Nigeria”, sponsored by Senator Idiat Adebule (APC Lagos West) during plenary on Wednesday.

Presenting the motion, Senator Adebule, noted that the problem “has become worrisome, given the

2022 report of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO that about 20 million Nigerian children are out of school which represents 10 percent of the estimated Nigerian population of 200 million people and also represents the highest number of out of school children from any country globally.”

She said “though the Federal Ministry of Education has disputed the figure, it’s generally agreed that whatever the real figures, the issue of out-of-school children has become an albatross on the neck of the Nigerian State that must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.”

The lawmaker listed the social impacts of having about 20 million out of school children in the country to include the impediment to achieving some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal Four, which is to ensure inclusiveness and equitably quality of education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all; and providing easy pool for recruitment into criminal gangs, banditry and terrorism which are the biggest issues in the country for many years.

Others, according to her, are that achievement of national economic justice and inclusiveness would further be jeopardized and many more Nigerians may become ill-equipped to climb out of the poverty bracket, adding that gender inequality, early/child marriage and general socio-political instability as other problems that might arise from the menace.

In their contributions, Senators Mohammed Monguno (APC Borno North), Ahmad Lawan (APC Yobe North), Adams Oshiomhole (APC Edo North), and Simon Lalong (APC Plateau South), described education as a vehicle to lift people out of poverty.

They lamented that lack of education remains a social problem that provided ground for recruitment of criminals.

On his own, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Jibrin Barau said education is the bedrock of development, lamenting that many states in the North are the ones facing the calamity resulting from out-of-school children

In his remarks, the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio recommended the policy he introduced as Akwa Ibom State governor for all the 36 states and the FCT whereby the Child Rights Bill was passed into law with six months imprisonment for offenders.

The law, he disclosed, covers free and compulsory education for all children of school age.