Bauchi has the highest number of out-of-school children (1.1 million) with Katsina coming in second with 781,500 children out of school, Ironside said.

Sola Ojo, Kaduna

Critical stakeholders in Nigeria’s education sector met in Kaduna to brainstorm over the alarming 10.5 million out-of-school children, with focus on Northern Nigeria.

Addressing the traditional leaders at the opening ceremony of a two-day conference on out-of-school children organised by Federal Ministry of Education, Universal Basic Education Commission, National Commission for Mass Education and Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development in collaboration with United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Pernille Ironside said 69 percent of the figure were northern children.

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Bauchi has the highest number of out-of-school children (1.1 million) with Katsina coming in second with 781,500 children out of school, Ironside said.

According to her, “In 1999, Nigeria took a bold step by declaring its commitment to provide free basic education for all children. This commitment was followed by the establishment of the Universal Basic Education Commission in 2004 to enable the Government to fulfil its commitment to provide free basic education for all children.

“While these are commendable actions towards guaranteeing the right to education for all Nigerian children, we at UNICEF are concerned about the slow progress

“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. Other sources say the number of out-of-school children is higher.

“But the focus is not the precise number of out-of school: the focus should be on boys and girls in your communities who lose out on education lose out of livelihoods, and lose out on hope and the future they can have for themselves, their families, their communities and their country.

“Nigeria loses out on a literate and skilled workforce it needs to grow economically Nigeria needs to take leap froe to bring more children into education and into learning Partnerships and collective actions are essential. This is the reason why we are here today at the Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on out-of-School Children. Together we can take the quantum leap to give more children the opportunity to go to and stay in school”, UNICEF representative charged participants.

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Ironside went on to add that, “when we invest in our children, we invest in our collective future. 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.”

Reacting, Sultan of Sokoto and Chairman of the conference, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar II, said the issue of out-of-school children in Nigeria today with Northern States contributing a very large percent of the problem was not only worrisome, but a great burden on their collective conscience.

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“Most importantly, it Also runs counter to our history of our intellectual culture and traditions. What explanations can we give to Mai Gumi and Sheikh Muhammad Bin Mani of kaneem Borno who brought literacy and learning to this part of the world over one thousand years ago, that their descendants are no longer going to school and many of them are registered as illiterate?

“What plausible reasons could we proffer to Sheikh Uthman Bin Fodio and his brother Sheikh Abdulahi and Sultan Muhammad Bello who between the three of them authored over 300 books on all subjects including astronomy and medicine, that there children are no longer keen in learning tafsir and Fiqh and neither are they interested in mathematics and engineering?

“The point I am driving at is that forebears had laboured to put in place a very strong cultural and intellectual foundation upon which we can establish a robust educational system for the avoidance of doubt.

“Sultan Mohammed Bello has done a lot in education, he established schools and recruited teachers. He supported them. He encouraged resettlement and organization.

“On the issue of girl child education which we lamented upon this days, Sheikh Usman bin Fodio, the founder of the caliphate ensured that all his daughters were well educated.

“It is very important when we speak about education in the Northern States, we duly appreciate the contributions of our forefathers and ground fathers.

“So, this conference is apt and by the time we will be living here tomorrow, Insha Allah, we must have come on a truce on the way forward,” the Sultan hoped.

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