Though the alarm raised by President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on the danger posed to the well-being of Nigeria by the increasing number of out-of-school children may not be new, his concern and that of other senators show that it is time for all hands to be on deck to eliminate the syndrome once and for all.
Lawan, it would be recalled, in his concluding remarks on a motion on “the need to integrate almajiri education into modern system of education in Nigeria, on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, said that should the nation fail to curb the increase in the number of about 14 million out -of -school children, the current security challenges being experienced by the country may be aggravated.
Noting that the increasing number of out-of-school children is a big challenge facing the nation, Lawan said: “We all know that the out-of-school-children are at the moment a big problem to us as a country. They constitute not only social problems, but also security problems to some extent.
“Therefore, it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure that they are enrolled in primary and secondary schools”.
Before Lawan’s alarm, not a few Nigerians had voiced concern on the danger the increasing number of out-of-school children pose to the socio-economic well-being of the country and called for urgent actions to tackle the malady.
While we acknowledge that the Federal Government has a role to play in stemming the upsurge in the number of out-of-school children in the country, particularly in putting in place right policies and adequate funding of the Universal Basic Education Commission and other agencies looking after basic education sector, we are of the opinion that states have greater responsibility in ensuring that children roaming streets in their jurisdictions are in school with their peers. This is because the 1999 Constitution (as amended) confers on states the power to oversee primary and secondary education. States must therefore not abdicate this responsibility. The Federal Government can at best provide funding and policies to boost interventions in the sector by state governments.
We commend steps taken so far by some state governments particularly in the north where the number of out-of-school children keeps increasing. In particular, we applaud efforts of the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, who recently threatened to jail parents of out-of-school children.
“Every parent that doesn’t send his child to school will go to jail because he destroys the future of his child without any reason.
“Every child under the age of five is entitled to free medical care for every kind of illness in our public health facility; antenatal care is also free for pregnant women,” the governor said at the opening of a public hearing on the state’s social protection policy document in Kaduna on March 11, 2020.
We also note that the Kano State Governor, Umar Ganduje, recently banned street begging and launched the Basic Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA), a policy which penalises parents or guardians of children caught begging on the streets.
We appeal to other governors across the country to emulate the tough stance of the Kaduna State governor and his Kano State counterpart so that once and for all this scourge can be brought to a halt.
We are of the view that now is the time for our political and religious leaders especially in the north to unite to eliminate the practice of allowing children room the streets when they should be in school. We must tear down all barriers, be they religious and cultural that encourage children to beg for arms or be engaged in other activities not geared towards their education.