Worried by the rising statistics of out-of-school children worldwide, some world leaders met recently to raise $5 billion from donors to support the education sector in about 90 countries with 80 per cent of out-of-school children’s population. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) meeting was jointly sponsored by United Kingdom (UK) and the Government of Kenya. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and other world leaders attended the summit held in London on July 28 and 29, 2021. The meeting was aimed at making world leaders to invest more in education and improve access for girls.
The Global Partnership for Education gave Nigeria an opportunity to see the need to commit 20 per cent of its annual budget to education. Though the conference succeeded in raising $4 billion from donors, the commitment puts GPE firmly on the path to achieving its target of raising the targeted figure over the next five years to transform education for millions of the world’s most vulnerable children. Launched in 2002, the GPE is engaged with many developing countries as well as donor governments, international organisations, the private sector, teachers, local and global civil society organisations/NGOs, all devoted to helping children receive quality education. Outside coordinating funding, the GPE supports low-income countries to develop and implement their national education strategies, providing financial support and technical expertise.
We welcome the initiative. Nigeria has reportedly received substantial funding from the GPE. In June 2021, the GPE formally announced the approval of a new grant of $125 million for Nigeria, an education programme that will be implemented by the World Bank in Oyo, Katsina and Adamawa states. It is good that President Muhammadu Buhari was part of the GPE summit. Education in Nigeria has suffered from poor funding. With a paltry 6.3 per cent of its 2021 national budget slated for education, Nigeria is still far away from the United Nations (UN) recommended 20 per cent for member states. The future of Nigerian children does not look bright, particularly for the growing number of out-of-school children put at 13.5 million. Out of this figure, the Almajiris constituted about 72 per cent.
Since the insurgency in the North East is a contributory factor to the crisis in education, government must commit more resources to defeat the daring insurgents and other criminal elements terrorising the nation. Regrettably, some extant cultural practices and early child marriages are not helping matters in this regard, especially the girl child education. Poverty is another factor that fuels the increasing number of out-of-school children across the country. Unfortunately, government’s efforts to tackle the menace have not been very effective. We urge President Buhari to prioritise the education sector with more attention paid to primary and post-primary education. Nigerian children cannot compete effectively with their counterparts the world over if not given quality education at the basic level. While no level of education should be denied proper attention and funding, the government must ensure that the 13.5 million Nigerian children said to be outside the school system are urgently enrolled in the education system. Although the $5 billion set aside for the exercise may not be enough so solve the global out-of-school children’s challenge, it is a good starting point. We advise that the grant be judiciously deployed to the target groups and countries. The importance of education in human capital development of any nation cannot be overemphasised.
The beneficiary states in the country should look inwards on how best to tackle their peculiar educational challenges. That is why Nigeria’s participation in the summit is very relevant.
There is no doubt that education has witnessed so much neglect in the country as a result of poor funding and bad governance. The standard of education may have suffered irretrievably due to years of neglect and closure of schools due to insurgency and strike by teachers.
Besides the intervention of the GPE and other international organisations, Nigeria should come up with concrete plans to revamp the education sector, with more emphasis on out-of-school children. If the federal government’s school feeding programme is adequately implemented throughout the federation, it will lure many children now outside the school system to embrace schooling. Sadly, such a laudable project has been ethnicised and politicised.
We call on the Federal Government to ensure that every Nigerian child enjoys free and compulsory basic education, six years of primary and there years of junior secondary schooling as enshrined in Universal Basic Education Act 2004. The state governments must be part of the crusade to ensure basic education for all Nigerian children.
SOURCE: THE SUN