Alarmed by the accelerating number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, two civil society organisations; Connected Development(CODE) and FlexiSAF Foundation have come together to combine their resources in identifying out of school children and providing quality basic education. In direct accordance with the SDG 4 and SDG 17, Connected Development and FlexiSAF Foundation are on a mission to reach these targets ahead of 2030.
Statistics show that there are about 13.2 million Nigerian children currently not in school and this figure is increasing by the day, particularly in the Northern part of Nigeria. Issues of insurgency, conflicts and unrest militating the North-East combined with deep-rooted poverty, and certain cultural factors especially in the North have pushed the rate of out-of-school children high. Even the few educational facilities in these rural settings are in deplorable conditions—dilapidated structures, no libraries, congested classrooms with poor ventilation, damaged or no furniture, causing pupils to sit on classroom floors—further discouraging children from attending school.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) records that Girls account for 60 per cent of the out-of-school population. For every 100 boys of primary age out of school, 121 girls are denied the right to education, worsening gender-based discrimination and putting girls at a disadvantage. Displacement and child marriage also significantly affect a girl’s chances of going to school. Issues of water, sanitation and hygiene, and in many cases, insecurity affecting the delivery of education in conflict affected areas, are contributing factors driving children – particularly girls – away from the classroom.
Distressed by the growing number of out of school children in Nigeria, Connected Development and FlexiSAF Foundation are partnering to identify and verify the number of out of school children in selected states in Nigeria and increase citizen participation through awareness raising.
According to Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, Chairman, FlexiSAF Foundation, the partnership comes at a time when sustainable measures must be put in place to strengthen the quality of education in the country and curtail the growing number of out of school children, which has grossly affected the Nation, particularly the Northern region. “It is indeed a remarkable feat to partner with Connected Development (CODE) in our mutual goal to reach out a helping hand to communities in need. We will be able to have access to more communities to provide quality basic education for all children,” he added.
CODE’s Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal, stated that “the future of Nigeria is strongly determined by the quality of education of its children. How can we begin to talk about quality education when a large proportion of Nigeria’s young ones are out-of-school?” Lawal was worried that out-of-school children are constantly being exposed to danger of violence, assault, exploitation and anti-social recruitments such as terrorism, child-trafficking and kidnapping. He noted that addressing out of school children is a challenge that the Nigerian Government must tackle with a sense of urgency.
He also noted that the partnership will be a great leap in pursuing the cause of reducing the number of out-of-school children. CODE is committed to providing its resources in supporting the cause by collating the number of out of school children and providing support in areas of monitoring and evaluation (M&E)”. CODE and FlexiSAF Foundation partnership will bring about the reduction in percentage of out-of-school children and create a sustainable environment for children to study and explore their creativity.
Amina Abubakar, Coordinator FlexiSAF Education stated that there is a lot of work to be done in ensuring the Nigerian child goes to school. She called on the Federal and State Governments, Civil Societies, as well as stakeholders in the Education System, especially the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to commit to securing the education of the Nigerian child.
“As countries strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) that addresses attaining universal primary and secondary education by 2030, this is a wake-up call for the Nigerian government to make educating the nation’s future leaders a priority. We should begin to think up sustainable initiatives to resolve the challenging factors facing out-of-school children,” Amina added.
She also mentioned that to reach the large number of out-of-school kids, we have a long way to go. The effort required is massive, not just for FlexiSAF Foundation and CODE, but for Nigeria as a whole and the world at large. “It’s not enough to just acknowledge the problem, but a swift and effective course of action 1must be embarked upon. That is what we have began, and we are committed to staying on this course for the long haul.”
FlexiSAF Managing Director, Faiz Bashir stated that change can begin at the grassroots whereby learning opportunities start with community-based education and organising classes in community buildings so children do not have to walk miles and miles to go to school. This is especially critical for girls, as it reduces insecurity such as harassment and conflict related incidents, on the way to school. FlexiSAF Foundation has, in its effort to reach the SDG 4 target, adopted such flexible methods of teaching out-of-school kids. These include Safe Spaces within their communities, full scholarships to qualitative schools, one-on-one mentorship and counselling and so forth.
He added that the partnership between CODE and FlexiSAF Foundation aims to identify and target regions with disproportionately high rates of out of school children, including working with leaders and other groups to advocate for increased education, especially for girls. It will also ensure safe and conducive learning that meets basic security and health standards, including toilets and safe drinking water.
Detailed plans to implement this partnership will be developed by the two organizations in the coming months.
According to the United Nations, out-of-school children are children who are yet to be enrolled in any formal education excluding pre-primary education.