Out-of-School Children: UBEC signs MOU for Open Schooling Initiative
As part of its strategy to increase school enrollment in Nigeria, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada, on Open Schooling Initiative.
This followed UBEC’s decision to start the Open Schooling Programme in the 36 states of the federation by July 2019. The programme had been launched on May 30, 2019.
While signing the MOU in Abuja on Tuesday, the executive secretary of UBEC, Hammid Bobboyi, said the number of out –of- school children in Nigeria has reduced from 13.2 million to 10.1 million after the National Personnel Audit recorded last year.
“We reached 13.2 million due to the Boko Haram crisis in 2015. Fortunately, after the personnel audit we did last year, those figures have come down to about 10.1 million. But it is still a worrisome percentage, 10.1 million is so much more than the population of some countries and therefore Nigeria cannot relent in its efforts to ensure that we do everything that is required to reduce that number.”
He said the open schooling system will provide a broader opportunity to Nigerian children.
“Those who are going to the open schooling system may be more technology savvy at the end of the day than those who are even attending conventional school.”
He urged government at the federal, state, and local government levels to synergise and combat the menace of out-of-school children together.
Also speaking, the president of the Commonwealth of Learning, Asha Kanwa, said the organisation found over the years that open schooling or Alternative Schooling is the answer to the problem of Out -of School-children.
“Children will only learn what is relevant to them. Out-of-school children are not going to come back to learn number counting or literacy or anything, they want to learn something relevant.
“We did something in Trinidad and Tobago in a fishing village. There were out-of-school children there. They were taught how to make nets, how to do fishing, how to mend boats and they came back to school because they found that this was a curriculum which was relevant to them.
According to her, 25 out of the 53 Commonwealth countries have implemented open schooling, reduced the cost of schooling, and increased access to large numbers.
“For example, the National Institute Of Open Schooling in India has 1.3 million students around the country. That is more than the population of some of the Commonwealth countries. That is exactly the situation here in Nigeria where we could, very soon, see this escalation of enrollments,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Director of Social Mobilisation, UBEC, Bello Kagawa, said the meeting was held to sign an agreement between the Commonwealth of Learning and the UBEC on the implementation of the Open School system in Nigeria.
“The challenge that brought this agreement or partnership is the issue of out-of-school children. The menace of out-of-school children is now a global issue but particularly Nigeria is at the centre stage of the issue. So today what we are going to do is to now sign the agreement that now stipulates the key operational areas of the agreement,” Mr Kagawa said.
Similar to the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), formerly National Open School in India, the open school initiative aims at a flexible learning experience where children can also study without going to school. The system provides education to remote areas under the motive to increase literacy.
A Demographic Health Survey (DHS) conducted by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Nigerian government in 2015 showed that the population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million. Nigeria is reputed to have the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
Even at that, UBEC said the 13.2 million was no longer reliable as the figure has reduced to 10.1.
The Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, had said the increasing number of out-of-school children would continue to be a burden and a source of insecurity to Nigeria.
According to him, education is compulsory for every child and the government must do its best to see that it is accomplished.
Apart from the federal government’s effort in the same direction, UNICEF also introduced a funding window to reduce the number of out-of-school children in Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara.
Part of its component is the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) where pupils are given N24,000 every year through women caregivers like mothers to enrol the kids and make sure they stay in school to complete their education.
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