By Egena Sunday Ode
President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday in Abuja directed the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to coordinate and lead the deployment of a National Plan to address the issue of out-of-school children in the country.
Inaugurating the 18-member Presidential Steering Committee on Alternate School Programme (ASP) co-chaired by the Ministers of Humanitarian Affairs and Education, the President said it was unacceptable to see children abandon formal school to engage in menial jobs and child labour in the markets, streets and workshops.
President Buhari said the National Plan to be deployed by the Federal Government, through the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry, would ensure a holistic and comprehensive inclusiveness of appropriate basic education for vulnerable children.
‘‘To commence this special education initiative, emphasis should be given to first provide a limited scope of subjects in Mathematics, English language, Basic Science and Social studies. Gradually, the initiative will be scaled up to ensure the acquisition of relevant technical skills in the process that can enable the beneficiaries to participate in gainful economic activities,’’ he said.
President Buhari noted that in view of ‘‘some United Nations agencies that report a disturbing level of out of school children estimated at 13 million’’, the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry had identified the critical need to further address literacy inclusiveness, especially among these vulnerable children.
‘‘While we continue to sustain our efforts on providing formal and conventional education through the activities of the Universal Basic Education Commission under the Federal Ministry of Education, it is still a common sight to notice children abandoning formal school to become apprentices in shops, workshops and markets, whilst many others choose to loiter at markets, become cart pushers and hawkers.
‘‘These are not acceptable,’’ he said.
The President also used the occasion to reiterate the commitment of the Federal Government to deal with key challenges of absolute poverty and propel Nigeria and Nigerians to a better way of life and development.
Reviewing the administration’s programmes on poverty eradication, President Buhari expressed delight that many countries are now admiring and imitating Nigeria’s social investment programmes as an effective strategy in the fight against poverty.
‘‘In our first term, many programs and projects based on firm policies were commenced with the fight against poverty being the main goal.
‘‘The National Social Investment Program (NSIP) that includes the conditional cash transfer, N-Power, National Home-Grown School feeding Program and The Government Enterprise and Empowerment programs are today gaining admiration and imitation by many countries as an effective strategy.
‘‘Based on the need to sustain these efforts, we have launched the policy of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030 at the beginning of our second term in 2019 to further consolidate the gains of the NSIPs through effective coordination and institutionalization.
‘‘This led to the creation of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development with the mandate to ensure full coordination of all poverty eradication efforts of Government for enhanced impact,’’ he said.
Other members of the Presidential Steering Committee on ASP are Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Minister of State, Education, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Sustainable Development Goals, Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Director General, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the National President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
Others are Representative, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Representative, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Representative, Global Partnership for Education, Chair, Private Sector Advisory Group – SDGs, Chair, Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development, Chair, Senate Committee on Basic Education, Chair, House Committee on Basic Education, Hon. Dr. Shehu Balarabe Kakale, while the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development will serve as Secretary.
President Buhari listed the four Terms of Reference of the Committee as follows:
Ø Refine and focus the vision of the initiative
Ø Ensure engagement and effective uptake of the ASP initiative across the country
Ø Review and approve all work, implementation plan, expected deliverables, feedbacks and reports as proposed
Ø Undertake any other task that can enhance the effective delivery of the initiative by the Ministry.
The President implored all members of the committee to take this assignment with the utmost seriousness, saying ‘‘the future of our young people is at stake.’’
In her remarks, Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the success of the programme “will be a turning point in our nation’s development history as it will accelerate our drive towards sustainable development.”
She added: ‘‘It is important to note that this success extends far beyond attaining Quality Education, Goal 4 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It also directly impacts SDG 1, No Poverty, as it will provide better future outcomes for our children.”
The Minister also said the success would impact SDG Goals 2, 5, 8, 10, and 17.