The Nigerian government has said it is looking to impact education and create safe learning communities across the country.
The West African country aims to achieve this through a high-level dialogue and well-thought-out event titled ‘Financing Safe Schools: Creating Safe Learning Communities.’
A statement by Yunusa Abdullahi, a media aide to the Nigerian Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed on Saturday said “the dialogue will bring together State Governors, the Nigerian Governors Forum, National Economic Council, members of parliament, National Security Advisers and Security Chiefs, Ministry of Education, multilateral institutions, donors, civil society and private sector representatives, including Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) to address the urgent issues which are stopping the safe education of children.
“The gathering is to be hosted by the minister Zainab Ahmed, Tuesday 20 April between 10 am and 1.30 pm WAT at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja and also online,” the statement read.
The statement notes that the minister decided on the event after international projections estimated that children missing out on five months of education due to the Covid-19 pandemic would collectively result in $10 trillion in lost future incomes.
Mr Abdullahi quotes the minister as saying “If trends continue, the worst-case scenario predicted is that half of all young people will not have skills necessary for entry-level employment reducing country workforces and moving the countries back into poverty.”
The statement reads: “Nigeria is facing a socio-economic crisis born out of an education crisis. As a result, the history of poor education provision has been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and conflict across the country has led to over 13 million children being out of school- the highest rate of out of school children in the world.
“Mrs Ahmed has noted that ‘out of school children are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and critically are ‘fundamentally ill-equipped’ to positively contribute productively to the economy.
“Providing the basis for the gathering, she cites a wide range of understandings: The World Bank have coined the term ‘learning poverty’, which measures quality and quantity of learning in developing countries.
“Recent studies show only 20 percent of children in the North East of Nigeria who complete primary school can read.”
Education is critical to Nigeria’s future given almost 44 percent of Nigeria’s population are between the ages of 0-14.
The World Bank estimates that COVID-19 may have increased learning poverty from 53 percent to 63 percent in countries like Nigeria.
The impact of out of school children in Nigeria is a structural impediment to Nigeria achieving the SDGs.
The statement also quotes Ms Ahmed as saying: “The impact of conflict on education is especially stark for girls with lower literacy rates across the country for females of 12 percent compared to males.
“Yet, reports on girls education predict that making sure girls complete secondary education could boost developing country gross domestic product (GDP) by 10 percent and a return of investment of $2.8 for every $1 invested in girls education.”
According to the minister, the combination of multi-dimensional attacks (in the North-Eastern region) and the on-COVID-19 crisis means an urgent multi-dimensional approach is needed.
“A number of critical issues need to be addressed in comprehensive strategies to facilitate sustained safe schools, safe education and sustained futures for Nigeria’s next generation,” she says.
“A reimagined/revitalised sustainable strategy to finance and support safe schools will aim to increase enrolment in schools and make school environments safer.
“It will do this through taking a multi-sectoral approach to developing and implementing the strategy, engaging key stakeholders across all Nigerian States, national and multilateral donors and the private sector to garner firm commitments, foster champions and develop accountability frameworks to embed drivers for sustained change to push momentum forward.
“This dialogue will bring together State Governors, the Nigerian Governors Forum, National Economic Council, members of parliament, National Security Advisers and Security Chiefs, Ministry of Education, multilateral institutions, donors, civil society and private sector representatives, including Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) to address the urgent issues which are stopping the safe education of children- our next generation.
“Among others, the dialogue aims to achieve the following objectives: Re-engage senior policymakers including State Governors, National Security Advisers, the Ministry of Education and others to take a stand, acknowledge the emergency and commit to taking action to reverse the current trend in numbers of out of school children; stakeholders, especially security agencies and human rights organisations to develop cross-sectoral strategies to implement the Safe Schools Declaration, including developing strategies with students and teachers to make it safe for children to return to school and build confidence in the education system.
“The outcomes of this dialogue will be summarised in a paper with a cross-sectoral working group formed to take recommendations and actions forward.”
By Abel Ejikeme