The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has described as “alarming and a ticking time bomb’’ the no fewer than 10.5 million children in the country believed to be out of school.
He was reacting to the statistics on out-of-school children released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, on Sunday in Abuja.
Mr. Saraki, who spoke when he received a UNICEF delegation, led by its Country Representative, Mohammed Fall, said that the situation called for urgent attention by relevant stakeholders.
He lamented that Nigeria had the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, adding that the statistics represented approximately 20 per cent of the world’s population of such children.
He said “an uneducated population will be locked in a cycle of poverty for their entire lives.
“Additionally, these children could constitute the next generation of suicide bombers and militants. In this regard, education is a national security priority.’’
The president of the senate expressed National Assembly’s commitment to partnering stakeholders like UNICEF, to drastically reduce the number.
He said that the 8th National Assembly was determined to make laws needed to drastically address the menace.
“The legislature is committed to doing all it can to address the issue of out-of-school children through funding and material resources.
“The senate is already working with a few state governments which are yet to domesticate the Child’s Rights Act.
“We are determined to also improve on this and to work together to see how best to reduce drastically the level of illiteracy among our people, especially from the preliminary stage.
“The quality of our education must be in line with global best practices. We will continue to work closely with you to support your programmes.
“We plan to have an inclusive roundtable where the impediments in our education system will be identified and a plan of action designed to eliminate them.
“I am confident that your contributions at that stage will be very useful,” he said.
Mr. Saraki endorsed the school enrolment campaign of UNICEF in the country and thanked its Country Representative for their years of exemplary work in education and other areas.
Earlier, Mr. Fall had urged Saraki to endorse Nigeria’s 2017 school enrolment programme by UNICEF.
He said that the fund’s school enrolment campaign sought to partner the education stakeholders at the state level to ensure that the impact reached the grassroots.
Mr. Fall said that the campaign also sought to underscore the country’s commitment to free and compulsory education and to encourage states to prioritise education.
He commended the president of the senate for the outstanding partnership offered to UNICEF over the years in the areas of child health and education.
He, however, decried the statistics of 10.5 million children out-of-school in Nigeria, saying “such number poses a lot of danger to the growth and development of the country’’.
“We need additional resources, and this support requires stronger partnership with legislation.”