Nationwide strike: NASS holds emergency meeting

Senators seek urgent interventions to end out-of-school children menace

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Senators on Wednesday warned of the growing threats posed by the menace of out-of-school children to Nigeria, calling for multi-sectoral interventions to tackle it.

A 2022 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that around 20 million Nigerian children are not in school. This figure is said to represent 10 percent of the country’s population, estimated to be about 200 million people.

On Wednesday, senators said the dangers posed to society by the growing number of out-of-school children were real, citing cases of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, murder, and other forms of violent crimes as manifestations.

They expressed their opinions as they debated a motion on the topic, “Compelling Need to tackle the challenge of Out-of-School Children in Nigeria.”

The motion, sponsored by Sen. Adebule Idiat Oluranti (Lagos-West), urged the Senate to mandate its Committee on Education (Basic & Secondary) to engage the Federal Ministry of Education with a view to paying special attention to the issue of out-of-school children “with the ultimate objective of drastically reducing the number.”

It also urged the ministry, its related parastatals and agencies such as the Universal Basic Education, stakeholders including nongovernmental organizations to:

“a. severally and jointly bring up new strategies to effectively deal with the Out-of-School Children problem as well as rekindle the national consciousness through sensitization and advocacy on the importance of education to the growth and development of our country and the benefits of having a majority educated population;

“b. set a time limit of two years for the diligent implementation of the UBE Act as stipulated in section 2 (2).”

The motion added, “Urge governments at all levels to implement targeted intervention programs that will address all the factors militating against free access to quality and basic education, particularly multidimensional poverty and insecurity;

“Equally urge the Judiciary in the 36 states of the Federation to take steps towards setting up mobile courts for the enforcement of the UBE Act.”

Making a contribution, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters, Sen. Mohammed Monguno (Borno State), shared his life’s experience on how he would have become a truck driver if he hadn’t gone to school.

Monguno recalled how he dropped out of school at one point because the trend then was that the best girls usually went for drivers.

He stated that to be part of the group of happening boys, he dropped out of school. But, he said he later had a change of mind and went back to complete his education.

Monguno, who said education remained the best weapon for human development, added that after leaving school, he not only became a successful lawyer and a member of the House of Representatives for three terms but was also a senator today.

“My mates with whom we grew up then, today I support them by offering them assistance to buy vehicles for their driving business,” he said.

Former Governor of Edo State, Sen. Adams Oshiomhole, criticized state governors who claimed they could not afford the 50% counterpart fund to access the UBE program.

He said, “Every Nigerian child must go to school. That is what the Universal Basic Education Program is all about, where the federal government subsidizes basic education by 50%.

“How come every governor can afford bullet-proof cars but can’t afford to subsidize education by 50% so that the children of the poor can go to school?

“We are only growing a society that will consume all of us tomorrow if we neglect the education of children. The bandits of today were the out-of-school children of yesterday.”

Deputy Senate President, Sen. Barau Jibrin, told the session that the “problem is more pronounced in Borno, Yobe, Kano, Kano and most of the states in the North are the ones facing this national calamity.”

He added, “Without educating children, we can only prepare them to become bandits and anything that’s negative.

“There are also issues with those who give birth to children but are doing nothing to cater for them. Parents of such children must shoulder their responsibilities.”

Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday passed the amended student’s loan bill, following an earlier request by President Bola Tinubu.

It was titled “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 and Enact the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Bill, 2024 to Establish the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) as a Body Corporate to Receive, Manage and Invest Funds to Provide Loans to Nigerians for Higher Education, Vocational Training and Skills Acquisition and for Related Matters.”

Changes introduced to the new bill include “the establishment of the NELFUND as a body corporate that can sue and be sued in its name and has the power to acquire, hold, and dispose of movable and immovable property for the purpose of its functions.

“This ensures that the Fund can legally enter contracts, including loan agreements and may also initiate action to ensure repayment by beneficiaries.

“It also empowers the Fund to provide loans to qualified Nigerians for tuition, fees, charges, and upkeep during their studies in approved tertiary education institutions and vocational and skills acquisition institutions in Nigeria.

“It empowers the Fund to build, operate, and maintain a diversified pool of funds to provide loans to qualified applicants and ensure access to higher education, vocational training, and skills acquisition.

“The board’s members are drawn from the relevant ministries, regulatory bodies, and participating agencies, including the Federal Ministries of Finance and Education, the FIRS, NIMC, NUC, NBTE, and NCCE, as well as representatives of universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education, students of tertiary institutions, and the organized private sector.

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“It also properly defines the resource structure of the Fund by, amongst other things, establishing the General Reserve Fund into which shall be paid 1% of all taxes, levies, and duties collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service and accruing to the benefit of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“It indicated that this is from which the Fund shall pay amounts payable as loans to qualified applicants for tuition, fees, charges, and upkeep, as well as the Fund’s operational expenses and such expenditures necessary to attaining the Fund’s objectives and functions.”

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