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Buhari inaugurates alternate programme committee, targets 13m out-of-school children

By Idowu Abdullahi,

President Muhammadu Buhari has 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 13 million out-of-school children in the country.

He explained that the need to ensure the drastic reduction in out-of-school children across the country necessitated the national plan that would guarantee the return of the estimated 13 million back to classrooms in Nigeria.

Inaugurating the 18-member Presidential Steering Committee on Alternate School Programme (ASP) co-chaired by the Ministers of Humanitarian Affairs and Education in Abuja on Tuesday, the president said that it was unacceptable to see children abandoning formal school to engage in menial jobs and child labour in the markets, streets, and workshops.

Buhari said that the National Plan to be deployed by the apex government, through the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry, would ensure holistic and comprehensive inclusiveness of appropriate basic education for vulnerable children.

According to him, 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.

Continuing, he said, ‘‘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.’’

Buhari noted that the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry had identified the critical need to further address literacy inclusiveness, especially among these vulnerable children in view of several reports on the disturbing level of out of school children estimated at 13 million

‘‘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 federal government’s commitment to deal with key challenges of absolute poverty and propel Nigeria and Nigerians to a better way of life and development.

In her remarks, Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, said that 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.”

‘‘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,” she added.

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.

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