During Tuesday’s plenary, the House gave its Committee on Education one month to investigate the number, with a view to getting the actual figure before taking a decision on it.
A member of the House, Beni Lar, raised the issue, emphasising that “education is a basic right of all children” and that having such a number of children uneducated is an indictment on the political leadership of Nigeria.
The proposal for the investigation is coming a day after Pakistani girl-child education activist, Malala Yousafsai, questioned the Federal Government’s strategies on education and sought to know why it was yet to achieve significant success in tackling the challenge of access to education and enrolment of the 10.5 million out-of-school children.
Increasing attacks on schools by a terrorist group, Boko Haram, kicking against western education, is believed to have contributed to the increase in the number. Many young ones especially in Nigeria’s northeast have become afraid of going to school after over 200 girls were abducted from their dormitory in the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State on April 14.
Safe Schools Initiative
To check the trend, take away fear from the minds of these young ones and encourage them to go to school, a ‘Safe Schools Initiative’ was launched in Nigeria during the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital in May.
The UN envoy on children and a former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and some private sector companies are championing the initiative which the Nigerian government had provided a start-off fund of 3.2 billion Naira. Half of the amount came from the private sector.
After a meeting held on June 17 on the initiative between President Goodluck Jonathan, former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and governors from the three least educationally developed states, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told reporters that the fund would help ensure that children in schools in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States got educated in a safe environment.
Explaining the initiative and the fund to journalists, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said Mr Brown was expected to also assist in raising some funds in addition to the benchmark set for the programme.
She said that a total of 100 million dollars was the targeted amount needed as take-off grant for the Safe School Initiative programme by the Federal Government and the international community for Nigerian schools.
The initiative will ensure that schools in the volatile northeast, where the Boko Haram has carried out series of attacks, are safe for learning.
On July 9, President Jonathan inaugurated the steering committee for the Safe Schools Initiative, pledging the resolve of his administration to tackle insurgency headlong.
In his speech at the inauguration, the president said Nigeria was passing through stress orchestrated by the violence being perpetrated by members of the Boko Haram sect and that security operatives were doing everything possible to get rid of it while the Federal Government will approach the solution holistically.
The international community had pledged to assist the Federal Government to go beyond just the rescue of the abducted Chibok Girls to security of schools mostly in the north.
The committee, which is co-chaired by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and a former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, also has Aliko Dangote, Nduka Obaigbena and governors of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States among others as members.