For two days, school owners under the umbrella of Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), experts and government agencies gathered in Lagos to find solutions to several issues confronting the nation’s education system.
The event tagged The African Education Conference with the theme: ‘’The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Education Target ‘’Facts and Fictions’’ held at the University of Lagos, Main Auditorium focused on issues that required government, school owners and parents attention.
The AFED members for two days drunk from the fountain of knowledge of experts such as Prof James Tooley (patron International AFED) from University of Buckingham, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo, Director General,Lagos State Quality Assurance, Agatha Wilan, CEO of WhyBlueSky, Poland, Femi Falana, Constitutional lawyer and human rights activists and representative of Executive Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
In his remarks, AFED President, Mr. Emmanuel Orji, said the association is committed to providing education for all, stating ‘’the number of out-of-school children is alarming and that every concerned stakeholders must be involved.’’
According to him, AFED convoked the African education conference to X-ray the avalanche of problems as currently experienced in the country and argued that if the issues are not addressed, the nation might be heading for a collapse.
Orji called for collaboration between AFED members and government to address the out-of-children issue and disclosed that in the next three years, the association will focus on deepening its presence in the North to actualising the vision in the policy document of the UN on SDG4.
The AFED boss revealed that the association will soon start postgraduate certificate programme with a university in UK and will also collaborate with UNILAG Faculty of Education for a four-year degree programme for teachers.
In her presentation, the Director General, Lagos State Quality Assurance, Mrs. Soyombo urged stakeholders to join hands with the state government to restore the lost glory of education.
Soyombo disclosed that one in every five in the world’s out-of-school children is a Nigeria kid, noting, ‘’even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
‘’In the North of the country, the picture is even bleaker, with a net attendance rate of 53 percent. Getting out-of-school children back into schools poses a massive challenge.’’
The DG said the Sanwo-Olu administration is interested in improving the quality of education in the state and sought the support of AFED members to support the education policies of the governor, which is targeted at empowering the children.
She urged AFED members to ensure that their schools are secured and saved for teaching and learning, warning ‘’schools must be saved. Let have children protection safety in schools. Schools are venerable these days. In the last two years, we have been dealing with a lot with problems surrounding safety.’’
The DG recalled that in 2017, 6The Executive Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr, Ganiyu Sopeyin emphasised on inclusive education and urged teachers to give equal opportunities for pupils to participate in learning environment.
Sopeyin, who was represented by the Director of Special Duties, Mrs. Olatunde Eniola, said it is the responsibility of everybody to make schools conducive for learning and urged teachers to update themselves on the latest teaching methods.
In his contributions, Prof Tooley gave two reasons why many children are not in school, firstly, the lack of money (poverty) by parents to send their wards to school and secondly, the schools are not in good condition, thus the pupils roam about in the street.
He admitted that AFED is a frontrunner in low cost schools in Nigeria, adding ‘’they are helping government to provide equal opportunity for quality education. The importance of the conference is reflected on the over 1,000 participants representing many schools.
The Professor of Educational Entrepreneurship and Policy at University of Buckingham said in Nigeria, politics and education go together and acknowledged that AFED is a frontrunner in low cost schools.
‘’There are many reasons Nigeria have the highest number of out-of-school children, poverty and lack of money by parents to send their kids to schools and also lack of conducive environment in some schools, forcing pupils into the streets.’’
Tooley recalled that in 2009, the Fashola administration in Lagos State embraced low cost schools. He also stated that in 2012, many state governments were not friendly with private schools, noting ‘’some state governments are not aware of low cost schools.
‘’I hear from school owners that some state governors want to close down their schools and that private schools are not treated well. There are about 70 per cent low cost private schools in Lagos.’’
On the 10.5million out-of-school children, Prof Tooley fault the claim by government officials, stressing ‘’when I came to Lagos 17 years ago, every one said there were large number of school drop out. I went to rural areas but couldn’t find any school.
‘’I found some in low cost private schools not registered. I have travelled to the North and East, it appears to me the out-of-school children are in low cost unregistered private schools. I intend to do a research on this,’’ he explained.
Some AFED members acknowledged that the two-day conference has enriched them on some issues such as out-of-school children, security, safety in schools, managing staff to achieve results, how to relate with state officials from the ministries of education, operating under a conducive environment and that pledged to implement some of the resolutions reached.