From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed is currently talking with States and other relevant stakeholders with a view to working out sustained means of financing the Safe School Programme.
To this end, she will be hosting a meeting tagged; ‘Financing Safe Schools: Creating safe learning communities on Tuesday’, with a view to deepening education and creating safe learning communities across the country.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, international projections estimated that children missing out on five months of education would collectively result in $10 trillion in lost future incomes.
The Minister noted that a number of critical issues need to be addressed in comprehensive strategies to facilitate sustained safe schools, safe education and a sustained future for Nigeria’s next generation.
Thus, the dialogue will bring together State Governors, the Nigerian Governors Forum, National Economic Council, members of parliament, National Security Adviser and Security Chiefs, Ministry of Education, multilateral institutions, donors, civil society and private sector representatives, including Nigerian Economic Summit group (NESG); to address the urgent issues which are stopping the safe education of children.
Among others, the dialogue aims to re-engage senior policy makers including State Governors, National Security Advisers, the Ministry of Education and others to take a stand, acknowledge the emergency and commit to taking actions to reverse the current trend in numbers of out of school children.
More so, the meeting demands that stakeholders, especially security agencies and human rights organisations, develop cross-sectoral strategies to implement the Safe Schools Declaration, including developing strategies with students and teachers to make it safe for children to return to school and build confidence in the education system.
She added that Nigeria currently faces a socio-economic crisis born out of an education crisis.
“As a result, history of poor education provision has been exacerbated by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, and conflict across the country has led to over 13 million children being out of school- the highest rate of out of school children in the world.
“Out of school children” are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and critically are ‘fundamentally ill-equipped’ to positively contribute productively to the economy.
Providing the basis for the gathering, she cites a wide range of understandings: “The World Bank has coined the term ‘learning poverty’, which measures quality and quantity of learning in developing countries. Recent studies show only 20 percent of children in the North East of Nigeria who complete primary school can read.”
“Education is critical to Nigeria’s future given almost 44 percent of Nigeria’s population are between the ages of 0-14. The World Bank estimates that COVID-19 may have increased learning poverty from 53 percent to 63 percent in countries like Nigeria. The impact of out of school children in Nigeria is a structural impediment to Nigeria achieving the SDGs.
“The impact of conflict on education is especially stark for girls with lower literacy rates across the country for females of 12 percent compared to males. Yet, reports on girls education predict that making sure girls complete secondary education could boost developing country gross domestic product (GDP) by 10 percent and a return of investment of $2.8 for every $1 invested in girls education.
According to her, the combination of multi-dimensional attacks (in the North Eastern region) and the on-COVID-19 crisis means an urgent multi-dimensional approach is needed.