From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has raised the alarm over the decision of some northern states to perpetually shut down schools due to insecurity saying it was inimical to the future socio-economic growth of the region.
Atiku who condemned the closure of schools as not a wise decision, demanded that the governors reverse the order and instead provide adequate security for school children to return to schools and pursue their studies in order to secure their future.
He stated this at the Baze University graduation ceremony held at the weekend in Abuja. He warned that not reversing the decision could make the north suffer more socioeconomic deprivation and insecurity in future.
“Unarguably, education is the foundation of any society. In our globalised and technological world, national wealth is more and more based on knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s education that makes them possible.
“For a country like Nigeria, education must be available to all. Societies are transformed when girls and women are educated. We see these all over the world. When women are educated, families are smaller and healthier, more children go to school, infant and child mortality is reduced, national economic growth increases and corruption is reduced. All these are achieved from education.”
The former vice president made reference to a report by the US Center for Disease Control that early childhood education is an important contributor to better health in children, and that provides a foundation for children’s academic success, health, and general well-being.
“It even acts as a protective factor against the future onset of adult disease and disability. Everyone in a society benefits from the widespread availability of a quality education, from infancy to adulthood. Well then, how does Nigeria fare at this challenging time? How does Nigeria measure up? How are we doing? Not very well, it seems.
“ It pains me to share this information with you. The most striking thing for which Nigeria has become known all over the world has been captured in a BBC headline ‘Nigeria’s Kidnapped children’. There are even whole websites now devoted to the latest kidnapping news in Nigeria.
“And what has been our response to this horrible situation? Some say we cannot protect these most vulnerable of our citizens. Our very own children. No, they say. We can’t protect them in Nigeria’s schools. So, we should just close the schools and send them all home. Who cares if they are educated or not? Just send them home.
“What would we do if our airports were threatened? What would we say to the airlines? Would we say that our airports are threatened, and so we are closing them, do not fly your planes to Nigeria. No! Of course not. If our ports were threatened, would we turn back the ships? Yet when schools are threatened, we don’t do everything in our power to defend them. Instead, we close them and send the children home. Here is the terrible truth: we are failing our youths in Nigeria, and it goes far beyond the kidnapping.”
He pointed to another UNESCO report that indicated that in Nigeria, there are more children out of school than in any other country in the world.
“We top the list. One out of every five children who are out of school in the entire world live right here in Nigeria. What kind of lives would they have as illiterates, our young people with no ability to read or to write, with no ability to add and subtract? What skills would they have to earn a living in the modern world? This is 2021, not 1821. What are we doing to prepare them for the world of computers and the Internet, all these illiterate little children?
“Nigeria does not have enough well-trained teachers. We do not have modern schools. In many places we have no schools at all. No desks, no books. Our children do not have access to the world’s knowledge that is right there at their fingertips on the Internet. Worse still, girls and women in Nigeria lag even behind in education, behind in health, in political participation, and in the labour force. Currently, the male illiteracy rate in Nigeria is 29 per cent, female illiteracy is 48 per cent. Both of these figures are alarming. And all of these challenges are doubling every 21 years.
“What do I mean by that? Nigeria has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Our total population is doubling every 21 years. In 21 years, there will be twice as many Nigerians as there are today.”