The increasing number of out-of-school children in the country will continue to be a burden and a source of insecurity to Nigeria, the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, explained on Tuesday.
He raised a point of order during plenary where he said Nigerian children are not being given the kind of treatment they deserve.
According to him, education is compulsory for every Nigerian child and the government must do its best to see that this is accomplished.
A study by UNICEF shows that Nigeria has an estimated 13.2 million out-of-school children, the highest in the world. About 69 per cent of the country’s out-of-school children are in the northern part of Nigeria.
Statistics from the study also showed that about 13 per cent of these children are in the FCT.
Of the 13.2 million children, 60 per cent of them are girls, many of who enroll in school but drop out along the line.
Newsmen reported the high number of out-of-school children in some communities in the Federal Capital Territory.
Speaking at the plenary, Mr Lawan urged his colleagues as well as the federal government to “address the problem of children going to school.”
“We have the challenge of giving our children the kind of treatment that they deserve. Today we have over 14 million children out of school and 42 per cent of our population is between 0-17 years. And with the kind of treatment that we give to our children, this population will continue to be a burden and a source of insecurity to us.
“The major source of insecurity is the neglected section of our society particularly children out of school. Our children of ages 14-18 have been found to be involved in insurgency and all manners of criminal activities including drug abuse.
“Mr President, we legislated on the health sector by giving one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and today we are celebrating resources to develop our health sector.
“I believe that the time has also come to give something significant to basic education and that captures right from kindergarten to junior secondary school education,” he said.
The lawmaker referred to the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) Act 2014 which provides for compulsory, free universal basic education for all children of primary and junior secondary school age in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said it is time “to walk the talk in the UBEC Act”. He urged the next assembly to commit itself to ensuring that the basic education “that is supposed to be free, is implemented to the latter.”
“The time has come for us in those states where the Almajiri system has been established for years, to consider and see how we can work out a system that will make the Almajiri system does not continue in the way that it is today.
“We must be able to provide a conducive learning environment for them,” he added.
In his remark, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said Nigeria celebrated Children’s Day in a society “where a large percentage of her children are still out of school”.
He said the government is responsible for, not only ensuring that children are in school, but also to make it mandatory for parents to let kids go to school.
“We have passed some bills to improve the funds for UBEC to reduce the percentage of contribution by states so that it is possible to access funds from UBEC.
“A lot of work has to be done with the new governors coming, no matter what we do or say at the national level. We owe it a duty that in this area, there is a great improvement because unless we address the issues in the education sector, we would not prepare our children for the challenges ahead of them in the world.
“Education is the greatest asset of any nation and that of our children. As we celebrate, we should remember our responsibilities as representatives of the people. We would do our best to make the future better for our children,” he said.