Policy tinkering as experts mull basic, inclusive education system

Education Minister, Adamu Adamu

In a bid to reposition the country’s educational sector, the National Council on Education held its 62nd meeting in the ancient city of Kano. Participants at the summit of the highest policy-making body in education in Nigeria comprises commissioners for education of 36 states and the FCT secretary for education, permanent secretaries from federal ministry of education and state ministries of education.

With Inclusive Education through Creation of Quality Learning Opportunities for All as theme, the summit also attracted, as participants, directors and chief executives of parastatals under ministry of education and principals of the federal unity colleges.

The forum facilitated engagement of a wide range of issues and exchange of ideas with a view to remove the perceived barrier posed by the current policy framework described as “exclusive education system” and review the implication of education to continue to be on concurrent legislative list.

Salamanca World Conference on special needs of education considered Inclusive Education as that which seeks to address the learning needs of all children, the youth and adults with specific focus to those who are vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion.

The framework for Action Plan of the conference held in Spain in 1994 underscored that “schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotion, linguistic or other conditions.” Such basic opportunity for the younger generation to acquire and build their future is conspicuously lacking.

According to statistics released recently by Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Adamu Hussaini, of the 20million out-of-school children globally, Nigeria bears the large portion of 10.5million.

Adamu emphasized that the children worse affected by the exclusive education in the country include the nomadic pastoralists, boy-child drops-out, social miscreants (area boys), children of migrant fishermen and farmers as well as children living with disability.

Speaking on Federal Government plans to mitigate the situation of exclusive education at the ministerial session of 62nd NCE conference in Kano, the Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu mentioned the approval by the Federal Executive Council of the Ministerial Strategic Plan, an agenda set for implementation between 2016-2019.

The minister frowned at what he considered negligence of state governments, taking the advantage of Universal Basic Education (UBE) intervention to enhance quality basic education in their states.

Adamu said “ The Federal Ministry of Education has come up with effective strategies as explained in the ‘Education for Change – A ministerial Strategic Plan 2016-2019’, to address the problem ofout-of-school children, girl-child education and boy-child drop out in the next four years.

“The strategies include: using of targeted funding such as the UBE fund to deliberately address the factors of exclusion of all children, including those with special needs; fine-tuning federal and donor-driven policies and interventions; strengthening federal and state linkages and partnerships; and effectively implementing and monitoring policies in the states.”

The UBE Act 2004, the minister said, makes provision for 2 percent of the consolidated revenue fund for basic education comprising of ECCE, primary and junior secondary education. He attributed the “poor implementation” of the policy to failure by state governments “to access UBE funds,” noting further that, “according to UBEC disbursement of matching grant report as at 30th June, 2017, less than half the total number of states and FCT have accessed the 2016 UBE matching grant while 12 states are yet to access the fund for 2015.

It is therefore a national imperative that council at this policy forum finds out: what could be responsible for state complacency, whether or not education no longer a priority for the state and whether removal of education from the concurrent legislative list will ensure quality of education delivery for all the states.”

While calling on state governments to rise up to their responsibilities and partner with federal government to provide quality inclusive education to younger Nigerians, the minister wondered about the complaint of underfunding of education when UBE funds are not accessed by the states.

Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Gozie Anwukah on his part advocated overhaul of education curriculum to accommodate effectiveness and global competitiveness.

A compelling highlight of the summit was the platform it created for the Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje-led administration to showcase its breakthroughs in the Kano State educational sector in the last two years.

Reference was made on how children enrollment in primary has significantly improved under the watchful eyes of the State Deputy Governor Prof. Hafizu Abubakar who also doubled as Commissioner for Education.

According to him, the feat was recorded due to significant budgetary allocation to education noting that out of 2017 budget of #273.9billion, education got a princely sum of #50.1billion amounting to 23.1 per cent, the highest allocation to education in recent years.

He asserted that the high turn of out of school children is almost equivalent to those in school, adding the trend was not unconnected to Kano’s enviable population growth.

Underscoring the challenges of accommodating pupils from neighboring states of Katsina, Jigawa, Zamfara and Kaduna states, he noted: “Kano State government is committed to providing high quality and functional education for lifelong learning and self-reliance. The state has developed a Draft Policy Document on inclusive education which is gradually creating the enabling environment that ensure every child has access to education that gives equal opportunities to interact, benefit and improve individual abilities, irrespective of disability, ethnic origin, gender and economic condition.”

According to the deputy governor, “The policy on inclusive education compliments all other existing states policies. By this policy, government is proactive in identifying barriers and obstacles, learners encounter in accessing opportunities for quality education that lead to exclusion.” He, however, canvassed for more funding for Kano to enable the state government meet the increasing demand.

For millions of children roaming around the Internally Displaced People Camps in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in Northeast Nigeria, attending the basic primary school could not be anything more than fragment of imagination. They have lost either and or, both of their parents the same way they loss possession of their ancestral home to the ravaging deadly Boko haram insurgency.

And for the failure of some parents who abandoned their primary responsibility of training and building sustainable future for their offspring, the implication is in multiplier effect.

This is reflected in the millions of almajirs scattered around major cities in the north simply searching for means of livelihood even at tender age of five. United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said four million almajiri children rove the country. These innocent children without fault of their own, regrettably populate large chunk of out of school children in Nigeria.

No thanks to the ugly hands of poverty, illiteracy, traditional sentiment and perhaps, failure of concern authorities to provide enabling environment and policy framework that could engender inclusiveness of the less privilege on basic social needs, education exclusion soar progressively in Nigeria.

The Universal Declaration of Human Right in 1948, stipulated that “governments and institutions are expected to respect and protect the right to education of all children, youths and adults by ensuring that all barriers to education are removed.

“The charter further declared that no child should be discriminated against when in school because of disability, socio-economic status, language, religious and ethnic affiliations, gender and other differences.”

In fact, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 nails the issue on the head with its cardinal thrust of ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunity for all.”

Will Nigeria meet this goal as well as other targets encapsulated in the SDGs, more so when the country is fully committed to the implementation of the SDG 2030 agenda?
The handling of resolutions endorsed by stakeholders at forums such as National Council on Education will provide answer to this poser.

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