Stakeholders, including government at all levels, security agencies and the National Assembly, among others, will tomorrow discuss on how to fashion out strategies to finance safe schools nationwide.
The new move is propelled by the recent abduction of students in some schools in the North-west, North-east and North-central geo-political zones.
The Safe School Initiative was launched in 2014 following the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State.
In a statement yesterday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said the federal government is looking to impact education and create a safe learning communities across the country, following a high-level dialogue and well-thought-out gathering titled “Financing Safe Schools: Creating Safe Learning Communities.”
Ahmed, who is to host the event billed for tomorrow in Abuja, said the federal government alongside other stakeholders, wished to redouble efforts to achieve a safe school environment so that Nigeria’s next generation could flourish and contribute to productive economies and societies.
Providing the basis for the dialogue, she cited cases, saying that out-of-school children are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and critically are ‘fundamentally ill-equipped’ to positively contribute productively to the economy.
According to her, “The World Bank has coined the term ‘learning poverty,’ which measures quality and quantity of learning in developing countries. Recent studies show only 20 per cent of children in the North-east of Nigeria who complete primary school can read.
“Education is critical to Nigeria’s future given almost 44 per cent of Nigeria’s population is between the ages of 0-14. The World Bank estimates that COVID-19 may have increased learning poverty from 53 per cent to 63 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent and a return on investment of $2.8 for every $1 invested in girls education.”
The minister said the combination of multi-dimensional attacks (in the North-eastern region) and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis means an urgent multi-dimensional approach is needed, adding that some critical issues needed to be addressed in comprehensive strategies to facilitate sustained safe schools and safe education.
Ahmed said: “A reimagined/revitalised sustainable strategy to finance and support safe schools will aim to increase enrolment in schools and make school environments safer.”
This, she stated, will be done through “taking a multi-sectoral approach to developing and implementing the strategy, engaging key stakeholders across all Nigerian states, national and multilateral donors and the private sector to garner firm commitments, foster champions and develop accountability frameworks to embed drivers for sustained change to push momentum forward.”
The dialogue will bring together state governors, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), National Economic Council, (NEC), members of the National Assembly, national security adviser and security chiefs and the Ministry of Education.
Others are multilateral institutions, donors, civil society and private sector representatives, including the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), to “address the urgent issues which are stopping the safe education of children- our next generation.”
The minister in the statement by her Special Adviser, Media and Communications, Mr. Yunusa Abdullahi, the dialogue, among others, aimed at achieving re-engaging senior policymakers, including state governors, national security adviser, the Ministry of Education and others to take a stand, acknowledge the emergency and commit to taking action to reverse the current trend in numbers of out-of-school children.
Stakeholders, especially security agencies and human rights organisations, she added, are to 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.
The outcomes of the dialogue will be summarised in a paper with a cross-sectoral working group formed to make recommendations and actions forward.
Explaining why the finance minister decided to host the dialogue, the statement said: “She has decided on this in that at the start 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.
“If trends continue, the worst-case scenario predicted is that half of all young people will not have the skills necessary for entry-level employment reducing country workforces and moving the countries back into poverty.
“Nigeria is facing a socio-economic crisis borne out of an education crisis. As a result, a history of poor education provision has been exacerbated by the ongoing 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.”