By Funmi Ogundare
The Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LSUBEB) has launched its Project Zero initiative, aimed at tackling the manace of out-of-school children and ensuring that every child of school age has access to free basic education.
The Chairman of the board, Mr. Wahab Alawiye-King, said a survey conducted by the basic and quality assurance; and social mobilisation departments of the state, discovered that 22,000 children have not returned to school as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the state has funding for only 16 per cent of the figure.
He said the Project Zero initiative will ensure that children who have dropped out of school due to socio-economic impact of COVID-19 would be traced, mobilised and supported through engaging critical stakeholders within the basic education space.
“Tweaking the age-long saying, quality education is the best gift anyone can give a child, and now, it is even not a gift anymore, it is every child’s right backed by national and international laws. However, despite the government’s efforts, several socio-economic factors still stand between our efforts and our desired result,” he said, adding that government is determined to increase enrolment and retention in public schools.
In his keynote address, the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said universal basic education is vital to achieving sustainable development in any society, adding that the fourth goal of quality education on the SDG is also in alignment with the objectives of the education and technology pillar of the administration’s THEMES agenda.
He regretted that the issue of out-of-school children has become a serious challenge that must attract the attention it deserves to ensure the realisation of the dream of a society where every child of school-age is found in the classroom and not on the streets as child hawkers or servants.
“Although this challenge predates the current pandemic, many evidence-based projections suggest that the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic may see more children out-of-school with its implication on social stability and cohesion,” Sanwo-Olu said, while calling on its partners in social development to intensify efforts and ensure that children are in school, irrespective of their socio-economic background.
He said the initiative will commence with the tracking and identification of children who have dropped out or with a high risk of dropping out of school and would be supported with necessary relief items, including school uniforms, school sandals, two pairs of socks and writing materials.
He thanked the donors for their contributions towards building a bright future for the children.
The Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo said the onus remains on stakeholders to support the state government on the initiative so that hoodlums will not be created from children who are unable to attend school because they lack the basic materials.
“The fact that a child does not have uniform to wear to school is worrisome. The future is in our hands and the future is here today. We need to equip them so that they can have access to quality education,” she said.
The Executive Director of Wema Bank, in charge of Lagos Business Directorate, Mr. Wole Ajimisimi said the bank is giving hope to almost 10,000 out-of-school children, adding, “we are giving them kits that will facilitate their going back to school. We are complementing the efforts of the government because the children are our future and we need to get them off the street and ensure that they get quality education.”