Obasanjo: With 20m Out-of-School Children, Nigeria Preparing for More Boko Haram Insurgency

•Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Opiah, ex-VCs seek reform, more funding for education sector

•Obaseki links rising youth unemployment to nation’s faulty educational system

Udora Orizu and Juliet Akoje in Abuja

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday warned that if Nigeria does not address the 20 million out-of-school children which constitutes about 10 per cent of her population, the country would be preparing for more Boko Haram insurgency in the future.

This was just as Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, yesterday also attributed the high rate of youth unemployment in the country to its faulty educational policy and system.

Obasanjo gave the warning when he spoke as a special guest panelist at the National Summit on tertiary education organised by the House of Representatives in Abuja.

He said there was need for holistic development of the education sector in Nigeria, beginning from primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

He noted that uneducated citizens cannot contribute to the progress of the nation.

The former President stressed that education was not the responsibility of government alone, but all members of the society, including parents, religious leaders, communities, corporate organisations.

He said, “Tertiary education is very important. But our education has left 20 million of our children out-of-school and those 20 million have no access to education.

“They cannot be effectively part of nation-building because they have not had the opportunity to develop their innate capacity to the extent that they can be useful to themselves, to their families and to their community let alone their nation, let alone Africa.

“Those 20 million children that are out-of-school, we can get them back to school. If we do not get them back to school, we are preparing for Boko Haram of tomorrow. It will happen as sure as daylight.

“Who is looking at our population ahead of time, five years from now and 10 years from now, and what can we do about it? And apart from food which is very important, who are the people thinking about that and working forward on that.

“After food and after health, the next important aspect of our life is education. Now if this is the position and these are rights that we must have, what do we do? If we continue the way we are going, by the year 2030, 2040, 2050, what our population would be?

“Tertiary education requires attention, but also primary and secondary education. I believe to a large extent that, that is our problem. Education is not the responsibility of government alone. It is responsibility of all. What of parents, religious leaders, community? They all have responsibility towards the education of the child.

“I believe the starting point is this. Any Nigerian should never be deprived of education for lack of means.”

In their separate submissions, former Vice Chancellors of University of Lagos, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in Abia, and Federal University of Technology, Minna, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, Hillary Edeoga and Hamman Sa’ad, called for collective funding of the tertiary education in Nigeria through partnerships and corporate social responsibility.

Ogundipe in particular opined that the community, religious institutions, companies and other corporate bodies could go beyond awards of scholarships to some students to funding specific projects in tertiary institutions.

He said: “Like the former president said, it is not only the government that should be involved in the funding of tertiary education and the lower level of education in Nigeria.

“The community will need to be involved, the Mosques, the Churches, the leaders we have to be involved and also the companies that we have in Nigeria we need to involved.

“It is not only in the issue of awarding scholarship to some of the students that matters, there is need for them to invest in tertiary education in Nigeria by funding specific projects in Nigerian universities, polytechnics and monotechnics.”

In his remarks, Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Opiah, said funding of tertiary education was undoubtedly, the underlined reason for the decline in the sector, stating that it was ideal that stakeholders begun to seek effective and sustainable funding mechanisms for tertiary education.

Opiah said even though the Tertiary Education Trust Fund had released over N2.3 trillion to the various institutions to create more infrastructure, support research and improve documentation, with increasing population there was no much impact.

“Several attempts to reform the funding structure by TEFUND (released) over N2.3 trillion to the various institutions to create more infrastructure, support research and improve documentation.

“However, the increasing population with its associated increased demands for tertiary education has made it difficult to satisfy the various demands for funding by government. Funding of tertiary education is undoubtedly, the underlined reason for their decline,” the minister said

In his welcome address, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the National Summit on Tertiary Education Reform (NSTER) was the manifestation of their commitment in the 9th House of Representatives to engender a national conversation to consider bold ideas and radical innovations to restructure and reform public tertiary education in Nigeria. 

Gbajabiamila said, “This summit aims to provide an opportunity for all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria to present those ideas for consideration, examination, debate and, eventually, action.

“As part of this summit, we published a call for papers requesting scholars, tertiary education administrators, and local and international stakeholders to make submissions on the theme of the summit, “Reimagining Tertiary Education in Nigeria: Issues, Challenges and Solutions” and other designated sub-themes. By this morning, we have received over a thousand such submissions, including from outside the country.”

On his part, the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan represented by Senate Leader, Ibrahim Gobir lamented that the state of the tertiary education had often been in focus, because of the many challenges before them, especially the dearth of facilities and utilities, which are incidentally key requirements for the smooth functioning of the academia.

While making reference to the industrial actions by education sector-related unions, which he said additionally points to the inadequacies in the sector, the Senate President said this meant they were being challenged to up the ante in the process of finding solutions to the myriad of issues, frequently leading to disagreements.

Obaseki Links Rising Youth Unemployment to Nation’s Faulty Educational System

Meanwhile, Obaseki, has attributed the high rate of youth unemployment in the country to its faulty educational policy and system.

Obaseki said this when he received Air Commodore Chidebere Obinna Obiabaka, who led Nigeria study tour participants from Armed Forces Command and Staff College, on a courtesy visit, to the Government House, in Benin City.

The team is one of the eight teams currently on tour of selected states of the federation as part of this year’s Nigeria Armed Forces Command and Staff College Environmental Study Tour for Students of Senior Course 45.

Obaseki said human capacity development especially in the educational sector was key for growth and development, noting that his administration is resetting the state’s educational system starting from the foundation.

He noted that, “to check the growing tide of unemployment in the nation, my administration redirected its priority and investment to create hope for the future of our youths and education was the platform we utilised.”

The governor continued: “Our biggest problem today in Nigeria is that people are not trained for production and that is the fundamental problem. Youth unemployment has been created by a faulty educational policy and educational system. Until we fix that, we will not go far.

“In 2016, the state had a major crisis of human trafficking and irregular migration. At that time, we had over 30,000 young men and women in Libya trying to cross to Europe. But as an administration, we embarked on several programmes, including resetting the educational sector to correct this trend in the state. We have very inspirational youths as a nation who are very ambitious and doing everything to travel out of this country, taking all kinds of risks to leave the nation.

“You can’t talk about development and growth without developing the human capacity, which must be on a long term investment basis as you don’t get the benefits immediately.”

He added, “Our priority to address the huge numbers of unemployed youths was to properly fix education at the foundation, that is, at the basic level. Our focus was to retool our education system and invest in our teachers through training. We trained over 15,000 teachers using technology and we gave them tablets to teach and motivate our pupils. The most important thing we have done and will continue to do is resetting the educational system.”

Earlier, leader of delegation Air Commodore Obiabaka, stated, “When I come into the state, there are new developments. You are a man of vision and resilience. You have shown good governance; development and growth has become the order of the day.

“I am overwhelmed by your development style and will continue to visit the state and enjoy the hospitality, peace and calm nature of the state.”

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