International education of day and number of out-of-school children

Uji Abdullahi Iliyasu examines the significance of celebrating International Day of Education and reports that Nigeria should use the day to as a means to reduce the embarrassing number of out-of-school children in the country.

International Day of Education

On December 3, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to observe January 24 every year as the International Day of Education, commencing from 2019.

This is to celebrate the role of education in familial and national developments. The decision was taken during Global Education Meet held at Brussels in Belgium in December 2018.

The need to observe International Day of Education was sponsored by Nigeria’s permanent mission in the United Nations.

The day is so significant to African countries that it couldn’t be sponsored in the United Nations by any other nation than Nigeria because its large population and the embarrassing figure of out-of-school children in the country.

We are all aware of the vital role education plays in helping a nation to achieve its growth and development vision. Most visionary leaders use education as a vehicle of national development for their countries.

Local example of a visionary leader who gave free education to his compatriots was the lateChief Obafemi Awolowo in the old western region. Today the most educated Nigerian citizens are found in the South-west of Nigeria due to Awolowo’s  legacy.

The United Nations declaration of International Day of Education is a commendable demonstration of world’s political leaders towards providing quality education to all and achieving sustainable development goals by 2030. It also reiterates the importance of education as a vehicle for societal transformation.

The first ever International Day of Education was celebrated worldwide on January 24, 2019. The day was marked with a focus on improving the quality of education. Various organisations marked the day worldwide by promoting education as the fundamental right of youths, especially  the girl-child.

This is why United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the support and cooperation of all UN member countries to underscore the importance of education. UNESCO also marked the day by organisng an event named “Maiden Celebration of International Day of Education” which held at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York, USA.

The Benefits

International Day of Education is a manifestation of world’s political leaders’ will to improve the standards of education and their resolution towards eradicating illiteracy, reports say.  It also reiterates the importance of education for the world’s social and economical development. The observance is expected to improve the quality of education and protects the rights of the student community.

Globally, nations will reach out to the masses stressing on the importance of education and also the role that it plays in achieving the goal of sustainable development by 2030.

We are aware that education plays very important role in eradication of poverty, illiteracy and providing livelihood through employment, developing skills, improving health and sanitation, economical and social development, high living standards, better hygiene and reduced crime rates, experts said. Education is the cure for many social ills, and leads to the attainment of UN’s sustainable development goals by 2030, reports  said.

The celebration

The resolution calls upon countries, the UN member states, social activists, civil societies, education institutes, private sectors, volunteers and professionals to observe the International Day of Education in their respective capacities.

Promoting education, raising the standards of education and ensuring education for all are some of the vital points to be acted upon.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) will play a vital role, being the United Nation’s education organ.

The observance of International Day of Education stresses the need to adapt to modernised academic programmes as the world has become a globe and interdependent.

The International Day of Education will not only stress on cognitive education, but also on skills acquisition, raising individual productivity and employability.

India’s example

According to reports, despite being the world’s fastest growing economy, India still has a huge illiterate population, 287m or 37 per cent of the world’s total. It is very important for the Indian government to coordinate with the international community, to improve the state and quality of education.

Although before now, India has been celebrating its national education day on November 11,each year on the birth anniversary of its first education minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, it has remained largely a commemoration event.

By joining hands with the UN and international community on the observance of the International Day of Education, India will open new venues for education and skill development, leading to financial as well as social development of the country.

An opportunity for Nigeria

Nigeria could tap on the opportunity of inviting more funds from international community or the United Nations to use in its educational programmes and reduce the increasing number of out-of-school children, especially in the North.

FG’s promise

One of the gladdening effects of the Education Day’s celebration was the federal government’s promise to rebuild schools affected by insurgency in the Northeast .

Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu, at the first International Day of Education made the promise in Abuja.

The theme of the celebration is, “Education: A Key Driver for Inclusion and Empowerment.’’

Mallam Adamu who was represented by the director, Education Planning and Research Development in the ministry, Mrs Christy Ogbede, said that no country could thrive in an atmosphere of violence and insecurity.

“It will please you to note that the federal ministry of education is taking proactive steps to ensure that all basic education schools in states affected by insurgency are rehabilitated or rebuilt.

“The federal ministry of education is making every effort to promote inclusive education and uphold the SDGs slogan of  ‘Leave No One Behind’ by ensuring that every child of school age has unrestricted access to basic education,’’

Since the outset of insurgency in the North-east, education has been under attack, resulting in killing of pupils, teachers and destruction of education facilities, Adamu said.

Over 2,295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 displaced in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the last nine years.

“An estimated 1,500 schools have been destroyed since 2014, with over 1,280 casualties among children, teachers and schools are in the forefront of the conflict.’’

Similarly, Director-General of UNESCO Ms Audrey Azoulay,  called on stakeholders to partner to make education a leading priority.

The message which was read by Regional Adviser for UNESCO, Mr Abdullahi Salifu,said the world was still far from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4.

“Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.

“This day is the occasion to reaffirm fundamental principles. Firstly, education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility.

“Secondly, education is the most powerful force in the hands to ensure significant improvements in health, to stimulate economic growth and unlock potential and innovation to build resilient and sustainable societies.’’

She, therefore, called for an urgent need to strengthen national resources and international aid, saying that not investing in education would lead to deepening divisions, inequalities and exclusion within societies.

13.2 million out-of-school

Former President Goodluck Jonathan once said that his administration built 165 Almajiriintegrated model schools in northern part of the country to tackle the high rate of illiteracy in the region.

Like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Jonathan reminded the nation of  the noble role that sound and quality education delivery plays in transforming a nation from one of mass illiteracy and ignorance to that of a technologically advanced industrial society.

It is most disheartening to note the claim made by the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission, Dr Hammid Bobboyi, that the population of Nigeria’s out-of-school children has increased from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, again the highest in the world.

This embarrassing figure, he said, is traceable to the number of helpless children that have been put out of school by the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-eastern part of Nigeria, but UNICEF said the reason why more children were out of school in the North is “rooted in socio-cultural and economic environment barriers, cost of education, poverty and negative perceptions to formal education.”

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