Written by Godfrey AKON

Northern leaders demand action on 13.2m out-of-school children

Traditional and religious leaders from northern Nigeria have demanded immediate action to tackle the rising number of out-of-school children in the country.

The leaders made the request in Kaduna at the Northern Nigeria Traditional Rulers Conference on Out-of-school Children jointly organized by the Nigerian Government and the Sultanate Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

Speaking at the event, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar, who chaired the occasion, said the out-of-school of syndrome runs contrary to the social norms and values of the northern region.

While stressing that the region must come together and act decisively to end the challenge, the Sultan called for a change of attitude and behavior towards the development, according to a statement by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC.

He called on parents and other stakeholders to understand the fact that the blessings of God come with a huge responsibility, and that everyone must act decisively towards providing children with quality education.

The royal father reminded participants that successive generations of northern traditional leaders had laid a strong culture and foundation for the thriving of education and sustenance of intellectual legacies.

“Northern traditional leaders have always been at the forefront of the development of Nigeria's educational development,” he said.

Abubakar expressed concern over the country's low investment in education, stating that educational investments have fallen far below expectation and cannot take the country to the level she ought to be.

He expressed readiness and noted that the traditional rulers will gladly implement decisions taken at the 2-day meeting, together with political leaders, adding that at the end of the meeting the traditional rulers will sign a document commuting themselves to implementing the decisions taken.

The UNICEF Country Representative, Nigeria, represented by the Deputy Country Representative, Ms Pernille Ironside, expressed concern over the slow progress in achieving EFA and recently the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.

Ironside hinted that 69 per cent of the out-of-school population in Nigeria are in the Northern States with Bauchi leading the pack with 1.1 million children out of school.

Citing gender issues as one of the critical issues the representative noted that more than half of girls are not in school in the Northern region.

She expressed UNICEF's readiness to build and sustain strong partnerships with the traditional institution in this regard.

The UNICEF official noted that if traditional leaders take the right steps it will lead to real change, ensuring that every Nigerian child is in school and learning in order to reach their potentials and the full potential of Nigeria.

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