Bill to establish commission for Almajiri, out-of-school children passes 2nd reading

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Bill to establish commission for Almajiri, out-of-school children passes 2nd reading

A bill for an Act to establish the National Commission for Almajiri Education and Out-Of-School Children has passed a second reading in the House of Representatives.

The bill which seeks to provide for a multimodal system of education to tackle the menace of illiteracy, develop skill acquisition and entrepreneurship programmes, prevent youth poverty, delinquency and destitution in Nigeria is sponsored by Hon. Shehu Balarebe Kakale and 18 others.

In the lead debate of the bill, which was debated by members, Kakale said Nigeria is among many other countries that are confronted with the phenomenon of out-of-school children.

“Mr Speaker, as of September 2022, out-of-school children in Nigeria were estimated to be 18.5 million by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). However, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) estimated the same to be 13.2 million.

“The statistics appear even grimmer, judging from the rough estimate of out-of-school children per state in the country. Mr Speaker and my honourable colleagues, the digest of basic education statistics by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) revealed that ten (10) out of Nigeria’s thirty-six (36) states were homes to more than half of Nigeria’s out-of-school children, as at 2018. The 10 states at the top of the chart had about 5.2 million of the country’s approximately 10.2 million out-of-school children at that time.

“In no particular order, Kano State had the most with 989,234, while Akwa-Ibom (581,800), Katsina (536,122) and Kaduna (524,670) followed closely. Taraba (499,923), Sokoto (436,570), Yobe (427,230), Zamfara (422,214) and Bauchi (354,373) were other states that ranked high on the list. States with the lowest numbers of out-of-school children were Cross River with 97,919, Abia with 91, 548, Kwara with 84,247, Enugu with 82,051, Bayelsa with 53,079, FCT with 52,972 and Ekiti with 50,945.

“Mr Speaker, several challenges are associated with the high number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. All out-of-school children in Nigeria are at risk of exploitation, vulnerable to recruitment by insurgents, human traffickers and by other criminal elements in society. In fact, in your address to Members of the House of Representatives in this hallowed chamber on 28th January 2020, Mr Speaker, you were very vivid on the rising number of out-of-school children and the danger it portends for the Nigerian state.

“Mr Speaker, you drew attention to the ubiquity of out-of-school children in Nigeria. In your words, ‘Everywhere you go in the big cities of Nigeria, we now have on our streets…children begging for alms from sun up till past dusk’. Mr Speaker, your speech was indeed a warning to all legislators to work hard to give those children a future of prosperity and progress and not to condemn them to a future of deprivation.

“Mr Speaker, it was in recognition of the enormity of this situation that you urged members of the House of Representatives to do something to save the millions of out-of-school children with a special focus on the fate of Almajiri children in Nigeria.

“It is in light of the need to address this menace that this bill is proposed to the House for consideration. Its intendment is basically to establish the National Commission for Almajiri Education and Out of School Children to provide for a multi-modal system of education to tackle the menace of illiteracy. Once established, the Commission shall be responsible for providing skills acquisition and entrepreneurship programmes, and development for children and teenagers through schools to reduce the rate of poverty, and lessen delinquency and destitution in Nigeria.

“Mr Speaker and my honourable colleagues, as I draw this debate to a close, permit me to reiterate the fact that education is pivotal to human development and the growth of a nation. It was in recognition of this that Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had to build 157 Almajiri Model Schools to enable the education of the Almajiris in Nigeria.

Kakale reiterated that there cannot be a functional society without a functional educational system.

“Accordingly, the establishment of the proposed Commission will ensure that the Almajiris receive sound education that will shield them from exploitation by criminal elements,” he said.