THE recent statistical report of Nigeria Data Survey (NDS) that Oyo State has not less than 227,842 out-of-school children, the highest number in the South-West, is still giving the state government sleepless nights.
The situation has given birth to series of meetings with concerned stakeholders in the state to identify the causes, where such children reside and how to bring them back into the school system for literacy, numeracy and vocational education.
Recently, the Department of Planning, Research and Statistics of the state Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, in collaboration with the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Akure, facilitated a two-day interactive session on strategies to bring back the affected children to the classroom.
The event was held at the Princess Court and Resort, Oyo town.
While addressing the gathering consisted of permanent secretaries, directors from different departments in the various ministries, boards and agencies in the state, political appointees, media and members of the House of Assembly, the acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Ibironke Fatoki, expressed dissatisfaction with the development in the state and promised that the state government would ensue the return of the said children to school as well as equip them with vocational education.
Mrs Fatoki noted that the issue of out-of-school children is a major problem and that it would require serious attention.
She said: “Oyo State government is committed to providing quality education to its citizenry and the initiative of the government at making education project participatory is unprecedented. Philanthropists, corporate bodies and old students are contributing in the provision of infrastructure and school support services.
“However, despite these efforts made to put a sound education policy practice in place to get these children enrolled, retained, complete basic education and transit to tertiary, it’s worrisome to note that (the rate of) out-of-school children in the state is unduly high.
“It is, therefore, imperative to sensitise all the stakeholders and enlist their support on the need for concerted effort to inaugurate aggressive campaign for ‘Leaving No Child Behind’ and to make every child count.”
Speaking in the same vein, UNICEF education specialist, Akure Field Office, Alhaji Muritala Mohammed, commended the state government and the ministry of education for mobilising stakeholders from the various states for the interactive session.
He said UNICEF would expect the newly constituted Steering and Technical Committees to develop a one-year action plan, conduct house survey on out-of-school children in the state and also develop strategies on how to take the children back to school.
He also added that there would be a need to develop a monitoring framework and a unit to communicate their results.
“Oyo State and other states the in South-West were noted for quality education and vocational development, and every home in the region patronised western education at all levels such that other regions in the country then were envious of them.
“Today, the situation has changed in every other state in the country. For instance, the northern states are stepping up in education development, developing various workable strategies and incentives to increase enrollment and to improve quality of education in the system.
“In this light, Oyo State must wake up and work out modalities to regain its old glory as education-focused state and pace setter among other states in the federation to deal with the increasing out of school children in the state.”
The chairman, Committee on Education, Oyo State House of Assembly, Honorable Olukayode Akande, described the out-of-school children situation in Oyo State as a social malady that the house would give it its due attention to redress within a short time.
He promised that the assembly would develop legislation to eradicate the problem in the state. He then enjoined parents in the state to thenceforth take education of their children with keen interest.
Dr Adebisi Ayoola, from the Ministry of Health; Special Adviser to the State Governor on Education, Dr Bisi Akin-Alabi; Adekola Adeyemi and Mr Kareem Lukman in separate comments described the interactive session as a welcome development.
Chief (Mrs) Lucy Eniola and Dr Joseph Adesina, both resource persons, affirmed that the out-of-school children challenge is surmountable if appropriate human and financial resources are committed to fighting it.