Chairman of Northern States Governors’ Forum and Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, has decried a recent report which said 50 per cent of children of school age are not in schools in 14 out of the 19 states in the region.
Gov. Aliyu expressed shock at the UNESCO report which was made public on Thursday at the National Economic Council meeting in Abuja.
States in the northern region, according to the report, account for a greater percentage of the 10.5 million national figures of school-age children that are out of school.
However, speaking in Minna, the Niger state capital on Friday at the flag-off ceremony for the 2013 National Environmental Sanitation day, Aliyu tasked his colleagues, governments and other stakeholders in the region to redouble their efforts by bridging the gap.
“Yesterday, I was told that 14 states that have 50 per cent of the children out of school are in the north. Some northern states even have 76 to 80 per cent of the children out of school. This is not good at all, because in the world we record the highest number of out of school children. We have 10.5 million children out of school,” he said.
The governor, whose state has the highest figure in the north central geo-political zone, expressed disappointment that despite policies initiated by his administration, which have seen school enrolment increasing from half a million in 2007 when he assumed office to 1.5 million annually, the state still has a record of 50 per cent out-of-school children.
To address the anomaly, he stated that from next academic session, the state will implement the free and compulsory basic education policy which has been in place since 2007.
“In Niger State, education is free and compulsory from primary to junior secondary school. We have been implementing the free education aspect of the policy. We shall be implementing the compulsory aspect very soon. We have to get these children into school and bridge the gap with the southern states,” he stated.
Aliyu said more concerted efforts should be made by northern states’ governments to fund education adequately, arguing that no state, especially those in the north should blame the high rate of out-of-school children on funds.
“In South-South region, Edo State had the least of 2.2 per cent, while in the South West, Ekiti had the least. These states are not getting what Akwa Ibom or Rivers or Lagos states are getting. We have to set our priority right and help to develop our region and catch up with the rest of the country,” he advised, and called on stakeholders to encourage the committee on the integration on Koranic and western education in order to remove Alimajiris from the street.
Aliyu laid the blame for the increasing number of school dropouts in the region on polygamists, who he said cannot cater for their responsibilities; a development he blamed on ignorance of Islamic religion.
“We use religion to kill education. This is not right. There must be control of lifestyle. Any country that cannot control its excesses will not grow.”