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President Goodluck Jonathan will, today, host the world, with Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and the United Nations Special Envoy for Education in attendance, as Nigeria launches a campaign to return 10.5 million out-of-school children back to school.
It will be recalled that on Thursday, Mr. Gordon Brown brought two young women together in an online video exchange.
They are Ojonwa Miachi, an Economics graduate from Bingham University in Karu, who is Nigeria’s National Youth Advocate for Universal Education and the Millennium Development Goals; and Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban and has also had to leave her country.
Both are demanding what 57 million girls and boys like them cannot have— the right to go to school even in times of conflict and, as a result, both see themselves at the centre of a 21st-century civil rights struggle.
This freedom fight— as Malala and Ojonwa show— is now being led not by familiar adult voices but by young people themselves.
Malala said: “Innocent girls only want to empower themselves through education. Obtaining education is every man and woman’s birthright and no one is allowed to take away this right from them.”
Ojonwa and Malala’s missions— to get girls to school—are the inspiration behind today’s Abuja summit, led by President Jonathan and Nigeria’s state governors.
The landmark event will bring cabinet ministers, state governors and state education commissioners together with global development partners to get Nigeria’s 10 million out-of-school children into education.
Today’s event will discuss how Nigeria can allocate new financial support for school building, teachers’ recruitment, teacher-training and new technology with tablets, phones and online school courses.
This is part of a global initiative to get every boy and girl to school by the end of 2015. The movement will build a world where for the first time no boy or girl is denied their right to education.
Leaders will assemble from USAID, Qatar’s Educate a Child, led by Sheikha Moza, from the Global Partnership for Education, whose head is Alice Albright, and from the global business community led by the Global Business Coalition for Education.
Each will pledge additional support.
The United Kingdom is also ready to boost its help this year with a visit from the Permanent Head of Department for International Development, DFID.
Ojonwa, who spoke to Malala on the video link about her fight for education for girls in Nigeria, emphasised the scale of the uphill struggle the country has to face. The aim is to move the country with the world’s largest population of out-of-school children to universal education.
Out of school
Ten million children are yet to go to school because of teachers’ shortage of nearly 1.3 million, and shortage of 1.2 million classrooms.
Child labour, child marriage and child trafficking prevent thousands getting to school.
For those that do find ways to get their children into school, there is doubt as to the effectiveness of the courses.
Approximately, 52 percent of young women, who complete primary education, remain illiterate. The large amount of illiteracy is now an economic problem and a social disaster, with the number of adults, who cannot read or write, up to 35 million.
Illiteracy is said to be standing between Nigeria and its deserved success as an economic powerhouse of the world.
In the midst of the education crisis, President Jonathan said getting every child into school and learning is feasible and achievable, and the key to Nigeria’s prosperity.
It was noted that what works best were financial incentives, which must be fine-tuned to help state governments deliver; teacher training and professional development, which must be effectively taken to scale by leveraging technology.
The curriculum of all schools must be strengthened to develop literacy and numeracy skills and families must be supported in their demand for education through conditional cash transfers.
These transfers, now being pioneered in some states, can be taken up in all states and encourage enrolment and attendance particularly of girls.
There should also be a delegation of business, educational and political leaders working to present financing options and concrete proposals to support the implementation of state plans.
They will also look at what more can be done to incentivise the education, and leveraging up resources, including the use of Universal Basic Education Fund to provide central ministry incentives alongside investments from UK, US, Educate a Child, the Global Partnership for Education, and specific offers from the business community through the Global Business Coalition for Education.
Nigerians sign petition
It was noted that Nigeria was calling for the education it needs for the future.
Despite the violence against education from extremist groups, in addition to the peaceful civil society movements that have occurred over the past few months, Nigerians are signing the petition to support Jonathan’s commitment to education.
They are calling for safe schools for all of Nigeria’s children and for state level implementation of plans for universal education.