The House of Representatives has expressed concern over the huge number of out-of-school children due to the dismal compliance with the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Act and the Child Rights Act in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other parts of the country.
To address the situation in the nation’s capital, the House on Thursday urged the FCT Minister to ensure full compliance with the provisions of the UBEC Act and the Child Rights Act in the Federal Capital Territory.
This followed the adoption of a motion by Rep. Bamidel Salam, who noted that the Report by the Federal Ministry of Education, in 2021 revealed that the estimated number of out-of-school children in Nigeria was about 10.1 million, while the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) put the number at 13.2 million and the figure appears to be on the increase as the Ministry of Education has stated that there has been a more than 3 million increase in the figure from 2020;
While he expressed apprehension about the report from UNICEF that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in Sub Saharan Africa and the highest in the world, Rep. Salam pointed out that Section 18 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that: (i) Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels; (ii) Government shall promote science and technology; (iii) Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and shall provide free, compulsory, and universal primary education; free secondary education; free university education; and free adult literacy programme.
He said: “Section 15 of the Child Rights Act provides that every child has the right to free, compulsory, and universal basic education and it shall be the duty of the Government in Nigeria to provide such education.
“Section 15 of the Child Rights Act also provides that every parent or guardian shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his primary and junior secondary school education, and any parent who fails in this duty commits an offence and is liable‐ (a) on a first conviction to be reprimanded and ordered to undertake community service; (b) on second conviction to a fine of two thousand naira or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to both such fine and imprisonment; and (c) on any subsequent conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand naira or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two months or to both such fine and imprisonment.
“Recall that Twenty-seven out of the thirty-six States in Nigeria have adopted and domesticated the Child Rights Act while cognizant must be taken that Section 2 of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Act provides that every Government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory, and basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary and that every parent shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his primary and junior secondary school education.
“Cognizance must also be taken that Section 2(3) of the Act compels stakeholders in education in a Local Government Area to enforce the provisions of Section 2, thus ensuring that every parent or person who has the care and custody of a child sends such child for his primary and junior secondary school education.
“The provisions of the UBEC Act and Child Rights Act are not being implemented, considering the statistics of the out-of-school children in Nigeria and the presence of children on the streets hawking, begging, and undertaking all other activities during school hours in the Federal Capital Territory.
“It is of concern that the neglect of children puts their future and the future of Nigeria in jeopardy, as they are exposed to getting recruited into kidnapping and robbery gangs, drugs and other crimes.
It is also worrisome that the number of out of school children in the country is on a rapid increase and no arrest of defaulting parents or guardians are being made”.
The motion was put to a voice vote and adopted. The House, also in its resolution, urged UBEC to liaise with State Governments who have adopted the Child Rights Act and the UBEC Act for enforcement of the provisions of the law.
In addition, the House mandated its Committees on the Federal Capital Territory and Basic Education and Services to ensure compliance.