By Jethro Ibileke/Benin
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education, Prof Julius Ihonvbere, has said that the burden of Nigeria’s out-of-school children could hinder its quest for sustainable human and economic development.
He stated this during a recent meeting with a delegation of the #AmendUBEAct Coalition, at the national assembly complex, Abuja.
The #AmendUBEAct coalition is a group of development partners, international and local organisations supporting the process to strengthen the legal framework for free, safe and quality basic education in Nigeria.
Invictus Africa, Malala Fund, PLAN international Nigeria, Save the Children and YouthHubAfrica represented the coalition at the meeting.
Ihonvbere who declared the UBE Act amendment as an urgent national priority reaffirmed his commitment to free, safe and gender-responsive basic education by signing the Legislative Declaration on Covid-19 and girl’s education.
He noted that education has the potency to change children, communities and the country.
“I am committed to Basic Education sector reform and glad to sign this declaration (am an academician and the Chair of the House committee on basic education, I focus my entire constituency allowance on basic school renovations and furniture because if I do not make an impact on basic education, what else can I do?”, said Ihonvbere.
The federal legislator who expressed concern over the state of basic education in Nigeria promised to build consensus among his colleagues on education financing and the extension of the coverage of the UBE Act (2004) from nine to 12 years.
He further pledged commitment to sponsoring Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 education reforming laws, taking into account the needs of girls and supporting their return to school and education emergencies.
In her speech, the Executive Director of Invictus Africa, Bukky Shonibare, noted that #AmendUBEAct advocacy and process will help bring holistic and long-term gains in girl-child education while closing the educational inequality gap.
According to her, “Statistics already show that while we may be making progress with school enrolments, the higher the class, the lower the number of girls.
“This means, school enrollment is increasing, but school retention is decreasing.”
The In-country representative of Malala Fund’s, Crystal Ikanih-Musa, informed the lawmaker that recent research by the organization shows that due to increased rates of poverty, household responsibilities and child labour, 20 million additional secondary school-aged girls around the world may be out of school once the crisis has passed.
“We are facing a new and difficult economic reality. I implore you to remember that amending the Universal Basic Education Act (2004) to cover up to senior secondary school, and ensuring adequate funding, increasing UBE fund from 2% to 3% CRF, is critical to Nigeria’s education plan for recovery and resilience to build back better response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
Also speaking, Laban Onisimus, of Education Lead at PLAN International Nigeria, noted that “the process has been slow, but surely with the commitment of all stakeholders, our collective desire of lifelong learning for children (especially girls) will soon be achieved.”
The representative of Advocacy, Campaign and Policy Manager-LEARN, Save the Children International (Nigeria), Badar Musa, said that the more the quality of basic education is improved and children have unlimited access to free, safe and uninterrupted learning opportunities, the better they will live up to their dreams and potentials.
“The signing of the legislative declaration by the Chairman House Committee on Basic Education is a big win for the process of reforming Universal Basic Education in Nigeria We are committed to supporting your drive for improved quality basic education for Nigerian children, especially the girl-child,” he said.
The legislative parley is part of the wider Malala Fund Covid-19 campaign strategy, aimed at ensuring more gender-responsive legislation and plan for the recovery phase of the pandemic in Nigeria.
The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act amendment bill is at the committee stage at the House of Representatives.
The bill seeks to extend free and compulsory education from nine to twelve years, ensure an increase in basic education financing and promote gender-responsive learning, among others.