About 2000 youth across 10 Nigerian states ,including the Federal Capital Territory , Abuja presented petitions to their governors, parliamentarians, policymakers and other influential persons in an effort to draw attention to the need to act on commitments to increasing access to safe, quality education for all children, especially the girl child.
The action, supported by UNICEF, comes as the World celebrates the Day of the African Child, commemorating the day in 1976 that hundreds of students were shot in Soweto, South Africa, while demonstrating for their right to quality education.
The Nigerian campaign for access to quality education will hold the newly-elected government officials at all levels accountable for their campaign promises to provide equitable access to free, safe and quality education for every child, especially the girl child, in Nigeria.
The 10 states where the mass actions are taking place, Bauchi, Niger, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba and the FCT, have about eight million children not in school and, an average enrollment rate of only 57 per cent.
The global theme for this year’s Day of the African child is child rights in all situations, including during humanitarian crises.
In Nigeria today, over 10.5 millions children are unable to access safe and quality education, due to pockets of security challenges in the north-east, which has left schools destroyed, teachers unavailable, and parents terrified to send their children to school due to the same factor.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Kawkins, said schools should be a safe place for children , one in which they can get a quality education that will put them on the path to a secure future.
“Sadly, the demand for quality education by children in Soweto, South Africa in 1976, is still valid today, in too many countries around the world” Kawkins said.
The youth actions we are seeing today across several states is a wakeup call for leaders to act on their commitments to provide quality education for all children, in all situations. he added.
The engagement seeks to secure commitments from national and state governments to prioritize children’s rights to education in their governance agenda, including through budgeting, in their states and at the national level.
“This engagement creates an opportunity for Nigerian youth to advocate to policy and decision makers and urge them to commit resources to education, without which the substantial number of out-of-school children in Nigeria will not be reduced,” Peter Hawkins said
The action is calling for improved school infrastructure, a massive enrollment campaign to bring all children to school, and targeted investments to ensure an uninterrupted 12 years of schooling for girls.
In addition, it hopes to extract a commitment for a 10% increase in budgetary allocation and release of funds for education, with 50 percent of the total budget to basic education, recruitment, deployment and provision of incentives for 1000 female teachers per year and recruitment and deployment of 1000 qualified teachers per year, especially to rural areas, where they are most needed.
The action comes as the world celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The Convention on the rights of the child is the most widely-ratified human rights treaty in history, and stipulates that every child has the right to education.
As part of the commemoration, UNICEF has released a copy of the CRC in child-friendly language, tagged Passport to Your Rights” in pocket format.
UNICEF aims that every child in Nigeria has a copy by 2030, the deadline for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The CRC ‘passport’ is also available in Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Pidgin languages, helping to ensure access by millions of Nigerians.