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20m Out-of-School Children Alarm: FG Urged To Reform, Improve Almajiri System

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… as state govt blamed for failure access UBEC funds

Joel Ajayi

Federal and state governments have been urged to address the problems of out-of-school children through reforms and enrichment of the Almajiri system in Nigeria.

The call follows the alarming rise in the number of out-of-school children, which, according to a UNESCO report, stands at over 20 million people in Nigeria, and discontent over the failure of about 29 states of the federation to access N68 Billion Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) funds to upgrade facilities and provide basic needs in primary schools.

Speaking during the anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja, Education Officer, Almajiri Child Rights Initiative (ACRI), Abdulmalik Abdulrazak, stressed the need for all hands to be on deck if Nigeria must address problems of out-of-school children, adding that priority must be placed on educating Almajiri children.

Abdulrazak, while acknowledging that Almajiri children constitute the greater mass of out-of-school children in the country, called for more awareness and sensitization of parents to take advantage of the existing free education at the primary school level.

He queried what the recently established National Commission for Almajiri and Out-of-School Children is doing to ameliorate the problems. He added that the Almajiri system, which seeks to acquire Islamic knowledge, has metamorphosed into a social challenge.

Abdulrazak called on the government to thoroughly monitor and evaluate funds spent on developing the educational sector, alleging that public schools have been turned into “money-making centers” by some officials, urging the government to ensure there’s value for monies spent.

“Some state governors have made Almajiri and out-of-school children their top agenda, but more work still needs to be done.

“The Almajiri Commission should kick start, and let’s see their activity. Most importantly, the public schools have been turned or reduced to money-making ventures for a few people. Budgetary allocations are being released monthly, and you see them running into their billions, and you see no sign of it in the classrooms,” Abdulrazak lamented.

He said, “The Almajiri system is an informal system of education. It has a lot to do with religious belief, doctrine and tradition. The system needs reform and enrichment because Almajiri children find themselves in terrible conditions.

“Parents often want to send their children to go and acquire religious education, but the environment is where the children find themselves and the persons whose tutelage they find themselves under is of concern. “

On the failure of states to utilize UBEC funds to improve primary education, Abdulrazak said the political will of leaders remains a major challenge, adding that political officeholders prefer to send their advisors and representatives than go to schools to have an on-spot assessment of the dilapidation of infrastructure in public schools.

On his part, Educationist and Programme Manager of the Center for Educational Empowerment and Orientation, David Crown Oyebisi, said the number of out-of-school children signals a risky future for Nigeria.

Oyebisi accused past and present administrations of making little effort to address the out-of-school children menace, adding that lack of passion for education and political will by state governments are responsible for the inability of some of them to access UBEC funds.

He urged political officeholders to develop a passion for educating the people they represent, saying traditional and religious institutions have many roles to play in reducing the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

His words: “The government alone cannot address Almajiri and out-of-school issues. We need citizens’ religious and traditional institutions.

“But first, the government should address insecurity across the nation, there should be the provision of basic infrastructures and reduce poverty levels, and we need to do a house-to-house education and census to ascertain how many children are not in school

“It is very saddening to believe that from 10.5 million, we now have 20.2 million out-of-school children. The question is, don’t we have a government in this country? What has the government been doing all these years to attack this issue of out-of-school children.,” Oyebisi stated.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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Rangers’ NPFL title triumph leaves others scraping for continent & survival

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Rangers International emerged champions of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) with one matchday to spare after they defeated Bendel Insurance 2-0 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium on Sunday.
The other three contenders for the title, Remo Stars, 3SC, and champions Enyimba, all dropped points in their respective matches, paving the way for the Flying Antelopes to win their eighth title in Nigeria’s top division.

A goal in each from Kenechukwu Agu and Chidiebere Nwobodo secured a 2-0 win over Bendel Insurance for Rangers to become champions.

However, the season still has the final matchday to navigate with two continental places up for grabs in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup.

CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE & CONFEDERATION CUP SPOTS

Remo Stars despite their 1-2 defeat to Sunshine Stars are in pole position to secure the second Champions League spot alongside Rangers. The Sky Blue Stars will play hosts to Katsina United and need an outright win to lay claim to that Champions League slot.

On their tails for the same spot are Enyimba and 3SC who are also in the hunt to finish second behind the champions. 
Jonathan Alukwu’s late goal for Sporting Lagos ended the chance of the People’s Elephant avoiding defeat or stretching the title race into the final match. Gbenga Ogunbote’s 3SC also fell to John Bassey’s late goal in Yenagoa as Bayelsa United gave themselves a fighting chance of beating the drop.

Despite their chances of claiming that second spot on the league table, Enyimba, 3SC, and Remo Stars are also in the running for the CAF Confederation Cup should they fail to win their final matches irrespective of results elsewhere.

One of Plateau United and Lobi Stars have outside chances of crashing the party and claiming the third position should the apple cart be upset on the final day of the campaign. Plateau United, however, would rue failing to defeat Kano Pillars on Saturday when they had the chance to do so. Playing with 10 men after Mustapha Salisu was sent off, Rabiu Ali scored for Pillars and Plateau United labored to a 1-1 draw at home after Sam Pam Jr leveled the score.

On the other hand, Lobi Stars had to shake off a tough-as-nail Kwara United side to win 4-3 thanks to Kumaga Suur’s late goal on 85 minutes. Lobi’s form of late makes them outsiders for a top-three finish as they play on the road at Kano Pillars on the final matchday.

SURVIVAL RACE

The final matchday will be interesting at the lower end of the table with eight clubs still yet to confirm their status for next season in the NPFL. Already Gombe United and Heartland have been relegated to the second tier, the Nigeria National League (NNL), but Sunshine Stars, Kano Pillars, Kwara United, and Niger Tornadoes are looking over their shoulders with the like of Bayelsa United, Akwa United, Sporting Lagos, and Doma United breathing down their necks.

Sporting Lagos and Doma United will begin the final matchday in the relegation zone. Doma United suffered a 2-0 defeat at Katsina United, leaving their goal difference looking unhealthy at -15, the worst among the sides battling for survival. Doma United will play hosts to Abia Warriors while Sporting Lagos face 3SC in a tough Southwest Derby at the Lekan Salami Stadium in Ibadan on the final day of the season.

Akwa United and Bayelsa United sit just above the drop zone after contrasting results on Matchday 37. The Promise Keepers fell to Sunday Megwo’s goals that sealed a 2-0 win for Abia Warriors while Bayelsa United left it late to see off 3SC 2-1 with Bassey scoring twice in the final 15 minutes. Akwa United have to face Rivers United at their Nest of Champions home ground in Uyo on the final day and Bayelsa United will make the trip to Benin City to play against Bendel Insurance who have just the points to play for.

Unless the final day throws up outrageous outcomes, the quartet of Sunshine Stars, Kano Pillars, Kwara United, and Niger Tornadoes need a point each from their final day matches to keep their places in the top flight for another season. Kano Pillars and Kwara United play at home against Lobi Stars and Heartland respectively while Tornadoes and Sunshine Stars go head-to-head.

As things stand, the outcomes of the penultimate match week have shaped a thrilling finale to the NPFL season.

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