ABUJA- A total number of 1,496,736 children are currently not enrolled in schools in Kano State, the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, has said.
The figure, according to the global humanitarian agency, topped all states in the country with the number of out-of-school children.
UNICEF’s Education Specialist, Mutaka Muktarthat, in a fact sheet presented at a virtual meeting on Alternate Pathways and Future of Almajiri Children in Kano, organised by the UNICEF, said Kano ranked highest in the population of out of school children in the country.
The organisation expressed concern over the fate of the Almajiri children and appealed that efforts be made by authorities to unite the children with their families.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative,Peter Hawkins, speaking at the event,canvassed the need to strengthen the social protection element, increase livelihood, identify and reintegrate the Almajiri children with their families.
“We need to improve education. Education is a simple concept; girl + boy + teacher = education. It is about valuing those teachers. Why don’t we start a program of valuing teachers and showing the communities how valuable they are,” Hawkins said.
He stated that girls’ education is so critical saying,” We must not leave the girls behind.”
“With the COVID-19 lockdown, this is a period to skill up the teachers, bring the girls & boys back to school, give them access to education. It’s about the ability to value what they will learn.”
Hawkins lamented that Kano State is one of those states that have not domesticated the Child Right Act.
“Kano has not yet domesticated the Child Rights Act. The act defines the rights of a child, parents, communities, and government in fulfilling the rights of that child,” he said.
Hawkins also called on Kano State Government to domesticate Nigeria Child Rights Act in order to provide the framework for child protection.
Recall that in 2003, Nigeria passed the Child Rights Act but so far only 25 states have domesticated the law while 11 states are yet to do so.
Hawkins called on traditional leaders, communities, and parents to look at putting children at the forefront of what they do.
“Government should also look at domesticating the Child Rights Act in Kano. Kano has not yet domesticated the Child Rights Act. The Act defines the rights of a child, parents, communities, and government in fulfilling the rights of that child.”
“We need to enhance the social protection element, increase livelihood, identify and reintegrate these children with their families.”
He stressed that the issue of girls’ education is so critical that all must look for alternative ways not to leave them behind.
“With the COVID19 lockdown, this is a period to scale up the teachers, bring the girls and boys back to school, and give them access to education. It’s about the ability to value what they will learn”, he said.
On his part, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje said the state government had uncovered three categories of students in the state, learning under the Almajiri system.
According to him, “We found out we have three categories of Almajiris in Kano – those that belong to Kano state, those from other states and those that don’t know where they come from.”
The discovery, he explained, followed a census conducted in the state by his administration as part of plans to reform the Almajiri students.
Hear him: “In the Northern Governors Forum, while discussing the issue of insecurity in northern Nigeria, the issue of Almajiri came up and we took our decision to reform the Almajiri. Here in Kano, we decided to carry out a census to build up our data.”
Governor Ganduje, while noting that Almajiri children have a right to education and parental care, said plans were in place to create a program to cater to them.
“These children have a right to be educated, protected, and a right to be with their parents. We are trying to create a sustainable program, so even when we leave office the program will still be sustained,” Ganduje said.
While noting that Almajari children are easy recruits for Boko Haram and bandits, the governor said tackling the problem of Almajiri would also mean tackling the issue of insecurity.
He said: “Yes, the Almajiri is easier recruits for BokoHaram and bandits. By tackling the problems of Almajiri, we are also tackling the issue of insecurity.”
Ganduje revealed that his administration’s most recent policy was focused on girl-education, saying, “Our new policy on education is taking care of the girl-child.”
He added that education in Kano is now free, in order for people not to be marginalized.
“Education in Kano is now compulsory from primary to secondary. Compulsory education is now included in the law,” the governor said.