To set the ball rolling for mapping out strategies and an action plan to address the challenges of out-of-school children in Nigeria, the National Steering Committee on Alternate School Programme held its inaugural meeting on Monday at the Treasury House, Abuja.
According to a statement by Nneka Ikem Anibeze of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, the meeting is also to rapidly reduce the number by providing them with quality basic education and skills in special settings not addressed in a conventional school system.
In her opening remarks, the co- chairperson, convener of the meeting and Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Sadiya Umar Farouq said that Nigeria topped the list of out-of-school children in the world, hence the decision of the federal government to develop strategic plans by the recently inaugurated Steering Committee.
“You are all aware that Nigeria is the leading Nation in the World with the most out-of-school children. Consequently, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Alternate School Programme ASP to ensure that every out-of-school child in Nigeria gains access to quality basic education, irrespective of social, cultural or economic circumstance.
“The Alternate School Programme is expected to help provide opportunities for out-of-school children to develop life supporting skills from vocational and entrepreneurship training for effective functioning in the society.
“Each member of this National Steering Committee has been carefully chosen in expectation of the immense value you will bring in charting the strategic direction of this programme”.
The Alternate School Programme is designed to improve access to education for all Nigerians children in line with the aspirations of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-4) on ‘Qualitative and inclusive education for all and significantly reduce the number of Out-of-School-Children through the integration of formal and informal educational systems.
It aims at eliminating or substantially reducing itinerancy, child begging and foster tolerance, unity and integration of all children with diverse backgrounds.
The Terms of Reference for the National Steering Committee include ensuring engagement and effective uptake of the ASP initiatives across the country, refining and focusing on the vision of the initiative, reviewing and approving all work, implementation plans and undertaking any other task that will enhance the effective delivery of the initiative. The 17-man committee is co-Chaired by the Minister of Education Mallam Adamu. Other members are the Minister of State of Education, Senior Special Assistant to the President on the Sustainable Development Goals, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Representatives of United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) United Nations’ International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Global Partnership for Education. Others are Chair, Private Sector Advisory Group (SDGs) Chair, Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development – Chair, Senate Committee on Basic Education, Chair, House Committee on Basic Education, Hon. Dr Shehu Balarabe Kakale, Director General NYSC, and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Bashir Nura Alkali – Secretary.