Out of School Children: Senate Advocates Mobile Courts to Prosecute Violators of UBE Act

The Senate on Wednesday, March 20, called on the judiciary in the 36 states of the federation to set up mobile courts for the enforcement of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act to curb the growing menace of out-of-school children in the country.

The Senate also mandated its Committee on Education (Basic & Secondary) to engage the Federal Ministry of Education to pay special attention to the issue of out-of-school children with the ultimate objective of drastically reducing the number.

The Red Chamber further urged the Ministry of Education, its related parastatals, and agencies such as the Universal Basic Education stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations to:

“Severally and jointly bring up a new strategy to effectively deal with out-of-chool Children problem as well as rekindle the national consciousness through sensitization and advocacy on the importance of education to the growth and development of our country and the benefits of having majority educated population;

“Set a time limit of two years for the diligent implementation of the UBE Act as stipulated in section 2 (2).”

It also urged governments at all levels to implement targeted intervention programmes that will address all the factors militating against free access to quality and basic education, particularly multidimensional poverty and insecurity.

The resolutions of the Senate followed its consideration and adoption of a motion titled: “Compelling need to tackle the challenge of Out of School Children in Nigeria” during plenary.

The motion was sponsored by Senator Idiat Oluranti Adebule (APC – Lagos West).

Adebule in her lead debate urged the Senate to note that the issue of out-of-school children had become worrisome, given the 2022 report of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that about 20 million Nigerian children are out of school which represents 10 per cent of the estimated Nigerian population of 200 million people and also represents the highest number of out-of-school children from any country globally;

“Also notes that though the Ministry of Education disputed the figure but it is generally agreed that whatever the real figures, the issue of Out of School Children has become an albatross on the neck of the Nigerian State that must be dealt with as a matter of urgency,” she said.

In his remarks, Senate President Godswill Akpabio urged the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, to adopt measures he implemented in Akwa Ibom state when he was governor which stipulates six months imprisonment for parents or guardians of school-age children found on the streets or in the farm during school hours.

Akpabio said: “Since education is the bedrock of all good things in any society, government at all levels, should ensure that no child of school age stays out of school in Nigeria.

“We did it in Akwa Ibom State when I was governor by enforcing compliance with the UBE Act. All Parents or Guardians were made to know that anybody caught not sending his or her child to school risks six months imprisonment.

“By way of legislation, the Child Rights Act was put in place which has free and compulsory education as parts of its provisions. Other States in Nigeria should adopt this in making education truly free and compulsory for children in the country.”

Senators Mohammed Monguno, Ahmad Lawan, Adams Oshiomhole, Simon Lalong, and Jibrin Barau supported the motion.

In supporting the motion, Oshiomhole said the menace of out-of-school must be addressed urgently while declaring that “illiteracy engenders poverty and poverty engenders crime.”

He said: “I really don’t think we need any tutorial to remind us that he or she who didn’t have the opportunity or was denied the opportunity to go to school, is destined to be poor forever.

“An illiterate young man or woman is bound to give birth to another illiterate child which will lead to a dynasty of the poor constituting a risk to the rich and the society at large.

“Today in Nigeria, we can see and we are all witnesses that inequality and abject poverty anywhere has constituted a huge security risk to everyone in Nigeria. It is clear that every Nigerian child needs to go to school.”

He accused some state governors, particularly from the Northern part of the country of sabotaging efforts of the Federal Government to make basic education free and compulsory for all Nigerian children.

He said that the governors frustrating the policy deliberately refused to contribute 50 percent counterpart fund required to implement the UBE programme.