Governors’ forum backs state of emergency in education

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has expressed support for a call for a state of emergency in the education sector.

Speaking at the National Conference on the Learning Crisis in Nigeria, in Abuja on Wednesday, the Chairman, NGF, Governor Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman of Kwara State, said resources must be provided for sustainable and promising education.

The conference, organised by the Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has the theme: “Scaling Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in Nigeria.”

Represented by the Vice Chairman of NGF, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Abdulrahman said education is in crisis and a state of emergency should be declared in the sector.

He stressed the need to remove all barriers such as gender, poverty, location, disabilities, language and ethnicity, that could hinder children from accessing foundational literacy and numeracy.

“We must follow the UNESCO standard for an education system that is progressive and sustainable, Governors at the various states must commit above 15 per cent of our budget to education.

“I support the call for a state of emergency, but it must be backed by actions, the resources must be provided, and we must look at issues that have mitigated against achieving that sustainable growth. 

“It is one thing to declare a state of emergency but it’s another thing to put all the resources and elements that will allow us to achieve it. 

“So, I support putting the resources in place to allow us to move fast at it. Our education is in crisis and a state of emergency should be declared in all sectors. We need a solid roadmap and I believe it is a collective involvement,” he said.

Learning crisis

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Education, Dr Yusuf Sununu, said the learning crisis has been a challenge the education sector is faced with which needs urgent solutions.

“The consequences of the learning crisis are far-reaching and profound as we risk widening the already significant education gap, perpetuating a cycle of poverty, illiteracy, diseases and stifling innovation and progress.

“Education is the cornerstone of societal progress and individual empowerment, yet the challenges we currently confront demand our immediate attention, dedication, and action.

“In recent years, Nigeria has been grappling with a severe learning crisis that hinders our youth from achieving their fullest potential.

“A significant portion of our school-aged population, especially those in underserved communities, face barriers to access quality education.

“The factors contributing to this crisis are multifaceted and include inadequate infrastructure, teacher shortage, unequal

distribution of resources, outdated curricula, and socio-economic disparities,” he said.

Sununu said the country must rise to protect the potential and aspiration of the youths, saying they are the greatest asset and hope for a prosperous future.

He expressed the political will of President Bola Tinubu to raise education budgetary allocation from 8 per cent to 25 per cent in the next few years.

He said the gesture would be a major breakthrough in addressing the learning crisis issues.

So, I support putting the resources in place to allow us to move fast at it. Our education is in crisis and a state of emergency should be declared in all sectors. We need a solid roadmap and I believe it is a collective involvement.

Similarly, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, said the conference was from the outcomes of the UN General Assembly in September, where countries were urged to accelerate progress on Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Munduate said this is to regain ground lost during the COVID-19 pandemic that saw unprecedented school closures globally.

“For Nigeria, convening a conference on the learning crisis is opportune, as the government defines its priorities for the education sector in the new Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP).

“Just as Nigeria has galvanised significant support around the out-of-school problem, so too must it give attention to the learning crisis that is in fact fueling the out-of-school problem in Nigeria.

“Three out of four children in basic education in Nigeria cannot read with meaning or solve simple math problems.

“When children fail to learn to read in the early years, they fail to read to learn in the subsequent years. Failure to learn begins to alienate children from the curriculum and their peers.

“This contributes to the staggering dropout rates each year between the first and last year of primary school,” she said.

She, therefore, called for serious attention to the learning crisis saying learning is not just important for education outcomes, it is key to finding a higher paying job, for achieving better health outcomes and for navigating community and social life.

Also, the Chief Education, UNICEF Nigeria, Saadha Panday-Soobrayan, said the learning crisis in Nigeria begins in early childhood education, saying only half of the children are developmentally on track in early childhood.

She said that learning gaps persist across the life course and are most severe in the north part of the country.

According to her, by the end of grade nine, only 74 per cent of pupils demonstrate foundational literacy and 69 per cent foundational numeracy.

She, therefore, said that all hands must be on deck to find a lasting solution to the country’s learning crisis. (NAN)

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