By Emmanuel Afonne, (NAN)
For the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education and training modalities by 2030, will be a herculean task in Nigeria.
According to the two UN organisations, one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria, while about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school even though primary education is officially free and compulsory.
In the same vein, infographics from Lauretta Onochie, Social Media Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, however, said that the number had dropped from 10.5 million to 8.6 million.
Whatever be the case, statistics show that only 61 percent of six to 11-year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education which, they said, was the major reason the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of achieving Universal Primary Education (UPE) by 2015 failed.
To narrow it down, states in the North-East and North-West are the worst hit with female primary net attendance rates of 47.7 percent and 47.3 percent, respectively, meaning that more than half of the girls are not in school.
The cause of education deprivation in northern Nigeria and some parts of the South is, however, not far-fetched.
The Boko Haram attacks and the mayhem unleashed by bandits and killer herdsmen on most of the Nigerian communities have made lots of children drop out of school and thereby putting a snag in government efforts to achieve the SDG 4 by 2030.
Economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices are also stumbling blocks to acquiring formal education, especially for girls, and by extension the UN development goals.
Interestingly, the General overseer of Omega Power Ministries (OPM), and the President of OPM Foundation, Apostle Dr Chibuzor Gift Chinyere, have set “Operation Get 45,000 Children Back to School”.
The operation is aimed at ensuring that children of the less privileged from Northern and Southern parts of the country have access to free and complete quality education, within a safe learning environment.
This explains why Apostle Chinyere has built eleven free primary and secondary schools with the state-of-the-art facilities and the pupils and students given four pairs of free school uniform, free school shoes and free school books.
The schools are presently located in Rivers, Bayelsa and Abia.
The students and pupils are also given beverages (Milk and Milo) on regular occasion to compliment the schools free feeding programme.
He said: “Just like the United Nations is advocating, our programme ensures that education is prioritised and that it is targeted at children who are least likely to receive it.
“Our free schools are fully funded through the offerings and tithes received from our members in over 150 branches of the church within and outside the country.
“We want to assist the Federal Government in actualising the SDG by 2030 to make sure all the children have access and quality education, skills and knowledge for lifelong learning,” Apostle Chinyere said.
Seeing the less privileged parents squeeze out their hard earned little money to send their wards to school in spite government’s perceived free education unsettles.
Another free school is presently being constructed in Kaduna to ensure the less privileged in the Northern part of the country are not left out as Nigeria march towards achieving the SDG 4 by 2030.
Apostle Chinyere is taking the gesture to the next level; apart from establishing free primary and secondary schools, the man of God is constructing an all-girls’ free technical college which, he said, would be completed by December this year.
There is no doubt that the federal and state governments have made frantic efforts to ensure that there is free education from primary to junior secondary schools across the nation, but there is still a snag as parents still pay about N2,000 to get their wards go to school every term.
For instance, in some schools parents are forced to pay between N500 and N1,000 for school charge, Parents Teachers Association (PTA) dues and data (usually for computing of results) every term to attend the so called free public schools of government, but it is interesting to note that the cost of attending the OPM free schools is absolutely free.
Apostle Chinyere is saying it to the high heavens that everything in the OPM schools is “absolutely free”.
“We have four sets of school uniforms, school sandals, free school books, free lunch and free school bags. The pupils also go on international excursion; like the last time, they were in Paris.”
This is the reason the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), honoured him with the “Icon of Free Education Award”.
Mr Robin Nwokocha, Chairman of NANS, Rivers chapter, who presented the award to Apostle Chinyere on behalf of the national president, said the award came as a result of his commitment to the education of the less privileged children.
Apostle Chibuzor, who appreciated NANS for the award said that apart from the free schools, the church had also given scholarships to five students studying in Canada. He said three others are due to join before the end of the year.
In his words: “We also have a scholarship programme where we send undergraduate students to Canada to study; another three are due to travel soon.
“We also have a local scholarship for undergraduates here in Nigeria because of this, NANS leadership decided to give me an award of Icon of Free Education in Nigeria.
“I thank God for them; this is the first time NANS is recognising my impact in education for the less privileged.”
Apostle Chinyere may be getting close to becoming an Ambassador of the UN going by his humanitarian activities.
The aim of UNICEF’s education programme is to support the government in achieving SDG 4 by 2030 through improved planning and by addressing some of the systemic barriers that hinder the implementation of an effective education strategy.
The OPM founder seems to be keying into this opportunity to the benefit of the Nigerian child. He would not want the opportunity of attaining the UN development goal on education by 2030 to elude Nigeria like the MDG.
He is seeking to collaborate with the Federal Government, UNESCO, UNICEF and other agencies for this objective to be realised.
FG Appeals for Calm over Tuition as Varsities Resume
Minister of State for education, Hon. Dr. Tanko Yusuf Sununu has appealed to students, parents and lecturers in our Institutions of higher learning to shun acts capable of disrupting the academic session as schools get set for resumption.
Dr. Sununu who made the appeal ahead of the resumption of academic activities in tertiary institutions said the show of restraint is in the interest of all stakeholders, and system stability.
The Minister was speaking to newsmen when the leadership of the congress of university Academics paid him a courtesy call.
The Minister noted that his Ministry is having constructive dialogue and consultation with stakeholders over the welfare of students, staff as well as the provision of infrastructure in tertiary institutions.
Acknowledging that strikes and non-use of facilities could lead to rapid infrastructural decay, the Minister promised that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will do everything humanly possible to avoid any situation that could lead to strikes.
Speaking earlier, the President of the Congress of University Academics, comrade Niyi Sunmonu alerted the Minister, that there is the likelihood of students unrest occasioned by the new increase in school fees, which he said has the potential of disrupting academic activities and the school calendar.
The union also appealed to government to look into ways of improving the condition of service of academic and non-academic staff of universities, which he said has deteriorated due to the fuel subsidy removal.
The union reasoned that there was need to revisit the issue of the 8-months salary arrears that arose from the last strike by the academic staff union of universities (ASUU), arguing that members of the Congress of University Academics did not go on strike.
It must be noted however, that all academic activities in universities were grounded throughout the period of the strik
Research tool to improve life expectancy — VC
Prof. Olumuyiwa Odusanya, the Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUSTECH), Ikorodu, says research remains a veritable tool for strengthening the healthcare system.
He made the assertion at the 41st Convocation Lecture of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Ijanikin, Lagos State, on Thursday.
The convocation lecture was entitled, “Towards Better and Longer Lives for All Nigerians: Challenges and Solutions”.
Odusanya was the lecturer.
He said that research would improve and strengthen the quality of life and life expectancy of people.
He said that the medical college should be at the cutting edge of translational and person-specific research.
According to him, the burden of non-communicable diseases is increasing, thereby demanding implementation of well-known primary preventive measures as the long-term solution.
“As the interaction of living organisms on the planet becomes more complex, coupled with climate change, we can expect more uncertainties, pandemics and new diseases with threats of livelihood, longevity and quality of life.
“Thus, our research must be forward-looking at developing new diagnostic tools, drugs and vaccines, particularly preventive vaccines against cancers and other disease such as diabetes,” he said.
The vice-chancellor said that it was appropriate to focus on molecular research and multi-disciplinary efforts that would solve priority problem of Nigeria and the African continent.
“We must be more involved in social research and equip our trainees with the skills needed to work in multi-disciplinary teams.
“There is the urgent need to make research findings easy to understand and actionable, by governments.
“We must be specific and intentional in our research to raise life expectancy and improve quality of life.
“This way, we do more around the social determinants of health and interrogate the effect of government policies on the lives of people,” he said.
Odusanya said the target of governments and stakeholders in health services to make people to enjoy better quality of life and live longer was achievable.
According to him, improving the quality life includes promoting sound mental health and the starting point is provision of adequate security in all its forms.
He said that African countries still lagged beehind in life expectancy largely due to poor improvements in healthcare, science, nutrition, education, water supply and cleaner environments.
“Nigeria ranked seventh in life expectancy in the West African region,” the vice-chancellor said.
He said that Nigerians should take responsibility in prolonging their lives through adopting healthy lifestyles such as elimination of cigarettes smoking, reduction of alcohol intake and salt intake as well as ensuring regular exercise.
University of Ilorin only institution in Africa to house Digisonde – VC
Prof. Wahab Egbewole, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin (Unilirin), has disclosed that the university is the only institution in Africa to house a Digisonde.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Digisondes are special radar for the examination of the ionosphere. They use pulsed signal that can gather more radar information than a traditional ionosonde sweep.
Egbewole stated this in Ilorin during a meeting with experts on Ionospheric and Space Weather Research, who visited him in his office.
The experts were in Ilorin for the 7th edition of the International Colloquium on Equatorial and Low Latitude Ionosphere (ICELLI) hosted by the Department of Physics at Unilorin.
The vice chancellor, who expressed his delight at hosting scientists specialising in Ionospheric and Space Weather Research at the University, highlighted the significance of this remote sensing device.
He explained that the device studies ionospheric variations and provides essential data for research in ionospheric and space weather Physics.
Egbewole encouraged the experts to consider linking any data collected during the programme to the university, stressing that this request is essential for evaluating the institution’s impact in various research areas.
“The fact that experts are willing to travel from France, Italy, Norway and Egypt to our campus is highly significant to us because it shows your recognition of our contributions to your endeavours.
“We hope that the outcomes of your engagement on our campus also positively influence the research projects we undertake and potentially attract more grants to our University,” he said.
Egbewole also called for greater collaboration among scientists worldwide in areas of expertise that can contribute to global sustainability.
He said: “As a University, we uphold our core values. The steadfast integrity with which we have overseen the repository observatory for over 30 years serves as evidence that we contribute value to your collaboration”.
According to him, the institution’s research endeavours are advancing more rapidly than in most other institutions.
The Vvice chancellor advocated for enhanced engagement and collaborations between the Unilorin and researchers worldwide.
Earlier, Prof. Babatunde Rabiu, the Executive Director, UN-African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in English domicited at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, disclosed that the varsity was considered the host of the programme because it is the only institution that is hosting a functional Digisonde in sub Saharan Africa.
Rabiu, who is an alumnus of Unilorin, said the institution is well known for ionospheric research.
He added that the Digisonde in Kenya was just installed and it is less than three months and there is no historical data there yet.
Also speaking, Prof. Abdullahi Alafara, the Dean, Faculty of Physical Sciences, Unilorin, said the 2023 edition of ICELLI held at the university would be of assistance to the Ionospheric and Space Weather Research team of the Department of Physics in data gathering and applications.
The dean added that the only Digisonde in the West Africa sub-region is domiciled at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Physical Sciences, at the instance of the United States Air Force and Lowell Digisonde.
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