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Giving 45,000 Nigerian Children Quality Education via OPM Free Schools

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 UNICEF Reveals 226,000 Grave Violations Against Children

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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja. 

Between 2005 and 2020, the United Nations verified over 266,000 grave violations against children committed by parties to conflict in more than 30 conflict situations across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America,

 According to UNICEF, this figure is a fraction of the violations believed to have occurred, as access and security constraints, among others, and the shame, pain, and fear that child and family survivors suffer often hamper the reporting, documentation and verification of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.

West and Central Africa is the region with the second highest number of verified violations since 2005 with more than 67,000 verified grave violations, accounting for a quarter of all violations globally. In the Central Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), conflict and insecurity have been major drivers of population displacement, which has put children further at risk of grave violations.

In these three countries, the number of verified grave violations increased by 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the last quarter of 2021. Hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed in recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali. 

UNICEF emphasized that 25 years of children and armed conflict:Taking action to protect children in war – found that between 2005 and 2020 in West and Central Africa more than 7,600 children have been verified as killed or maimed in situations of armed conflict; over 42,000 children have been verified as recruited and used by parties to conflict; at least 4,800 children have been verified as abducted by parties to conflict; parties to conflict have raped, forcibly married, sexually exploited, and committed other grave forms of sexual violence against at least 8,000 children.

 The United Nations verified more than 2,500 incidents of attacks against schools and hospitals and verified no fewer than 1,900 incidents of denial of humanitarian access for children since 2005 in West and Central Africa.

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In Nigeria there were 391 verified cases of grave violations against 306 children. These violations mainly occurred in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States and were attributed to ISWAP and other armed groups. This is a 56 per cent increase in the number of grave violations against children (208) verified in 2020.

In most conflict areas in the West and Central Africa region, civilians continue to be targeted. This includes the deliberate targeting of frontline humanitarian workers who are finding it more difficult to deliver life-saving services and supplies to children in large parts of the Central Sahel and other conflict-affected areas of the region.

“Behind each of the violations detailed in the report is a child, his or her family and members of a community whose lives are torn apart, sometimes forever. We cannot remain indifferent and silent. The killing, abduction, and rape of girls and boys are horrific crimes. The increase in verified grave violations in the Central Sahel over the last quarter and their devastating impact on the wellbeing of children shows the need and importance of continuing our efforts to provide care to the victims and advocate for their immediate end. Attacks on civilians including children must be stopped and all measures for their protection, including during military operations, must be taken,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

Based on sixteen years of data from the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, the report illustrates the impact that armed conflicts have had on children, by presenting trends of grave violations across the world and over time. The report examines how information on the documented patterns of grave violations is being used to respond to children’s needs and how engagement with parties to conflict – State and non-State actors alike enables ending and preventing grave violations.

The annual number of verified violations in the world has gradually increased since 2005, surpassing 20,000 in a year for the first time in 2014 and reaching 26,425 in 2020. Between 2016 and 2020, the daily global average of verified grave violations stood at an alarming 71 violations. The elevated number of violations observed in recent years demonstrates the dramatic impact that armed conflict and increasingly complex and protracted protection crises have on children.

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The report notes that many children suffer from more than one violation, increasing their vulnerability. For example, abduction is often combined with or leads to other violations, particularly recruitment and use and sexual violence. Children especially girls who have been abducted and/or associated with parties to conflict are exposed to elevated risks of sexual violence, including rape, sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

The report found that grave violations against children were committed by States and non-State actors alike underscoring the importance of engagement with all parties to conflict, to meaningfully end and prevent violations against children.

In order to bolster accountability, parties to conflict listed in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict develop and implement Action Plans with specific, concrete, and time-bound actions to establish sustainable measures to protect children from the impact of conflict. Between 2005 and 2021, a total of 16 Action Plans have been signed by parties to conflict in 6 conflict situations. 

14 Action Plans were signed with non-State actors, with the remaining 2 were signed with State actors. The report lays out several examples highlighting the critical value and impact of Action Plans in bringing about positive change for children, both in the immediate and long terms, as well as outlining challenges and obstacles.

The ever-growing number of armed non-State actors, the development and employment of new means and methods of warfare, the use of improvised explosive devices and other explosive weapons, particularly in populated areas, are just some of the many factors contributing to the creation of unprecedented challenges for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

It is important to note that the increase in verified violations over time also underscores the increasing strength of the monitoring and reporting mechanism over the years. The development of guidance on monitoring and reporting, the training and capacity building of UN and its partners’ staff on documenting grave violations, and the awareness raising of families and communities on the protection risks for children, have all contributed to strengthen the mechanism and enabled it to collect increased information on grave violations against children.

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Whilst the overall ability of the United Nations to document and verify incidents of grave violations has increased over time, it has fluctuated from one year to another, from one situation to another, and from one violation to another. In this regard, and based on all of the above, direct comparisons between situations, years, or violations should be undertaken with caution.

“Major humanitarian crises continue to unfold across West and Central Africa. The situation in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and multi-country emergencies, including crises in the Central Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin region, are having devastating consequences on children and communities. Beyond the consequences for the victims, grave violations of children’s rights are often accompanied by massive population displacements that increase the vulnerability of thousands of people and expose more children to other risks of violence,” said Ms. Poirier.

The report recommendations, based on the evidence and analysis presented, aim to mobilize all concerned stakeholders, including parties to conflict, States, and the UN Security Council, to effectively and sustainably protect children and to accelerate action at local, national, regional, and global levels.

In addition to calling on parties to conflict, and states, to abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, the report includes recommendations on how to better provide adequate care and response services to children affected by conflict,ways to improve data disaggregation and analysis for better response and prevention,how to support Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMRs) to accelerate action, and improve CTFMR engagement with governments and ways to better engage with parties to conflict to develop Action Plans and sustainably protect children.

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‘Removing History from School Curriculum was one of OBJ’s biggest Errors’ – Prof Ukase

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From Ibraheem Hamza Muhammad & Idris Umar

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was misled to cancel the study of History and International Studies from school curriculum in Nigeria during his administration as Executive president.

A Professor of History and International Studies with Kogi State University, Anyingba, Professor Patrick Ukase said at the 5th anniversary roundtable of Daily Asset Newspaper in Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja with the theme: The Media, National Economy, Politics and 2023 Elections, that the presidential order at that time was ill conceived and ill motivated to a developing country with rich and diverse History.

According to him, ” Historians, academics and concerned Nigerians were really disburbed when the presidential order was announced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that History was cancelled from the curriculum of Nigerian schools.

” Historical Society of Nigerian and many stakeholders fought the unfortunate presidential order by stating that if the younger generation didn’t know the History of the pre and post independence struggle, they wouldn’t learn, cherish, tolerate and strive towards moving the country forward.

” I once told an Engineer that History is just like the rearview mirror that guides motorists to drive safely and without it, driving would be fatal” He said.

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Professor Patrick Ukase enjoins policy makers to always consider and adopt issues to do with national interest without prejudice to avoid the embarrassment that followed the cancellation and later reintroduction of History into Nigeria’s school curriculum.

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NUT Threatens Strike Over Sack of 2,357 Kaduna Teachers

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The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has rejected the recent sack of 2,357 of its members in Kaduna State.

The Union has therefore said it will embark on a nationwide strike should the Kaduna State government refuse to reverse the decision.

It would be recalled that the teachers in Kaduna state, including its National President, Comrade Audu Titus Amba were sacked by the Kaduna State government for failing a purported competency test.

But addressing neewsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, the Deputy President of NUT, Dr Kelvin Nwankwo said its President, Amba did not fail test as announced by the state government and therefore remains its national president.

The Union also said the action of Governor Nasiru El-Rufai is clearly to intimidate the NUT President and embarrass the Teachers in Nigeria, and accused the governor of using the tactics not to pay owed salaries.

The NUT NEC urged Kaduna State government to rather embark on continuous Teacher Training Programme, which would at the end of the day improve knowledge and service delivery by Teachers in the Public Schools of Kaduna State as obtains in other professions such as Nursing, Medicine and Law. 

“The very concept of competency test is an aberration and absurd having regards to the fact that the teachers in Kaduna State have prior to their recruitment in the State Public Service attended schools and institutions statutorily saddled with the responsibility of Teacher education and these institutions have certified them to be competent, fit and proper to be Teachers. 

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“In addition, the selfsame Kaduna State Government had subjected the teachers to scrutiny and test to ensure their suitability or otherwise for employment as Teachers before they were recruited by it.

“It is in the context of the above that the whole concept of a competency test which is only peculiar to Kaduna State is akin to a cocktail of absurdities and leaves a sour taste in the mouth, thereby validating the position of NUT that the intentions of the Kaduna State Government on this issue is everything but altruistic.”

Nwankwo further said Kaduna State is the second most indebted State in Nigeria and the State Government is on a free roller coaster move to satisfy the conditionalities handed down to it by its creditors, which normally includes downsizing of the public service without even the remotest regards to our peculiar circumstances. 

“The whole concept of competency test was designed by the Kaduna State Government to achieve its inglorious aim of casualization of the teaching profession in Kaduna State.

“Otherwise, how else can one attempt a rationalization of the fact that the selfsame Kaduna State Government in the year 2018 dismissed/retired in one swoop 21,780 teachers purportedly for not passing its unilaterally and arbitrarily administered competency test and purportedly in replacement thereof recruited about 20,000 new teachers, who according to it were subjected to vigorous test and confirmed to be competent before they were recruited into the Kaduna State Public Service.

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“In accordance with the Kaduna State Public/Civil Service Rules, these purported 20,000 Teachers were employed on a temporary basis and placed on a ONE YEAR probationary period.

“Their appointments were to be made permanent and pensionable after the one year probationary period.  However, rather regrettably five years down the line, these teachers are still under temporary appointment with the result that the Kaduna State Government can whimsically and shamelessly ask them to leave the public service without any terminal related benefits. 

These selfsame 20,000 constitute the bulk of the 2,357 teachers, who are said not to have passed the latest in the series of competency test in Kaduna State,” he said.

The NUT scribe added that the manifest intention of the Kaduna State Government is to prey on the rather unfortunate existing non employment status of our teeming school leavers by recruiting them as teachers only to subsequently subject them to the raw deal it subjected the purported 20,000 teachers, thereby achieving its aim of casualization of the teaching profession in Kaduna State. 

The Union also said the case of its dear President, Amba clearly establishes the fact that the whole concept of competency test in Kaduna State is arbitrary and lacking in certainty.

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“He was not dismissed then for failure to write the competency test.  The question that readily agitates the mind in the circumstance is, what has changed in 2021/2022?

“It is also rather very sad and curious that the dismissal letter relative to the NUT President was in the Public domain via the social media even when it has not been served on him. 

“The intention clearly is to intimidate the NUT President and embarrass the Teachers in Nigeria.  This like other anti labour and people policies of the Kaduna State Government has failed on arrival. We got news for His Excellency Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai and his co-travelers to wit:- power is transient,” the union stated.

NUT therefore,  reaffirmed its commitment to stand with its revered President Comrade Audu Titus Amba and all the teachers in Kaduna State, who have fallen victim of the anti labour policies in Kaduna State and which policies have defied all logic and lacking in milk of human kindness.

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