VP’s Remarks At Kano State Education Summit
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE KANO EDUCATION SUMMIT 2019
On the 20th of June 2019, at the inaugural meeting of the National Economic Council, NEC, Mr. President made the crucial declaration and charge to Governors of the 36 States, that not only must all States enforce free and compulsory education for the first nine years of a child’s school life, but also that failure to do so would be a crime.
I am therefore gratified to be here with you to see the early fruits of Mr. President’s charge. The Governor himself had noted that on May 29, 2019, he made the declaration also that education of the first 9 years of a child’s school life would be free and compulsory in Kano State. We must all commend His Excellency, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on this historic milestone for Kano, for this region and for our country as a whole.
Since the inception of this administration in 2015, our guiding principle has been the recognition that our greatest national resource is neither crude oil nor any other mineral resources; it is our people. Nigerians are Nigeria’s greatest asset. Our ability to compete in the global economy depends on our human capital and our economic aspirations rest on the quantum of skills and capacities that we have been able to nurture.
It is the quality of human capital at our disposal that ultimately determines everything, from the flowering of local innovation, to the flow of foreign direct investment, boosting productivity, the creation of jobs and entrepreneurial revolution that we have been looking for. This is why from the outset, we made the commitment to invest massively in improving the quality of our human capital.
We recognize that education has the means by which we can give our people the tools with which to live their fullest and most creative lives. Our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), rightly prioritizes human capital development. It recognizes that the shifts in the global economy impose a burden on us all to reposition our education sector and prime our young people to adapt and thrive in the context of enormous technological and economic changes.
These shifts also demand that we ensure that our workforce acquires the critical skills required to drive economic growth. This is important because even as we work to increase the employment opportunities available to Nigerians, many employers cite unemployability as an even more salient challenge. Lack of skills, they argue, is a huge obstacle to hiring personnel.
Between January and August this year, from only 23 of Nigeria’s 170 Universities, 90,000 fresh graduates have entered the labour market. For these young Nigerians, getting employment will depend not only on the quantum of job opportunities out there, which we are constantly working to increase but also on the skills that they have been equipped with. Their fate is a crucial test for the efficacy of our educational system.
While we continually seek improvements in higher education and to enhance the competencies of our labour force, the starting point and the foundation for any progress in human capital development is basic education. It is in the precincts of basic education that we empower children with the fundamental cognitive tools to navigate and negotiate the world.
According to UNICEF and several other statistics, Nigeria accounts for one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children. Just 61% of 6-11-year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6% of children aged 36-59-months receive early childhood education.
For a country with our aspirations, these figures are simply unacceptable, and they leave a generation severely disadvantaged through no fault of their own. This is a deficit that we are now addressing diligently.
Consequently, the ERGP stipulates guaranteed access to qualitative universal education for Nigeria’s children and youth. For us, this means vastly reducing the ranks of Nigeria’s estimated over 10 million out-of-school children. Our National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, aside from addressing the poor nutrition and health status of poor children, which affects their learning outcomes, was designed to drive an increase in primary school enrollment and completion. Working together with the states, our goal is to feed over 15 million school children. Presently, we are feeding 9.8million children daily in 32 states.
The centerpiece of our efforts is described as our “Every Child Counts Policy”, which aims to mainstream skills acquisition and increase enrollment rates and to position Nigeria as a champion in the knowledge economy.
Under this policy, we are revising curriculum and content to impart skills relevant in the emerging knowledge economy in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, as well as digital literacy, civic education, critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills. We are working with States to raise the caliber of teachers and administrators that will be at the frontlines of this campaign and also to equip our schools and promote environments that are conducive to learning.
One of the expected critical outcomes of our efforts to expand access to basic education is the attainment of Mr. President’s commitment to lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next decade.
Indeed, it is our conviction that the inclusive prosperity we seek requires a commitment to inclusive education. This means addressing class, regional and gender-based disparities in access to education.
Kano lies at the centre of that plan because Kano itself is at the centre of the region that has been historically considered a zone of educational disadvantage. Kano has always been reputed as a place of learning and this landmark policy pronouncement on free and compulsory education will not only draw the over 1 million out-of-school children in the State from the streets into classrooms, it also sets a hugely important precedent for other States to follow. We believe that as the most populous State in the North, Kano is eminently positioned to trigger an educational revolution across the region.
I am especially gratified to see that your policy of free and compulsory education specifically and unambiguously includes “the girl child.” Economic growth is simply impossible when a critical half of our population is denied the opportunities for empowerment. Indeed, the most prosperous societies on the planet are places where gender is no obstacle to gaining an education and boys and girls enjoy equal access to knowledge.
This is why we made access to education for girls a key priority in our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and Mr President has repeated that in his subsequent speeches after his declaration on the 20th of June, 2019.
More than half of the girls in the Northwest are not in school, and several other girls across the zones in Nigeria. But your commitment to educating girls in Kano State will most certainly turn the tide and arm our young women with everything they need to fulfill their potential.
Lifting millions of our people out of poverty and improving their quality of life requires a positive conspiracy of resolve across all tiers of government. Kano State exemplifies the type of partnership that is possible between the Federal Government and the States in the quest to revolutionize the education of the Nigerian child.
We must congratulate the Governor and government of Kano State for the commitment to this cause and for sparing no resource in investing in present and future generations of this State. Without a doubt, this is the stuff of which sterling legacies are made.
The journey you have begun today has only one destination, the transformation of the course of the destinies of millions of children who before now had no hope. As that happens, the prosperous future of Kano and Nigeria is assured.
I wish you every success as you set this very important journey in our adventure of progress.
Thank you for listening.