UNICEF trains 70 northern youths on child education advocacy

By Carl Umegboro

UNITED Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education (NMEC) have mobilized about seventy Nigerian youths from twelve states in the northern region alongside Federal Capital Territory for intensive training on advocacy for child education for national development. Also co-sponsored is the The Department for International Development (DFID); a United Kingdom government department for administering overseas aid.

The 4-day event tagged “Mobilizing Nigeria’s youths for increased access to safe, quality education for all especially girls” which ended on Thursday in Kano was attended by selected youth representatives from Adamawa, Kano, Niger, Sokoto and Kebbi states. Others are Zamfara, Bauchi, Kaduna, Gombe, Katsina, Adamawa, Plateau and Bayelsa states.

In an opening remarks by HiLWA chairperson in Kano State, Prof Aisha Abdul-Ismail emphasized on the importance of child education especially for girls stating that it remains the realistic panacea to a thriving secured society and therefore avidly demands collective responsibility particularly youths advocacy towards policy-makers and stakeholders in the country.

UNICEF’s Education Specialist, Mrs. Azuka Menkiti while presenting the objectives of the workshop added that the organization is worried about the future of the society with the number of out-of-school children, hence the unique initiatives which among others include youth engagement and advocacy, Cash Transfer Programme presently operating in some states. Other resource persons are Dr. Geoffrey Njoku; UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Noel Ihebuzor, Awwal Nasir, Prof. Mustapha Hussein Ismaii; Director, Centre for Human Rights in Islam, and several others.

The workshop while extensively examining the predicaments alongside ways for translating the right to education to reality identified abject poverty, early marriage prevalent in the north, teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence, poor infrastructures, relevance and quality of teachers as hindrances militating against the right to education in the country.

Prominent amongst identified solutions at the workshop include use of advocacy, incentives and social safety net interventions, providing role models and hiring more female competent teachers. Others are; legislating and enforcing against child marriage, implementing CEDAW, UBE Act, Child Right Act, use AFE (All for Education) mechanism to achieve EFA (Education for All) as well as creating awareness to increase demand. Also critically identified is attending to supply issues necessary for enrolment.

Dr. Ihebuzor who was the lead resource person stressed in his paper presentation that education is a tool per excellence for national development adding that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Education for All (EFA), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), National Policy on Education and the Minister’s Strategy Plan on Education (MSP) all prominently highlighted the importance of education.

The training largely exposed participants on the positive roles and characteristics of youth-energy, dynamism, ability to efficiently serve as change agents by creating awareness, public enlightenment of citizens rights and obligations, building capacities among right holders, and influencing laws, policies and actions, and essentially, monitoring of public resources and projects.