By Philip Yatai, Kaduna.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday pledged continued support to the Federal and State Governments to reduce the number of out-of-school children, improve learning outcomes and increase domestic spending on education.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Ms Cristian Munduate, made the pledge in a statement issued in Kaduna to commemorate the 2023 International Day of Education.
Munduate underscored the need to invest in education and in Nigerian children, in line with the theme of 2023 International Day of Education: “Invest in People, Prioritise Education.”
She said that UNICEF, together with partners, would support federal and state governments to reduce the number of out-of-school children by providing safe, secure and violence-free learning environment in formal and non-formal settings.
Munduate said that UNICEF would also support community engagement on the importance of education and provide cash transfers to households and schools.
On improving learning outcomes, the UNCEF representative said that the United Nations agency would support the expansion of access to quality early childhood education and scaling up of foundational literacy and numeracy programmes.
According to her, UNICEF will also support the provision of digital life employability skills to adolescents to enable the school-to-work transition.
Also, Munduate said that the Fund would support increased domestic spending on education to meet the 20-per-cent global benchmark by 2030.
“This will also help to address the infrastructure and teaching backlog that are affecting children’s access to inclusive and quality education.
“As Nigeria’s presidential elections draw near, on behalf of UNICEF and the children in Nigeria, I call on all the presidential candidates to include investments in education, as a top priority, in their manifestos,” she said.
The UNICEF chief urged Nigeria to deliver on the commitments made by President Muhammadu Buhari at the UN Secretary-General’s Transforming Education Summit, held in September 2022 to end the global learning crisis.
She pointed out that in Nigeria, 75 per cent of children, aged seven to 14 years, could not read a simple sentence or solve a basic mathematics problem.
According to her, for children to be able to read to learn, they must be able to learn to read in the first three years of schooling.
“I commit UNICEF’s support to the government of Nigeria’s commitment to transform education and prevent the loss of hard-fought gains in getting children into school, particularly the poor, rural children and girls.
“The government should also ensure that they remain in school, complete their education and achieve their full potential,” she said.
The International Day of Education is an annual event, held every June 24, to drum up support for better education reforms and improve access to education for all.