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I was part of a team that mapped more than 100 communities in Shira Local Government Area of Bauchi state in September this year. The community mapping was a prelude to a USAID funded intervention project that provides access to education to Out of School Children (OoSC).

I was part of a team that mapped more than 100 communities in Shira Local Government Area of Bauchi state in September this year. The community mapping was a prelude to a USAID funded intervention project that provides access to education to Out of School Children (OoSC).

The project is implemented by Creative International Inc. in collaboration with local CSOs in Bauchi and Sokoto States. The project principally provides access to education for Out of School Children in Northern Nigeria under Northern Education Initiative Plus (NEI+). Out of School Children are school aged kids (6-7 based on the Initiative's target) who are supposed to be in school but due to reasons associated with lack of public schools around their communities, endemic poverty, cultural and religious misinterpretations among others could not attend school. These children include orphans, almajiris, adolescent girls and boys.
The mapping offers me an interesting but cataclysmic insights as to how bad our education sector is. In shira LGA where the Initiative Partners Better Life Restoration Initiative (BERI)and Rahama Women Development Programme to provide access to education to OoSC by establishing Non-Formal Learning Centers, there are at least 500 communities with at least 60 to 70 children who are not going to school for the reasons I mentioned earlier. Yes. You read me well; I mean 500 communities in the Local Government Area have deserving kids who are supposed to be in schoolbut were forced to remain at home.
BERI and Rahama, funded by the Initiative are only working in 70 communities. By implication, it means there are 430 more communities in Shira LGA of Bauchi State that are desperately in need of learning centersbut could not get one. The NEI+ project is implemented in 10 LGAs out of the total 20 LGs in the state. Shira is at least betterit has more formal schools compare to other LGs, say Alkaleri for example. Now let us assume that there are only 500 communities that have at least 70 qualified children who are supposed to be in school but were forced to remain illiterate because the government is “not aware of their existence”. Multiply 70 by 500 in 10 LGAs; it means there are three hundred and fifty thousand kids (350,000) who are out of school in only 10 LGAs in the state. Of this number, the Initiative succeeded in establishing 70 centers in each of the 10 LGAs in the state and each center houses 45 learners. Mathematically, only 31,500 out of the 350,000 children have access to Non-Formal-Learning Centers in 7oo communities across 10 LGAs who are in dare need of these centers. If you are still following, remember I said there 500 communities in each of the 10 LGAs who are in dare need of these centers. Arithmetically, when you multiply 500 by 10, it will cumulatively give you 5,000. Therefore, there are five thousand communities in need of centers across the 10 LGAs and only a paltry 700 communities are covered by the provisions of the Initiative.
This pathetic picture chronicles only 10 out of the 20 LGAs in Bauchi state. Now it is important we put into context the 2018 appropriation which was presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari recently in order to understand the horrific meaning of the budget based on the needs highlighted earlier. The provision of the budget allocated insignificantly, only 7.04 percent to education. In view of the picture I painted above, what does the 2018 budget on education means for the remaining 318, 500 kids who are qualified and anxious to go to school but are not covered by the provisions of the Initiative doing the intervention in the 10 LGAs? Nkem Ogadinma Ogbonna, the Executive Director, Better Life Restoration Initiative who is one of the implementing partners of the Initiative argues that “what the budget means for the Out of School Children is that the government doesn't want them to be in school, they should remain in their fathers' houses, move round the streets, and end up becoming kidnappers”.
Mr Nkem is absolutely right. What the budget says to those kids is that: you don't deserve education, we will not erect any building in the name of school, we will not employ any teacher to teach anybodyin fact we will replicate the Kaduna model and sack more” unqualified teachers”. It means the kids should join Boko Haram, because education is made Haram by the virtue of what is allocated to it.
The budget is not even where the problem lies, not even its implementation which is also another topic of discussion for another daythe problem with the budget is that the larger chunk of it is for recurrent expenditurepayment of salaries to the over 85 parastatals lying waste under the ministry of education.
The budget is to cover their over-head costsnot building of new schools, not teachers training and retraining, not capacity building for policy makers and implementers of education policy (if we have one).
The budget is not to expand enrollment campaigns, bringing kids back to class roomsno. No amount is budgeted for that.
The budget is not only telling those kids that they don't deserve to be educated, it is also saying that the schools don't deserve good teachers, they don't need to have libraries, after-all, Reuben Abati once discovered that Nigerians don't read. Not only to those kids in Northern Nigeria or elsewhere in the country, this budget also means that other development sectors are ruinously in shambles. Because it is from the education sectors that we produce Engineers that build our roads, Doctors that treat our illnesses, Lawyers and Judges that administer [in]justiceand all other experts, professionals and administrators that take care of other components that make up a decent nation. To understand properly the hypocrisy and lack of coherent budgetary process that collect, appreciate and recognize in-puts from the bottom, we need to put into context the recent statement attributed to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu. The minister during the 2017 Convergence Education Summit says Nigeria needs over 1 trillion naira yearly in order to cater for the need of the education sector. I must confess my naivety when it comes to budget and how they are drafted, but I was stroke to ask: was there no input from Adamu's ministry before the budget was drafted and presented to the National Assembly? Who is drafting this budget (Ministry of budget and planning?) and allocating how much to which ministry based on what bench marks? I'm confused! Please could someone clear my naivety and ignorance? When the most populous black nation on earth does not have a well articulated, carefully crafted and strategically choreographed policy on education that speaks to and addresses the challenges of the 21st century, then we should be ready to confront many Evans and Shekaus!

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