• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Ibironke Adeagbo: “Our target is to pick up 1,000 children out of the street every year”

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Ibironke Adeagbo is an award winning, highly skilled and qualified Chartered Accountant with over 27 years of post-qualification experience and knowledge in Finance, Human Resources, Information and Communication Technology, Facilities Management, Learning Resources, Corporate Strategy, and other areas in the public, private, and voluntary sectors. A seasoned resource management and financial specialist, Adeagbo is the Founder and CEO of IA-Foundation, a UK registered educational charity dedicated to transforming lives in Nigeria and Africa through education.

Can you tell us more about IA-Foundation?

I am a Chartered Accountant in both Nigeria and the United Kingdom, and I work in the education sector in the United Kingdom. In the UK, the educational funding methodology is based on number of students recruited, retained, and ensuring they achieve at the end of the course. Otherwise, government will claw back the funding. So, to get the maximum funding, educational institutions strive to have maximum students on roll. As the Finance Director, I was always proactive in ensuring our school is oversubscribed and students are retained in education and achieve, so funds are not clawed back. So, by default, this was a clever way of the UK government reducing the number out of school children in the UK. But when I visit Nigeria, I see the streets littered with children hawking, when they are meant to be in school. So, it became a moral dilemma for me. I felt, if I am proactively helping to reduce out of school children in UK, I ought to be able to do that in Nigeria too. According to UNESCO, there were around 20.2 million street children, primarily because of poverty and insecurity, particularly in the north. So, I thought I had to do something about it. That is why I set up IA-Foundation in 2019.

Can you share some of the successes recorded so far?

We have picked over 105 children and placed them in schools. And we have been paying their bursaries, purchasing them books, uniforms, and school bags. We even paid for some of them to be fed. We supplied over 4,000 e-learning gadgets because the youngsters were unable to attend school due to Covid 19. As a result, we purchased mobile phones devices that have the complete curriculum on it. We have delivered over 9,000 learning resources such as exercise books, math sets, pencils, and textbooks. Also, we built a borehole in the Makoko community, to ensure children have access to clean water.

We held two summits: a security summit, because the level of insecurity in the north was very high, with a high rate of school children being kidnapped on a daily basis, we partnered with Halogen Security Limited to hold a school security summit, where we proffered solutions to the issues of insecurity in schools.

Also recently, we held an “Out of School” summit, themed Panacea to a Menace, to discuss how the government might minimise the number of children who are not in school in Nigeria. So, we intend to submit a proposal to the government for them to begin implementing those proposals and recommendations. We also conduct lots of advocacy and awareness activities. Since it is the government’s responsibility to educate its citizens. As a result, we are also urging the National House of Assembly to pass a bill that would penalise parents who do not send their children to school.

That bill has passed its first reading. We hope it will pass the second reading and eventually become law, and that the President will assent to it. We usually conduct awareness walk and pick children from the street. Recently, we walked from Ikeja under bridge to the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa. And as we walk down the road, we pick up any children we see on the road, get their information, get their parents’ addresses, and go down to meet with their parents to tell them we want to educate their child and pay the child bursary.

The government needs to increase the budgetary allocation for education. Even UNESCO and the United Nations have stated that we should spend double digits on education. The budget for this year was N8.6 billion. When the new Minister of Education took office, he stated that the education budget will be increased by 25%. So that is something we are looking forward to. If the government increases the education budget, we would be able to boost educational standards while also reducing the number of out-of-school children. If all 20.2 million out-of-school children chose to return to school today, there will be insufficient classes and teachers to teach them.

Therefore, we need to scale up on the school infrastructure, on the numbers of teachers we recruit, and its only money that can be used to do this. So, the government needs to double up on that to ensure that they have quality buildings in schools and state-of-the-art facilities. State government’s needs to fulfill their own share of counterpart funding for Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). So, we are proposing that the federal government takes out the 50% for the state from their allocations before they give the states their allocations, so UBEC can get the 50% needed from the states. If you give the states all the money, they may not give UBEC their own percentage, and if you do not give UBEC the full fund, they will not have enough money to ensure that they can educate all our citizens. As you are aware, basic education is meant to be free in Nigeria and UBEC is responsible for making sure that the funds are there. Also, citizens need to be encouraged to socially invest in the education of the future workforce of the country. By donating to educational Foundations/ NGOs.

Projections for 2024

We have three programmes lined up already. On the 2nd of February 2024, the Mayor of Southwark, Councilor Micheal Situ, will be hosting the friends of IA Foundation at the Southwark Town Hall at London Bridge. Basically, all the friends of IA Foundation in the UK will be invited, and it will give us the opportunity to highlight what we are doing and enable us fund-raise. On the 2nd of March2024,we will be having a mega fund-raising event, a charity gala night, a dinner and dance at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. So, it is an opportunity for likeminded people to come together, socialize and while socializing, raising funds to enable us to pick more children out of school. Our target is to pick up 1,000 children out of the street every year. But we need the funds to do this. On the 19th of March 2024, we are going to be having an event at the UK House of Parliament. We are going to be engaging the UK Members of Parliament (MPs), to bring this issue to their attention, so that they could help and support us to make sure we can reduce the numbers of out of school children. So, we will be having an event in the House of Common on the 19th of March 2024. In October2024, we are hoping to have an education summit by the coalition of NGOs operating in the education space in Nigeria. To proffer solutions to increase the quality of education and reduce the number of out of school children in Nigeria.