The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Nigeria, through the federal ministry of education, are developing guidelines on policy to enable out-of-school adolescent girls to return to school.
Speaking at a two-day critique meeting on a draft re-entry guidelines for adolescent girls on Friday in Akure, Omotomi Ayotunde, the deputy director, basic education department of the ministry, said the programme was important to the country.
Ayotunde noted that the meeting was for a national framework on ensuring that girls, who had dropped out of schools due to pregnancy, early marriage, and other issues, were re-enrolled.
“It has become paramount for the federal ministry of education to collaborate with UNICEF to ensure that the programme becomes a national document. It is a brain child of UNICEF and the ministry keyed into it.
“We are here to harvest inputs from people, especially stakeholders from eight states and to have comprehensive guidelines. After this, we will go to other zones and after that, we will process the guidelines and submit them for actions or implementation,” he said.
Chinedu Osuji, the resource person at the programme, explained that a draft had been produced and was being taken round the country for stakeholders to appraise.
Osuji, who said that the initiative was a product of UNICEF and the ministry, stated that the main objective was to have a national document that would address the alarming rate of out-of-school girls in the country.
According to him, “60 percent of out-of-school students in Nigeria are adolescent girls; so, there is a need to carry all girls along in education in the country.
“The idea is that if a girl has to drop out because of pregnancy, she should have an opportunity to return to school after having her child. If it is an early marriage, she should be able to go back. Marriage should not be a hindrance,” he said.
Olaseni Ogunleye, the permanent secretary, Ogun ministry of education, science and technology, appreciated the Federal Government for the initiative. Ogunleye, a participant, said the document, when concluded and implemented, would afford girls the opportunity to fulfil their dreams.
She pleaded with the government to ratify the document when concluded and make it a national policy, so that states could domesticate it.
Abidemi Adeoye, the director of social, mobilisation and special education, Osun Universal Basic Education Board, said the process was a welcome idea. Adeoye, another participant, recalled that the Child Right Acts stipulated that no child should be kept away from school.
She noted that many girls became pregnant because they were raped or lured into it, adding that poverty made many to become pregnant outside their wish.
“We need to encourage them. If we fail to cater for them, they will become liabilities and dependency ratio will be increased in our society.
“We must sensitise their parents to bring them up and we must create an enabling environment for them, so that they will get back to school and become useful to the society,” she said.
Patrick Adebayo of Ondo Catholic Diocese, said the concept if implemented would make society better and flourishing.
Adebayo, a participant, asked concerned authorities not to allow unnecessary bureaucracy to hinder the implementation of the policy when concluded. NAN