Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Saturday declared that over 14 million Nigerian children that should be in school are not in school, and thereby deprived of education.
Obasanjo made this known in Lagos at the virtual 2020 Fellowship Graduation Ceremony of the second cohort of “Teach for Nigeria Fellows”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that “Teach For Nigeria”, an NGO, graduated 161 fellows who have impacted approximately 9,660 students in 80 schools across Lagos, Ogun, and Kaduna States.
Teach For Nigeria focuses on developing a movement of leaders across Nigeria who are committed to putting an end to educational inequity.
Obasanjo said: “They are deprived of opportunities that will allow them to develop their abilities and become useful to themselves and their communities.
“It is evident that at this point, to transform our education system in a sustainable way, Nigerian youths must take up leadership positions.”
According to him, our youths must champion different innovative solutions at every level of the society and across different sectors.
“It is inspiring to see the work that ‘Teach For Nigeria’ is doing to equip promising future leaders with the skills and experience to drive the change that we need,” the former president said.
He added that the leaders had dedicated their time, energy and resources to inspire love for learning, improved educational outcomes, and enhanced life opportunities for children in the classrooms.
“As a result of your commitment, your pupils have succeeded at various academic and non-academic competitions.
“I recently learnt about pupils of ‘Teach For Nigeria Fellows’ who came second in the National Lafarge Competition and other scholarship opportunities.
“They also initiated actions by working with stakeholders such as parents, community members, heads of schools and other teachers,” Obasanjo said.
He, however, advised the fellows to continue to leverage their acquired skills and experiences to advocate for educational excellence in the country.
The former president urged them to be ambassadors for change, driving the movement for freedom and justice in Nigeria.
“I strongly advise that you remain resilient in your fight for educational equity, not relenting on the strides of deploying solutions to tackle the myriads of problems confronting our education system.
“Please do not let anybody tell you that you are leaders of tomorrow, you are leaders today,” Obasanjo said.
He noted that the outbreak of the raging Coronavirus pandemic had put the world at its knees as the whole world strives to develop a vaccine and successful treatments to fight the disease.
“So far, the damage in Africa has been moderate; but if we relax, the African continent can become the worst affected from the economic fallout of the crisis,” Obasanjo said.
He said that our education system was already in crisis before the pandemic hit us.
“The outbreak has exacerbated the ever-widening gulf between the learning opportunities of our most privileged children and our less privileged children.
“To close the dangerous gap as a nation, we require prompt action from well-meaning Nigerians imbued with courage, patriotism, commitment, foresight and love,” Obasanjo said.
Also, Folawe Omikunle, the Chief Executive Officer, Teach For Nigeria, said that graduating fellows had spent the past two years improving the academic outcomes of their pupils.
Omikunle said that they ignited the love for learning in these pupils, instilling self-belief, successfully galvanising parental and community support to aid pupils learning process.