Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president has alerted policy makers on the dangers of having so many children roaming the streets when they should be learning in the classrooms.
The retired army general warned that the 14 million out-of-school children in Nigeria may become terrorists, kidnappers and armed robbers if their education isn’t addressed.
Adamu Adamu, Nigeria’s education minister had in March this year revealed that there were 10 million out-of-primary-school children but pointed that the figure could rise to 14 million when added to those out of junior secondary schools.
Obasanjo’s concerns were published in the Monday bulletin of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), said that in the next 10 years, these out-of-school children could become perpetrators of heinous crimes and constitute a nuisance in the society.
The former president also called on policymakers and key players in the education sector to brace up for challenges as well as ensure that the quality of Nigeria’s education meets the UNESCO Education for All (EFA) standard.
“If we don’t take care of these 14 million out-of-school children in the next 10 years or so, they will be the terrorists, armed robbers, and kidnappers of the future,” Obasanjo disclosed.
Speaking also on the proliferation of tertiary institutions across the country, he warned that quality education in Nigeria shouldn’t always be about the number of universities available.
“It should be about whether they’re doing what they should be doing, whether they meet the needs of the industry where they are situated, or whether they are delivering quality education,” the ex-president added.
“We should be preoccupied with what product is coming out and not about the number or the size. America has varsities with multi-campuses where student populations number in the thousands.
“I used to be a member of the Board of Trustees of Wilberforce University with a total population of 1,500, a small university but one which is making meaningful and impactful contributions.
“We should build on what we have now, improve on them. A population of over 200 million people having 170 or more universities is not too many for me as what matters are content and quality
“And the ability to turn out appropriate products for market and industry. If that is achieved, then universities could be said to be doing what they should be doing and we should hail them for it.”
The Nigerian education sector has been passing through turbulent times with low funding, constant strikes, especially in the tertiary institutions. There has also been issues of poor infrastructure, under-staffing, low pay for teachers and very little grants for research and knowledge development in the sector.