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Typical out of school children in Nigeria

Nigeria has highest number of out-of-school children globally; UNICEF begins 5-year strategic country plan

By Folasade Akpan

Enugu, March 23, 2023

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has began a five-year strategic plan to help Nigerian children who are left behind in developmental strides to meet up with their counterparts in other parts of the world.

UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, said this on Thursday in Enugu during a ‘Training-Of-Trainers on Child Rights Curriculum’ for university lecturers for onboarding the course: Child Rights Reporting for Mass Communication and General Studies Module.

Njoku said that the five-year programme which began in January would run until 2027.

According to him, many children in Nigeria are left behind in many areas adding that the country has the world’s highest number of out of school children at an estimated 10.1 million of primary age school children who are not in school.

Also, that children in Nigeria continued to experience high levels of abuse, including recruitment by non-state armed groups among other issues.

He, however, said that UNICEF through the plan, was determined to change the trajectory.

“What we want to change is persistent and entrenched gender inequalities that cause girls to experience worse outcomes than boys.

“Insufficient government investment that leads to basic social services being financed by out of pocket expenditure, excluding millions of the poorest and most vulnerable.

“Limitations in state and local government human resource capacity responsible for service delivery.

“The organisation, however, intends to achieve the plan using the four major components of child survival (Health, Polio, Nutrition, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and HIV/AIDS), basic education, child protection and social policy and gender equality.”

Njoku said that presently, the organisation was strengthening systems at the national and subnational levels and in fragile contexts to eliminate poverty and malnutrition, improve health, ensure education and protect children and support emergency prevention, preparedness and response.

He also said that UNICEF was pursuing risk-informed humanitarian and development nexus programming and strengthening the resilience of systems, households and communities.

“We are supporting the delivery of timely humanitarian assistance, including as a provider of last resort in nutrition, child protection, education and WASH in line with the principles of accountability to affected populations.

“Also, engaging the private sector as a supplier of goods and services, an employer, an innovator and investor and as an advocate for the wellbeing of women and children.”

Mrs. Juliet Chiluwe, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Enugu, said that communicating children’s rights was a challenge and a broad range of abuses against children emanated from ignorance of what constituted child’s right.

“This is where the media has a critical role to play and I’m proud to say that media remains UNICEF’s very close ally in ensuring a wider information spread on issues of child rights.

“This great opportunity helps to broaden the scope of knowledge and exposure of the communication students and practitioners of Mass Communication by way of infusion of the Child Rights concerns, which are also topical concerns for human development.

“Let me also use this opportunity to congratulate the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka, Anambra state for taking this first step to further mainstream child rights curriculum by electing the CRRC as a general studies course, making it compulsory for in-school mass communicators.”

She added that it was indeed a lauded gesture and urged other partnering universities and communication institutions to emulate NAU in the interest of fostering child rights reportage in Nigeria.

Mr. Zira Nagga, the Chief Information Officer, Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB), Ministry of Information and Culture, said that the training would facilitate the movement of all journalists from the present level of child rights awareness to a certain degree of knowledge.

He added that it would bring about the needed paradigm shift in reporting children and expose them to the rights to survival, development, protection and participation.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the two-day training which began on Thursday, ends today, Friday.

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