OSUN O-MEALS: SOLUTION TO NIGERIA’S OUT OF SCHOOL CHILDREN MALAISE
One fundamental right of a child is the Right to Basic Education. Failure of a government to provide this and ensure that any child irrespective of tribe, color or race accesses it will be unbearable. Such children who are out of school often end up as social miscreants. Boko Haram, kidnappings and other problems are the resultant effects. It is high time we do something drastic about Nigeria’s Out of School Children(OOSC) problems. We are not sitting on a keg of gunpowder, this time around; it is a tonne of dynamite.
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) using the National Demographic Housing Survey (NDHS) of 2008, came out in 2012 that Nigeria has 10 million Out of School Children population. The survey, breaking down its finding geographically, in the Southwest, Oyo State had the worst scenario of primary-age OOSC of 20.3%, Osun had 7.5%, Ondo with 6%, Ogun 4.3%, Lagos 4.3% and Ekiti with 2.9%. Taking her destiny into her hands, Osun now has the highest enrolment rate in the whole of Nigeria and the least state with OOSC according to the National Bureau of Statistics. It took determination and zeal to achieve this.
Osun intervention of providing a meal per day for primary school students did the magic. Historically, the Federal Government of Nigeria initiated the Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFHP) through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act, in 2004. The legislation stipulated that at a minimum, all state primary schools must provide one meal a day to each pupil. To begin the national programme, the Federal Ministry of Education decided on a phased-pilot rollout for the programme, beginning with 13 States including FCT Abuja. The States are: Bauchi, Cross River, Enugu, Imo, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Ogun, Osun, Nasarawa and Yobe. The goal of this programme is in consonance with the Millennium Development Goals One (MDG 1) of Achieving Universal Basic Education.
Osun under the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbegbesola inherited the programme, rebranded and improved upon it. The Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (O’MEALS) which was formerly known as Osun State Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme commenced as a pilot programme in the state in May 2006. However the newly repackaged programme was re-launched in the State under Aregbesola’s government on 30th April 2012 with pupils in Grades 1-3 of the 1,378 public primary schools being fed one meal a day.
Below is the Menu Table as introduced under Aregbesola Administration.
|Days||Details of Meals To Be Served|
|Wednesdays||Beans Porridge+Bread+Whole Egg+Banana|
|Thursdays||Rice+Egusi Garnished with Vegetable+Chicken+Banana|
|Fridays||Porridge+Vegetable+Beef+ A slice of Pawpaw or Mango|
The programme immediately introduced impacted positively on school enrolment with an increase of 38,000 pupils, representing 25% within four weeks of its introduction. Enrolment of pupils increased from 155,318 pupils on 31st May 2012 to 194,253 pupils by the 30th of June 2012. By December 2012, Aregbesola’s administration decided to extend the programme to cover pupils in primaries 1-4(representing the Elementary School) bringing the total number of pupils being fed to 252,000. Between 31st May 2012 and September 2013, Osun experienced a 40% increase of 97,000 pupils school enrolment within 15 months.
Development, poverty reduction and progress occurs when interventions succeeds in a given area and best practices are scaled-up to a wider national coverage to meet national needs. With a 10 million OOSC in Nigeria, Osun’s strategy using the OMEALS programme will solve the issue. If within 15 months, Osun achieved 40% increase of 97,000 pupils, Nigeria can solve the 10million OOSC problems within 4yrs.
For the purpose of argument, let us assume the programme is scaled up nationally to the 36 states, by the first 15 months, using Osun’s strategy, 97,000×36 states will give us 3,492,000 pupils. If we subtract this from the UNESCO statistics of 10m, Nigeria would have reduced the OOSC problems to 6.5m. By the second year representing 30 months, the successes would have been doubled, bringing the total to 6, 984,000 children. If we minus this from the original 10m OOSC, we will be left with 3,016,000. Using the Osun approach, Nigeria within 30 months will be left with a reduction from 10m OOSC to 3,016,000. By the end of the third year representing 45 months, we would have drastically eliminated the OOSC problems. Let us put this argument in tabular form.
|S/N||OSUN (97,000 PUPILS X STATES)||NATIONAL TARGET (Increasing )||NATIONAL REDUCTION(10M OOSC) (Reducing)||YEAR /MONTHS|
|1||97,000X 36||3,492,000||6,508,000||Yr 1(15 months)|
|2||97,000X 36||6,984,000||3,016,000||Yr 2 (30 months)|
|3||97,000x 36||10,476,000||NIL||Yr 3 (45 months)|
This intervention is what the new government of President Muhammudu Buhari should adopt using the Osun template. Solving the 10m OOSC problem is a duty we owe this generation and generation unborn. If we do not take action, the outcome cannot be quantified. If the rich keep sending their children to study abroad, one day the children will come back and over 10m OOSC would have grown up and turned out to be kidnappers, robbers etc. What are the consequences? Your guess is as good as mine.