The Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Amnesty International and some other organisations have discussed ways to promote education for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees, persons with disabilities, returnees and stateless persons across the country.
The discussion dominated the celebration of the ECOWAS Human Rights Day in Abuja on Thursday.
The ECOWAS Human Rights Days is marked every January 16 and is also celebrated across the West African sub-region. The theme of this year’s event is “Rights to education for persons with disabilities, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Refugees, Returnees and Stateless Persons.”
Participants at the even not only discussed education for out-of-school children but also inclusion of children with special needs as well as increased budgetary allocation for the education sector.
A UNICEF study shows that 27.2 per cent of primary school age in the North Central region of Nigeria, are out of school. Another worrisome statistics from the Universal Basic Education Commission shows that “13.2 million children of school age are said to be out of school, and 60 per cent of that number are girls, many of who enroll in school but drop out along the line.”
The budgetary allocation to the education sector in Nigeria is lower than the 15 to 20 per cent recommended by the United Nations to enable nations adequately cater to rising education demands.
Since 2015, the allocation to education has been below eight per cent.
The CDD director who was represented by Jasper Ukachukwu, a Senior Program Officer, noted that vulnerable groups, like persons with disabilities, IDPs, refugees, returnees and stateless persons continue to face serious challenges in their enjoyment of rights to education.
He referred to a 2017 report on inclusive education by the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education that says though literacy among children with learning disabilities has increased globally, they remain severely excluded from educational policies and still lag far behind their peers.
In Nigeria, which has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, ascertaining the percentage of those with learning disabilities has been difficult as official data is nonexistent. As such, educational plan will most likely not address the needs of those with disabilities, he said.
He, therefore, urged the federal government to adopt an inclusive dimension of the right to education, “notably through the implementation of the 1960 UNESCO Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education, which provide an international legal framework for the protection of the right to education without discrimination.”
Regarding IDPs, refugees, returnees, and stateless persons, he said they face significant challenges in exercising their right to education, from infrastructure, capacity and resource constraints to persistent insecurity, social tensions and discrimination.
“More specifically, education is all too often treated as a secondary need to be addressed once violence has subsided, but conflicts and the emergencies they cause may last for years or even decades, leaving many displaced children to grow up deprived of education and the protection and support schools provide.
“This impedes their socioeconomic development, fuelling displacement risk and the potential for future crises.”
He further called for the formulation and implementation of deliberate policies of inclusion of IDP’s and others in the educational sector plan in Nigeria.
Emmanuel Okorodudu of the ECOWAS commission also lamented that provision of education for the IDPs and other less privileged Nigerians has been limited.
Like Mr Ukachukwu, he called for more ‘inclusivity’ and accessibility and creation of ‘transformational’ schools. He also emphasised the need for the IDPs to have proper provisions in national planning. This is even as he urged partners to create more awareness for this class of people
A nation not properly educated will not attain the millennium development goals, he said.
On her part, the Director, Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, said beyond physical support, IDPs and the likes need holistic care through psycho-social support. This, she said, is necessary to help them overcome the traumatic experience.
Resources always go to food, shelter and security and there is a need to insert provisions for education and play, she said.
While she decried the level of sexual and gender-based violence in the camps, she called for training for officials in charge of training and guarding the IDPs against sexual harassment.
The event was attended by the representative of the United Nations in West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS), National Human Rights Commission, Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations.