By Gbenga Ajao
The Lagos State government has adopted what it calls the ‘Zero Project’ to tackle the problem of out-of-school children in the state.
Despite the state’s high literacy rate (96.5 per cent, the second highest among states of the federation according to the National Bureau of Statistics), Lagos still has a high number of children of school-going age who are not in school.
Many of these are either on the streets soliciting for alms, working as bus conductors, load carriers, shoe shiners, hawkers or in shops learning one vocational trade or the other while their peers are in school learning.
However, the state said it was determined to take these children off the streets and enroll them in school so as to give them a secure future and make the state a safer and better place for all.
The executive chairman of the state’s Universal Basic Education Board, Wahab Alawiye-King, gave this hint when News men contacted him for reaction on the issue.
He said the SUBEB under his supervision had designed ‘Project Zero’ to address this issue, and that it was already being implemented.
Project Zero, he explained, was designed to take out-of-school children off the streets “as the state is moving towards a smart city.”
He said many sub-projects had evolved in that regard, naming the home-grown school feeding programme which was launched by the state two months ago for pupils in Primary One to Three in government-owned schools as one of the ways to attract these children to school.
He said the initiative which would be extended to cover kindergarten and Primary Four and Five in the future would certainly serve as a great motivation for enrollment and retention.
Alawiye-King, a former chairman of the state’s House of Assembly Committee on Education, said “even though children not going to school is as a result of many factors, the state’s SUBEB’s mandate is to ensure that every child of school age in the state is in school.
“And that is why we as a government are not only concerned about getting them enrolled, but also about their retention till they complete their education.”
But when asked how the state would cope if all these children get enrolled when teachers are not enough and infrastructure to support the system is inadequate, he said the government was already taking care of such issues.
“Our ongoing teachers’ recruitment exercise involving about 2,000 qualified professional teachers and about 1,000 additional ones who had been assisting the system all along to be engaged and distributed across public schools in the state is almost at the final stage,” he said.
He added that there was also a massive infrastructure development going on in government’s schools to ensure they were more conducive to learning and teaching.