Education is a leveller, as it makes citizens have choices, strengthens the office of the citizen, and develops critical minds needed to question duty bearers and bring them to account, which is essential for social justice. Ipso facto, education is a productive investment that is worthwhile; and one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development.
Sadly, there are serious challenges facing schooling in the country, which stressed the need to strengthen the quality of basic education in Nigeria by confronting head-on those factors that deny children access to basic education.
Truth be told, the current challenges affecting the educational system in the country have left much to be desired.
According to a survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world.
With the nation’s current population of over 195.9 million, 45 per cent of which are below 15 years, there is a huge demand for learning opportunities, translating into increased enrolment. This has created challenges in ensuring quality education since resources are spread more thinly, resulting in more than 100 pupils for one teacher as against the UNESCO benchmark of 35 students per teacher and culminating in students learning under trees for lack of classrooms.
The link between education, democracy, and development was duly emphasized by Nelson Mandela when he noted that “an educated, enlightened and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.”
Parents who are financially incapacitated in providing the educational needs of their children in many cases are compelled to send their wards into child labour.
Some state governments in Nigeria in tackling the menace have introduced free education in both primary and secondary schools to encourage more pupils and students to access basic education.
Despite state government efforts, some students and parents are bogged down with the inability to provide educational materials such as textbooks, school uniforms, pens, school bags, and other writing materials.
Public schools in Edo State just like other states of the federation are not exempted in these challenges which inform the decision of stakeholders, spirited individuals, and families to take upon themselves to make an impact and support the development of education.
As both the federal and state governments in the country continue to grapple with the skyrocketing number of out-of-school children, recently, the family of late Benin Billionaire and philanthropists, Captain Idahosa Okunbo, popularly known as Captain Hosa, on the 3rd of February, 2022, fulfilled the promise made to honour their late father, as they gave out scholarships to 100 indigent students drawn from public schools to mark the 64th posthumous birthday of the deceased.
The efforts according to them is to reduce the number of out-of-school children to the barest minimum, adding that the streets are known for breeding all forms of criminals and other social misfits who constitute the real threat to society.
Most of the beneficiaries before now reside in Northern Nigeria where the activities of Boko Haram insecurity and banditry have disrupted their academic pursuit.
For other children, it is extreme poverty and lack of institutional support from stakeholders which has over time denied them of achieving basic education.
The decision by the family it was gathered was largely informed by the spirited effort of their late father’s immense contributions and love for education.
The first child of the late billionaire and wife of the Olu of Warri, Olori Atuwatse III, who spoke on behalf of the Okunbo’s while making presentations in Benin urged the students to emulate the life of her late father, who she said was not born with a silver spoon but made it through hard work and determination.
Quoting the 2018 UNICEF survey she said the survey showed that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria had risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, a figure she described as alarming.
Speaking further, she said the survey showed that there is still a huge number of those who are in school, but are learning nothing. She urged teachers to always pay keen attention to students in school.
Olori, a wife of the Olu of Warri, who was flanked by her siblings, other family members, and heads of schools, said, “Captain Hosa was many things to many people. My father went to school in this city; my mother went to St Maria Goretti so I want to encourage you.
“He was one of the children in the family of eleven, his parents were teachers so he was not born with a silver spoon but through hard work, dedication and determination, he rose to be a man of great impact and great value so I want you to take that as an encouragement.
“Look at him and know that this is the same Benin City that he grew up in and you are growing up in, you have all it takes to make an impact on the society.
“Education is so important to us and we decided to put this together to mark his posthumous 64th birthday. We know we can do feeding but the food will get finished, we can build a road but the road will get bad someday and it came to me, why don’t we invest in lives, why don’t we transform lives, why don’t we ensure that pupils can go to school so that the multiplier effects will felt.
“We have touched one hundred lives today but I dare say we have touched a hundred thousand lives,” the Itsekiri Queen noted.
Speaking earlier, the Olori’s younger brother and first son of Okunbo, Osahon Okunbo, and Executive Director, Pipeline Infrastructure Nigeria Limited said Nigeria invested in his late father through earned scholarships and “he always referenced that to let people know that and wanted to always give back to Nigeria because of what Nigeria did for him and this is one way we can continue that and honour him.”
The younger Okunbo urged the beneficiaries to immediately “begin to ensure that you are the best. Always give more than you take, try to be selfless, and for every decision you make, always ask yourself how that decision will benefit your community.
“If all of us can do that, we will have a better state, we will have a better community and you will have embodied the values my father stood for.”
The gesture from the family attracted representatives of the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEB, School administrators, parents/guardians who came to witness the presentation.
One of the beneficiaries, Uwaila Obasohan, a Senior Secondary, SS3, student of Itohan Girls Grammar School, while thanking the family of Okunbo said she had given up hope of writing her final examinations on account of lack of funds.
In a tear of joy, she said “I can’t believe this is happening to me. I never knew this kind of gesture would come my way. I’m so happy now that I can pay my West Africa School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fee and attend to my other educational needs. God will continue to bless the family”
The parent of another beneficiary, Mr Wellington Ikponmwen who spoke on behalf of her daughter, Divine Ikponmwen said gestures of this nature are rare just as he thanked the family of Late philanthropist.
“In fact, I don’t know how to express my joy. I have never seen this kind of goodwill before, not just for one person but for many people. I just want to say thank you.
The provision of these cash donations was also extended to 20 students of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were accompanied by the camp supervisor, Pastor A. Omogie