By Ngozi Nwankwo
Minister of State for Education,Rt. Hon. Goodluck Nana Opia has appealed to Bayelsa Lawmakers to give the compulsory education bill accelerated passage to help tackle the out of school children menace in the State.
The Minister made the appeal on Tuesday at the flag off ceremony of the National Campaign on out of school children in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital.
The compulsory Education Bill is awaiting passage.
The bill seeks to make it compulsory for every parent and guardian to send their children to school in order to rid Bayelsa state of out of school children and school dropouts.
Under the bill, parents of children of school age between 6-18 years who are out of school will be arrested and prosecuted.
According to the Minister,60percent of out of school children in Bayelsa state are girls .
The Minister also said the Federal govt through the instrumentality of the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) is doing everything humanly possible to assist the states to strengthen basic education by confronting factors that deny children early education, including extreme poverty, ignorance and access to education among others.
The sensitisation, the Minister said is designed to ensure massive enrolment of children in basic and primary schools and should be taken seriously by all stakeholders, adding that it is a moral and legal obligation,the discharge of which will guarantee the future of the children and by necessary implication, the Nation.
Hon Goodluck Nana opia commended successive administrations in Bayelsa state for the special attention accorded education, including the declaration of the state of emergency in the education sector in the state, the introduction of a free education policy at primary and secondary levels and the inauguration of the enrollment drive committee, all of which have led to a huge enrollment in schools in the state.
The Minister said no parent in Bayelsa state has any excuse to keep his child out of school anymore.
In his key note address to the ocassion, the Executive Governor of Bayelsa state,His Excellency,Senator Douye Diri said education remains the first, second and third priorities of his administration even as he announced that there are two hundred and fifty thousand children out of school in Bayelsa particularly in the ruler areas.
Governor Diri appealed to all Bayelsans to cooperate with his administration in the implementation of relevant laws on out of school children to help rid the state of out of school children.
His Excellency revealed that relevant laws are already in place and what is required is for all hands to be on deck for its implementation
He challenged the State Assembly to put in place a sound oversight mechanism to ensure that the relevant rules are implemented.
Governor Douye asked Bayesans to see education beyond certificate acquisition with emphasis on skills acquisition.
Education, the Governor said is key to human existence.
Earlier at a courtesy call on His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Bayelsa state, Senator Douye Diri , the Minister told the Governor that the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari attaches great Premium to the issues of out of school children across the country, calling for all hands to be on deck to tackle the phenomenon.
In his reaction, Governor Diri expressed appreciation for Govts concern for out of school children, assuring that His administration stands ready to support the efforts of the Federal government in tackling the out of school children phenomenon.
Diri told the Minister that education is and has remained a priority In Bayelsa state at all times.
The Governor used the occasion to inform the Minister that Bayelsa state is up to date in it’s counterpart funding for Basic education up to 2022 and was awaiting Federal government component,UBEC,to hit the ground running.
The governor appreciated the cordial relationship between the Federal government and Balyelsa state in all its ramifications.