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DON seeks remedial action on 13 million out-of-school children

A Professor of Sociology of Education and Head, Department of Educational Foundations and Counselling, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Prof. Taiwo Edun, has asked the Nigerian government to immediately deploy massive infrastructural, human and financial resources to draft over 13 million out-of-school children in the country to school. The don, who warned that Nigeria faces impending doom if its education sector was not substantially funded, also canvassed the restructuring of the nation’s socio-political environment to stimulate gainful youth employment.

The distinguished scholar, who averred that education remains the most effective and enduring instrument for effecting social reform and national rebirth, declared that the country must be willing to take the laborious and costly path to give its children and youths a virtuous, complete and generous education and progressively fund the sector towards attaining the laudable targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4 by the year 2030. He added that the teaching of entrepreneurship should be reviewed across all levels of education system to focus more on self-discovery by the students to enable their talents match the opportunities they will catch on in the environment.

Prof. Edun made the submissions while delivering the 101st Inaugural Lecture of OOU on Tuesday, 11th January, 2021 at the Otunba Gbenga Daniel Lecture Theatre, Main Campus, Ago-Iwoye. The Lecture entitled, “Rethinking education for gainful youth employment in Nigeria: A sociological imagination” was presided over by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Ganiyu Olatunji Olatunde.

The Inaugural Lecturer decried youth unemployment rate in Nigeria which he put at  42.5%, saying the country has the third highest youth unemployment rate in the world after South Africa and Angola with 64.4% and 56.3% respectively. According to him, the high rate of insecurity in Nigeria, characterised by insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and cybercrimes, is largely attributable to the huge unemployment and underemployment figures.

Prof. Edun, while acknowledging some of the youth employment drives embarked on by governments at both the national and state levels, expressed regret that the schemes only paraded high-sounding names not promised so much but achieved very little. He further interrogated the concepts of entrepreneurship and employability and their potential for promoting gainful youth employment in the country and submitted that both can be treated as complementary skills whose combination will enhance the chances of youths in the labour market.

He said, “There is a very popular but erroneous belief that entrepreneurship is superior and more instrumental to gainful youth employment than employability. This belief stems from poor conceptualization of employability and its adaptable potential for combating youth unemployment.

“In essence, entrepreneurship is not superior to employability. At the least, they can be treated as complementary skills whose combination will enhance the chances of youths in the labour market. More functionally, entrepreneurship may be perceived as a component of employability as the latter empowers its recipient to transmute along employee-employer continuum.”

The don contended that the warped structure of the country was a disincentive to stimulating gainful youth employment. According to him, the current artificial structure of Nigeria is antithetical to the promotion of citizen’s loyalty and creativity required to open up the economy and grow jobs.

Given what he described as the poisoned socio-political environment created by the warped structure, Edun noted that the youth unemployment problem continues to defy solutions and insecurity continues to escalate despite the massive military onslaught against the perpetrators. He, therefore, emphasised the need for the nation’s unity and its component parts to be renegotiated to save the Nigerian project from the trap of mutual suspicion, indolence and mono-economy which are antithetical to gainful employment.

While advocating adequate funding of education for the country to meet the required SDG goals, Prof. Edun appealed to the authorities to create conducive environment to attract and keep the brightest and talented minds in the teaching profession. He recommended that employability should be conceptualized and promoted in its broadest sense. He also advised that the government’s social investment schemes should be expanded and graduated through proper funding and transparent management to guarantee livelihood for the majority of unemployed youths until such a time that the economy will open up enough to provide them with gainful employment.

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