As part of its corporate social responsibility, SOS Children's Villages is spending over N50m to upgrade infrastructure of eight schools in Lagos State.
National director, SOS Children's Villages, Eghosa Erhumwunse who spoke while inaugurating one of the schools disclosed that about 4,757 pupils from eight schools would benefit directly from the initiative.
While lamenting the poor allocation to the sector by successive governments resulting in the huge number of out-of-school children, Erhumwunse restated call for private sector collaboration and support in boosting the sector.
The beneficiary schools are IlasamaJa Primary School, Kusoru Primary School, St. Paul Primary School - Art and Craft, Akinbaye Primary School, Akinbaye Home Economics Centre, Farombi Primary School, Ajao Estate Primary School and Local Government Primary School.
In Nigeria's 'Centre of Excellence,' it is common to see school age children engaging in commercial and other activities when they should be in the class. This makes it absolutely necessary for private organisations to step in and support government's efforts.
The director said: "More children will be enrolled and will stay in schools if the right amenities and environment are provided for them. Well-furnished classrooms, access to potable water as well as toilet facilities will go a long way to ease the rigours of leaving home daily for school and to stay in school for the required periods.
"When children are in school, healthy and excelling in their academics, parents are assured of the time required to focus on their businesses and by so doing get the means to cater for the needs of the family."
SOS Children's Villages is the largest independent, non-governmental, non-profit international development organisation headquartered in Innsbruck, Austria. It provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children in need and protects their interests and rights around the world.
Eruhumwunse disclosed that building on many years of experience, SOS Children's Villages Nigeria launched the re-innovation project in 2015 to envision and implement the next era of the SOS projects.
He recalled that SOS Children's Villages inaugurated the first Children's Village nationwide in Isolo in 1973.
"Over the last 45 years we have provided support to orphaned and vulnerable children and to young people, building and shaping them to become independent, self-sustaining adults who contribute positively to their communities.
For him, to make any meaningful long-term effort towards a better future for the increasing number of children in Nigeria, we must begin from now to ensure that children get enrolled into schools, provide the requisite infrastructure to make them stay in school and create the appropriate atmosphere for learning and development.
According to UNICEF, one out of every five out-of-school children in the world is from Nigeria, ranking Nigeria top in the world.
Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), a Federal Government agency saddled with the responsibility of coordinating all aspects of Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme implementation, recently put the figure of out-of-school children between five and 14 years at 13.2 million. This figure is more than five per cent of the country's population.
As for water, sanitation and hygiene, approximately 121,800 Nigerians, including 87,100 under-five children, die each year from diarrhoea. More children are forced to skip school or ultimately drop out as a result of poor health.
"Increased access to water and sanitation in schools can greatly alleviate this situation; this is what SOS Children's Villages is doing, with the support of our international partners," Eruhumwunse added.
Speaking on the behalf of other beneficiary schools, head teacher of Farombi Primary School, Mrs. Helen Ojerinde, appreciated the gesture of SOS Children's Villages, and promised to manage the facilities.
Charging other private organisations and charity groups to support the efforts of the state government, she said such gestures would boost the confidence and morale of pupils in public schools.