The immediate past Senator representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, has raised an alarm over the rise in the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.
This is as he thanked the people of Rivers South-East Senatorial District for their support and encouragement to him throughout his stay in the Red Chambers of the National Assembly.
Abe spoke in Port Harcourt on Monday during an End-of-Term support for doctoral students and outstanding journalists from the Rivers South-East Senatorial District.
He said: "More than 80 percent of our public schools are only a place of gathering for children and parents who are thirsty for education. The truth is that nothing is happening in most of our public schools. Over 18 million Nigerian children are out of school. That is more than the population of Sweden and Hungary."
He stated that two local government areas in the Rivers South-East Senatorial District are educationally disadvantaged and encouraged the people to continue to work hard and improve on their educational attainments.
Abe said: "During my time in the Senate, I found out that there are two of our LGAs that are weak when it comes to education. That is Tai and Oyigbo Local Government Areas. We must encourage them to be more competitive.
"We are doing whatever we can to make the point that education is the future. When I was growing up, Rivers State had leaders who valued education. Today, we must realize that anyone without a working knowledge of the computer and access to the internet in the 21st century will be a functional illiterate. We need to give the children of today the opportunity to excel as we were given that opportunity in our days."
The senator said the End-of-Term support was in appreciation of the support he received from the people of Rivers South-East Senatorial District, who voted him for two terms.
Abe said: "You are here because you believe in what we are doing. I am doing this to express my profound appreciation to the people of Rivers South-East Senatorial District for voting me to the Senate for two terms.
"I believe that what we are doing here today has significance beyond you and that there is no other way of growing our country than enthroning merit. Most Nigerians don't put in their best in growing our nation because there is no incentive for excellence and no reward for Merit”.
The Senator further stated that beneficiaries were picked by the participating institutions strictly on merit.
"If we enthrone merit, I know that every child in this country is an open slate and we can write what we want on the slate. It only requires motivation and support. It is my desire to motivate scholars at every level to put in their best and to show appreciation to those who are taking the trouble to actually promote educational advancement in the society up to doctorate level. I felt that at this time it was good that we show support."
The highlight of the event was the presentation of over 70 fully equipped laptops to beneficiaries of the End-of-Term support for doctoral students and outstanding journalists from the Seven Local Government Areas of the Rivers South-East Senatorial District.
In his speech, one of the beneficiaries and former Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government Area, Chisom Gbali, said the Senator has given them the best contemporary tools.
Gbali said: "The tool Abe has given to us today is the best of contemporary tools.
"Knowledge is a refugee in terms of prosperity; in terms of poverty, it is an ornament. You have predicted our future and I wish to congratulate you."
Also speaking, another beneficiary, Terry Bagia, prayed God Almighty to reward Abe for his good gesture to the people of Rivers South-East Senatorial District.
In his goodwill message, Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, Stanley Job Stanley, praised the Senator for his support to the Union in the state.
Stanley said: "Abe’s support is not only to the people of Rivers South-East Senatorial District but more so to the NUJ. The Union owes him a lot. We believe that all the good things you have done, people will pay you in good notes."