BY TAKI ETTA
The rate of out of school children in Nigeria continues to increase daily. This is caused by so many factors. Children are the leaders of tomorrow, and when children drop out of school, it goes to show how backward a nation will be in the future. The issue of school dropout by children in Nigeria is now a pressing issue that has raised great concern, and the government’s response to addressing this challenging issue is truly not commendable.
Because only 1 out of every 10 children who drop out of school become successful, the situation is disturbing. Additionally, research also shows that these out-of-school children grow up to be not law-abiding citizens of the country. This article addresses the issue of out-of-school children in Nigeria as a major setback to the development and future of Nigeria as a nation.
Current Situation of Out-of-School Children in Nigeria
Every year, the number of out-of-school children changes. This change results from favorable government policies and the standard of living in the country, which guarantees citizens the ability to survive and provide basic education for their wards. The number of out-of-school children roaming the streets of Nigeria and engaging in various activities rather than attending school keeps the well-wishers of this great nation concerned.
Children who drop out of school are usually engaged in activities such as loitering on the streets of Nigeria. In order to survive, these children are often pushed by their parents or guardians to sell goods during school hours. These out-of-school children are even exposed to child labor as they are sometimes gainfully employed to work in factories and other jobs not suitable for people of a younger age. The Children are even given out in marriage to suitors who intend to marry them.
in a report published on the 22nd of October 2019 by UNESCO Statistics Approximately 258 million children and young people are not enrolled in school, as indicated by data from UIS for the academic year concluding in 2018. This overall figure encompasses 59 million children within the primary school age range, 62 million within the lower secondary school age bracket, and 138 million within the upper secondary age group.
According to UNICEF, Nigeria accounts for one out of every five out-of-school children globally. Despite the official provision of free and compulsory primary education, approximately 10.5 million children aged 5-14 in the country are not attending school. The regular attendance rate for primary school among 6-11-year-olds is only 61 percent, and merely 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
According to a report published by Vanguard on January 31, 2023, over 10 million children in Nigeria lack the chance to access education, marking the highest rate globally. Furthermore, even among the fortunate children attending school, many carry worn and tattered polythene school bags. This narrative encapsulates the stark reality of Nigeria as conveyed on the recent International Day of Education.
Poverty stands as the primary obstacle to accessing education, a challenge further intensified by the imposition of school fees and additional expenses associated with obtaining an education, according to UNICEF. Parents’ inability to pay fees for their children stems from the poor standard of living in the country. according to the National Bureau of Statistics 2022, In Nigeria, as of the 2018/19 national monetary poverty line, 40.1% of the population falls below the poverty threshold. Additionally, according to the National MPI 2022, a staggering 63% experience multidimensional poverty. Notably, rural areas exhibit a higher incidence of multidimensional poverty, affecting 72% of the population, in contrast to 42% in urban areas. In addition to poverty, other influential factors contributing to children dropping out of school include peer influence, juvenile delinquency, and environmental conditions.
Impact on the Future of Nigeria
1. Economic consequences:
According to Investopedia, the economy of every country is driven by the organized workforce of educated individuals because education fosters efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. In the case of Nigeria, as a country, there is a risk of having a shortage of an educated working class, which could impact productivity and efficiency, thereby negatively affecting the economy. Imagine a future where 70 percent of Nigerians lack basic education; the consequences could lead to economic collapse as people would likely run out of ideas and job opportunities, resulting in a long-term adverse effect on the nation’s development.
2. Social implications
Children are the leaders of tomorrow, and the social implication of having out-of-school children is that the rate of uneducated persons in the country would increase. There would also be a rise in the level of illiteracy in the country. Most people who do not acquire an education will not find a job. Research has shown that most criminal activities and breakdown of law and order are caused by unemployed people and those who have not acquired any form of skill.
Legal Framework On Child’s Right to Education
The right to education is outlined in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution, which covers fundamental objectives and directive principles for state policies. Section 13 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandates that it is the duty and responsibility of the government to adhere to the provisions listed in that section, including the right to education.
Section 18 of the Constitution provides that The government shall orient its policies to ensure equitable and sufficient educational opportunities across all levels. It will actively promote advancements in science and technology. Furthermore, the government is committed to eradicating illiteracy, and to achieve this objective, it shall, whenever feasible, implement free, compulsory, and universal primary education, along with providing free secondary education, free university education, and free adult literacy programs.
Sections 3-20 of the Act outline the rights and responsibilities of a child in Nigeria. These encompass fundamental rights such as the right to survival and development, a name, freedom of association, peaceful assembly, thought, conscience, religion, private and family life, movement, freedom from discrimination, dignity, leisure, recreation, cultural activities, health, health care services, parental care, protection, maintenance, free, compulsory, and universal primary education. The Act also encourages children to attend and complete secondary education.
Section 59 of the Labour Act provides that Individuals below the age of fifteen shall not be engaged or involved in any industrial activities. However, this provision does not extend to work performed by young individuals in technical schools or similar institutions, granted that such work receives approval and supervision from the Ministry of Education or the equivalent department of government in a State. Unless it involves a formal apprenticeship agreement, individuals below the age of sixteen are not eligible to enter into an employment contract.
In Article 10 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, on out of school Children acknowledged that state parties recognize the importance of providing the broadest possible protection and assistance to the family. The family is considered the natural and fundamental group unit of society, especially during its formation and when it is accountable for the care and education of dependent children.
Article 13 emphasizes the universal right to education, recognizing its role in fostering the full development of human personality, dignity, and a profound respect for human rights and freedoms. The States Parties commit to ensuring that education facilitates effective participation in a free society, promotes understanding, tolerance, and friendship among diverse groups, and supports the United Nations’ efforts for peace.
In pursuit of realizing this right, the Covenant outlines specific measures, including compulsory and free primary education for all, general accessibility to various forms of secondary education, including technical and vocational training, and equitable access to higher education based on capacity, progressively introduced with a focus on free education. The development of a comprehensive school system, the establishment of fellowship programs, and continuous improvement of teaching staff conditions are actively endorsed. The Covenant also underscores the importance of respecting parents’ liberty to choose alternative schools that meet minimum educational standards while ensuring the religious and moral education of their children in alignment with personal convictions. Lastly, the article clarifies that its provisions do not impede the liberty of individuals and entities to establish and manage educational institutions, provided they adhere to the principles outlined in paragraph 1 and meet minimum standards set by the State.
Article 14 requires every State Party to the Covenant, which did not initially ensure compulsory and free primary education in its metropolitan or other territories under its jurisdiction upon becoming a Party, to develop and approve a comprehensive action plan within two years. This plan should outline a gradual implementation strategy over a reasonable timeframe, as determined within the plan, to establish the principle of compulsory education that is free of charge for all.
The Convention of the Right of A Child in Article 19 States Parties must enact legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to shield children from various forms of harm, neglect, or exploitation, including physical and mental violence, while under the care of parents or guardians. Additionally, special assistance for disabled children, outlined in Article 23(3), should be provided free of charge, prioritizing effective access to education, training, health care, rehabilitation, employment preparation, and recreational opportunities for their optimal social integration and individual development. States Parties are also urged to promote international cooperation in sharing information on preventive health care and treatment for disabled children, taking into account the needs of developing countries.
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According to Article 24(2) States Parties commit to informing and educating all segments of society, especially parents and children, on child health, nutrition, breastfeeding, hygiene, environmental sanitation, and accident prevention. Furthermore, preventive health care, parental guidance, and family planning education and services are to be developed.
By Article 28 The convention Recognized the right to education, States Parties pledge to progressively achieve equal educational opportunities. This includes making primary education compulsory and free, encouraging various forms of secondary education, ensuring accessibility to higher education based on capacity, and providing educational and vocational information to all children. Measures to encourage regular school attendance and reduce drop-out rates are emphasized. States Parties must administer school discipline consistent with the child’s human dignity. International cooperation is encouraged, especially to eliminate ignorance and illiteracy worldwide, considering the needs of developing countries.
In Article 29 of the CRC, Education must be directed towards developing the child’s personality, talents, respect for human rights, cultural identity, language, and values. It should prepare the child for responsible life in a free society, fostering understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among diverse groups. No part of Article 29 or Article 28 should interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish educational institutions, provided they adhere to specified principles and minimum standards set by the State.
Article 32 States Parties acknowledge the child’s right to be protected from economic exploitation and harmful work that may interfere with their education, health, or overall development. Legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures are required, including setting a minimum age for employment, regulating working hours and conditions, and establishing penalties to enforce this protection.
From the above legal instruments, it is evident that the right to Universal basic education is a fundamental right although not included in chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution and it is justiciable.
Government Initiatives, Policies and Findings
The Universal Basic Education Board, established to fulfill the objectives outlined in the aforementioned legal instruments, is one of the programs initiated by the government of Nigeria to address the issue of out-of-school children. However, this program currently faces setbacks due to inadequate funding for teachers and insufficient learning facilities. Reports indicate that these children even sit on the floor during lessons due to the unavailability of seats.
The School Feeding Program, introduced by the Nigerian government through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to provide meals for school children facing hunger-related barriers to education, also encounters a significant challenge. Corruption within the ministry has hindered the release of all allocated funds, leading to an ongoing investigation.
The Almajiri School, a program introduced during Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration, aimed to transition street-begging children into classrooms for basic education. However, a notable challenge with this program is its exclusive focus on children in Northern Nigeria, neglecting out-of-school children in the southern and western parts of the country.
Children are the bearers of the future, and as those reading this post today won’t be alive in the next 150 years, our yet-to-be-born generations will be. The extent of their development hinges on the attention and education they receive from the current generation. With this in mind, addressing the issue of out-of-school children is crucial. I recommend that the government prioritizes education from basic to secondary levels, ensuring that schooling is entirely free. Moreover, the government should go as far as providing textbooks and free notebooks to children in primary and secondary schools. Increasing teachers’ salaries in both secondary and primary schools is essential for ensuring the quality delivery of knowledge. Creating a conducive learning environment is equally important. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) should actively remind the youth that education is the key to unlocking progress in their future.
Without educated children today, there would be no civilization tomorrow.
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