The recent report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) that ranked Nigeria high among nations with a large population of out-of-school children is worrisome.
The UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EAGMR) identified Nigeria as the country with the highest number of its young people out of school, worldwide. It also indicated that one out of every five children in the country is out of school.
The report noted that with approximately 10.5 million kids out of school, Nigeria tops the table of 12 other countries with which it accounts for 47 percent of the global out-of-school population.
The other countries that share this shameful league with Nigeria, the report said, are Pakistan (5.1million); Ethiopia (2.4 million); India (2.3million); Philippines (1.5 million); Cote d’Ivoire (1.2 million); Burkina Faso (1 million); Niger (1 million); Kenya (1 million); Yemen (0.9 million); Mali (0.8million) and South Africa (0.7million).
The document further pointed out that of all these countries, Nigeria is among the four that has experienced the highest increase of out-of-schoolchildren since 1999. While blaming the drop in school enrolment in some countries on the decrease in aid between 2010 and 2011, UNESCO officials stated that anecdotal evidence suggests that the monumental corruption at all levels of government might have worsened Nigeria’s case.
However, Kate Redman, Communications Specialist, Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EAGMR) of UNESCO in Abuja, said the amount of aid to basic education Nigeria received in 2011 was 28 percent lower than that of 2010. New UNESCO statistics show that 57 million children are out-of-school globally in 2011, a drop of two million from 2010.
This huge number of out-of-school children in the country should worry the government and all those in charge of children’s education in Nigeria. Having 10.5 million children out of school in an oil-rich country like Nigeria, which also has other abundant natural resources, speaks volumes on our developmental strides.
It means that past efforts to ensure that every Nigerian child attains the primary level of education and the first three years of secondary school education failed. It is tragic that either by omission or commission, the fate of 10.5 million Nigerian children, who are the nation’s future leaders, is being mortgaged by some state actors who lack vision and commitment.
Although primary education is the sole responsibility of local and state governments, in our own peculiar case, there is the need for intervention of the federal government. The federal government cannot watch while the future of millions of Nigerian children is jeopardized. Education of every Nigerian child is a right that must be assured by the government.
As an oil-rich country, every child in the country has a right to unhindered basic education, up to the third level of Junior Secondary School. Having a large number of out-of-school children is a time-bomb and a security risk to the nation. By the time these children without education become adults, Nigeria will reap its deleterious outcome. Let all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja make primary education free and compulsory.
They have enough fiscal allocation to do so. The states with the greater number of these out-of-school children should do something urgently to arrest the tide. Today’s world has little place for uneducated persons. The world economy is knowledge-based.
People who have no basic education cannot function effectively in this global and digitalized village where almost every socio-economic activity is driven by knowledge. The 774 local governments in the country should be at the driving seat of the effort to get these out-of-school children back to the classroom.
Government at all levels should embark on pragmatic programmes to address this anomaly. These kids should be integrated into the school system immediately before they become a danger to the society.
The Minister of Education, Prof. Ruquayyatu Rufa’i, and other stakeholders in the education sector should work in concert to solve this problem to reduce illiteracy in Nigeria.