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Out Of School Children: Who Should Be Held Responsible?

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The preference of Koranic to conventional school system by parents, coupled with government’s ineffectiveness to implement policies is one of the major stumbling blocks against the success of education in Nigeria, which is paving way for daily increase of out of school children. HENRY TYOHEMBA writes.

In his words, the leader of American independence, John Adams says, ‘Before great things are accomplished, a memorable change must be made in the system of education-to raise the lower ranks of society nearer to the higher.’ Contrary to Adams, phrases like these are theoretical but not in practice in Nigeria. While the few rich continue to grow richer, the low ranks are confronted with uncertain future.

When people boast constantly about how smart Nigerians are dominating everywhere they find themselves in the world, back home we can only boast of children who are not going to school.

The issue of out of school children has remained one of the biggest problems bedeviling the growth of the education sector in Nigeria in recent times. With the latest figure rising to 13.2 million, the stakeholders in the sector have risen to voice out, calling on the attention of the government to address the issue with urgency.

That also prompted international organisations like UNICEF to recently

call for a media dialogue in Kano on promoting equity for children, to discuss and find the root cause of why children are not going to school, which according to them is posing a threat to the future of the country.

While many opine that poverty is the major factor hindering the success of education in Nigeria, the organisation identified the preference of Koranic to conventional schools and the government’s inability to implement policies as a major factor worsening the situation.

LEADERSHIP Friday reports, one of UNICEF’s Education specialist, Azuka Menkiti, said the latest global Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) programme, which was developed by UNICEF in the 1990s as an international household survey programme to support countries in the collection of internationally comparable data on a wide range of indicators on the situation of children and women, Nigeria accounts for more than one in five out of school children globally and 45 percent of out of school children in West Africa. According to her, the dimension to the problems included, poor implementation of education policy and laws. “In Nigeria weak political will exists to fully and effectively implement the Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 and other education policies, for example the laws prohibiting the withdraw of girls from school for marriage.

“Also poor learning outcomes further complicated by the uncommitted, absent teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and poor learning environments many parents and guardians see schooling as a waste of time as their children are not learning-even to read and there is no link to livelihoods and the desired improvement in the lives of their children, “More so, low budgetary allocation, release and utilization affect supplies. The recent security threat to schooling in the north east as well as other parts of Nigeria has contributed significantly to the low demand for and access to education especially for girls.”

She noted that perceived incompatibility of formal education with Islamic Education also affects both boys and girls in different ways.

“Some conservative communities believe educated girls are incapable of raising children in accordance with Islamic tradition and are perceived to be likely to follow the will of their father or husband.

Such negative perceptions contribute to denial of the right to basic education for girls. In rural communities, formal education for children is believed to be incompatible to Islamic teachings and capable of eroding traditional and religious practices and teaching in the children.

Speaking more on the trend, an education and development consultant, Dr Dayo Ogundimu, said that access to education by millions of Nigerian children remains hindered due to lack of political will, bad planning, poor infrastructure, failure to engage communities, irregular payment of teacher’s salaries and so on and so forth.

“In some societies, if you don’t pay salaries government will close down the organisation.

“Government at all levels needs to incorporate this into their policies. We need to expand the school-feeding programme, most children are lacking in feed nutrition and can not perform well in the class, weekend backpack interventions, which we don’t have in this country. Children from poor homes are very sad going home on Fridays so you can get a pack of little things that they can take home over the weekend.”

Recently, the Emir of Kano, His Eminence Muhammadu Sanusi II, who spoke in Abuja on the rising trend and the need for urgent intervention urged the government to give priority to the issue of childbirth control, saying that most people are bearing children they cannot take care of.

The Royal Father also charged governors in the north, where the issue of out of school children is prominent to convert some mosques to education centres in order to facilitate academic exposure in the region.

According to him, “They keep on blaming people for letting their children walk on the streets without having education. In fact, the parents have responsibilities. The greatest responsibility is that the parent should try not to produce children that they cannot cater for. If they don’t have enough money, they should not go and marry three wives or more in order to produce 20 or more children. We should try to regulate that aspect of child bearing in our areas if this must stop.

“But apart from that, we need to focus more on the fact that we have not supplied the demand that our education needs. We have to look at the weakness in the system, and not to blame people for not educating their children, but to look for solutions.”

He said, “I have said it that let us use those 20 mosques established in areas where there are no schools as schools for our children to be educated. We do not need to start building 20 schools. When I said this, people thought it was strange. This is something we see being done in Turkey in centuries past and before.

According to Olumide Osanyinpeju, deputy director/head, Child Right Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information, Nigeria’s future and prosperity depend on producing children who are well prepared to take their place in tomorrow’s society. Unfortunately, a large number of Nigerian children are at risk of deprivations of basic social amenities. They are situated in the rural and hard to reach communities. Majority of them are also living in conflict, and communities under emergencies, and it has been difficult taking basic amenities to them.

However, it is of note to remember that one of the key issues in the UBEC 2004 Act was that every parent should ensure that his/her child or ward attends and completes primary school education and junior secondary school education. Unfortunately, this is not functioning. It is time the people in the affected areas woke up from their dreams and take the responsibility even if the government failed them. 

QUOTE:

The greatest responsibility is that the

parent should try not to produce children that they cannot cater for. If they don’t have enough money, they should not go and marry three wives or more in order to produce 20 or more children. We should

try to regulate that aspect of child bearing in our areas if this must stop.



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