By The Society for Media Advocacy on Health, Nigeria
Concerns have continued to mount over the controversial 13.2 million ‘out-of-school’ children in Nigeria, as claimed by the Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Ahmed Boboyi coupled with overpriced fees in private schools and the steady increase in Nigeria’s population.
Today, the fate of millions of Nigerian children maybe hanging in the balance as many may not see the wall of a primary school if the current situation is not put in check.
Currently, the problem of out-of-school children is said to be endemic in Nigeria.
According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) the out-of-school children are defined as the number of children of primary school age who are not attending school.
Contrary to the figure given by the UBEC boss, the 2017 Multiple Indicator Health Survey (MICS) a survey conducted by the NBS and other partners, a total of 9.1 million children is out-of-school in Nigeria, according to UNICEF reports.
Despite the disparities in both figures of MICS report and that of UBEC boss, studies across the globe have shown a clear link between family planning and increased enrolment of children in school.
Specifically, a study conducted in 23 countries in Africa revealed that availability and use of family planning services in African countries influenced households to plan their families and save money to support children’s education.
Research shows that Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) affects the lives of women and men from conception to birth and from adolescence to menopause and this includes the attainment and maintenance of good health as well as the development of children in all ramifications, including education.
Also, studies show that overpopulation, poverty and poor family planning are intrinsically linked; with poverty being both a cause and a consequence of poor family planning.
Experts further note that high levels of fertility contribute directly to overpopulation and poverty by reducing women’s opportunities, diluting expenditure on children’s education and health, precluding savings and increasing vulnerability and insecurity.
Sadly, the United Nations Population Department (UNPD), reports ranked Nigeria seventh among 10 countries with the largest population in the world.
To curb the increasing number of out-of-school children which is almost threatening national security, experts have advocated the use of effective family planning in tackling the surge of out-of-school children as well as population explosion in Nigeria.
Recently, the Executive Director of Greensprings School, Lagos, Mrs. Lai Koiki in a report, urged the Federal Government adopt child spacing through family planning to improve children enrolment in school as well as control the country’s population.
“The citizens need to be educated on population control. When we were younger, we had all these family planning organisations and centres advocating and teaching people the need to space children and have few children because if you have many children, you cannot look after them very well; you will not progress and the children will not progress. It is a global phenomenon, however, some countries have done well like China,” she said.
Indeed, a Reproductive Health/Family planning expert, Mrs. Amina Bala said access to family planning services increases the chances of having healthy children and female involvement in activities that may enhance their income. This will consequently lead to increased per capita consumption and reduced poverty.
In addition, fewer children would mean more resources for each child, while poor family planning reduces productivity and earnings, constrains investments in children and leads to untold private suffering.
Furthermore, appropriate birth spacing reduces the risk of child mortality, malnutrition and creates an opportunity for children to be enrolled in schools, Bala said.
Unfortunately, the World Health Organisation, (WHO), reports, “among the 1.9 billion women of reproductive age group (15-49 years) worldwide in 2019, 1.1 billion have a need for family planning; of these, 842 million are using contraceptive methods and 270 million have an unmet need for contraception.”
It is no longer news also that low levels of investment by families and society in education and development of children may translate into poorer outcomes when they become adults.
Research has also shown that the presence of young children in the household may negatively influence the chances of older children to attend school, through increasing the care needs of the household.
For instance, a study done in Ghana by, Lloyd and Gage-Brandon in 1993 showed that girls are relatively more likely to be withdrawn from school as new siblings are added to the family.
Similarly, researchers in a recent study involving 23 African countries on how family planning increased enrolment of children in schools found out that the improvements in family planning may be linked to economic and social development. The researchers therefore advocated that boost in family planning use must be achieved to reach sustainable reductions in poverty and out- of- school children.
Ultimately, increase in contraceptive use leads to better spacing or a reduction in the number of births. Fewer children also means fewer mouths to feed and which will translate into an increase in savings that’s more money for educational enrolment of children in any Nigerian household. No doubt, this will curb the country’s high ‘out- of –school’ numbers. The time is now.