There have been growing calls by experts for Nigeria to use effective family planning in tackling the surge of out-of-school children amid the country’s burgeoning population.
Many analysts who are making the calls say that the increasing number of out-of-school children is a threat to national security.
These demands are rising amid contentious figures of the actual number of out-of-school children in the country.
While inaugurating the “Better Education Service Delivery For All (BESDA)”, in Katsina, recently, the Minister of State, Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, said that Nigeria has the highest number of Out-of-School Children in sub-Sahara Africa.
Specifically, Nwajiuba said that Nigeria had an estimated 10,193,918 children out-of-school.
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.
The Minister lamented the current challenges affecting the Nigerian education system has left much to be desired, the system is characterised by high illiteracy level, infrastructural decay and deficits.
These include inadequate number of qualified teachers, inadequate infrastructural facilities/resources and poor funding.
He stated that BESDA focuses on 17 states, 13 of which are in the North-west and North-east geopolitical zones, and Niger, Oyo, Ebonyi and Rivers.
However, a separate report quoting Ahmed Boboyi, the Executive Secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), noted that there are 13.2 million ‘out-of-school’ children in Nigeria.
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 these figures of the Minister, MICS report and that of UBEC boss, studies across the world have shown a clear link between family planning and increased enrolment of children in school.
Indeed, 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.
Many stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to adopt child spacing through family planning to improve children enrolment in school as well as control the country’s population.
Indeed, every couple need to be educated on population control in Nigeria. Kudos to family planning organisations and centres who have been advocating and teaching people the need to space children and having few children that a couple can look after very well.
Indeed, Dr Amina Aminu Dorayi, Country Director, Pathfinder International Nigeria, 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.
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 recent study involving 23 African countries on how family planning increased schools enrolment revealed that the improvements in the use of contraceptives could be linked to economic and social development. Apparently, a boost in family planning use is essential to reach sustainable reductions in poverty and out- of- school children.
No doubt, this will curb the country’s high ‘out- of –school’ numbers. The time is now.