The revelation by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that over 10 million children in Nigeria are out of school is one which Nigeria must take very seriously. The disclosure came on the heel of recent unveiling statistics on almost all aspects of human endeavor in which Nigeria has been rated as performing poorly.
Mr Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on the occasion of the 2018 commemoration of the International Children’s Day. Fall noted that the day was set aside to raise issues of the welfare of children globally and above all, to work for the realisation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Though he acknowledged modest achievements of the country on child’s right, he particularly noted that there are still tremendous challenges with regard to practical implementation of the ratified Convention of the Rights of the Child by the Nigerian government and partners through resources allocation and implementation on issues affecting the children.
According to him, Nigeria’s focus on the protocol of the right of the child is that every single child in Nigeria is given the possibility to survive, possibility to thrive and possibility to have optimum development and as well develop his or her full potentials.
Said he, “Nigeria today has over 10 million children that are out of school and that account for large proportion of the burden the world is carrying in terms of number of children that are out of school. Nigeria is having under five mortality of one million, which is one of the third highest in the world, the country also have 11 million children stunted, a form of malnutrition that affect their growth and development.
“Stunting also affects their development to fulfil their potential and as well affect their ability to learn at learning age which affects good labour force when they grow up. Today the country is also experiencing many forms of violence affecting children as well as all sorts of abuses beside conflict in different context, early marriage and Mother-To-Child HIV transmission.’’
He however noted that there was need for government at all levels, private sector, civil society, communities, traditional and religious leaders to mobilise in order to reduce these negative indices. He further described the media as key in terms of raising awareness, in terms of mobilising the society to move forward the agenda of children.
“The government has to do more in terms of resources allocation, legislation, in terms of implementing programmes that was agreed upon” adding that “the efforts of the government need to be complemented by the efforts of other segments of the society. The media has to contribute a lot in terms of awareness, making people know what the situations are,” Fall said.
While disclosing the sad situation of Nigerian school children, the UNICEF boss also said about 60 million children are globally out of the school. What that means is that Nigeria has over sixteen per cent of the total number of children who are out of school in the whole world.
Ten million children, in a country of 180 million is a staggering number, too large to be ‘wasted’ without consequences, remembering that this is a country in which criminal gangs are emerging at a very high rate and are fast developing capacity to challenge Nigeria’s security apparatus. Many blame the increasing number of dangerous gang/groups on misguided youths who lost their right bearing during school age.
The best place to guide a person is the school system and once these children miss schooling, their chances of becoming misguided are greatly bright. The anarchy that will be unleashed on the Nigerian state, if not the entire world, if these 10 million children eventually miss school and miss the right bearing will better be imagined. There are a number of these criminal groups –Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, etc, that are waiting to recruit these frustrated children and that is the reason why urgent and drastic actions are needed to attend to these children. What this ugly development means is that not only are we presently under threat, but the threat facing our future is even greater than what we are witnessing now.
Like Mr Fall rightly suggested, there should be concerted efforts by both the public and the private sectors to address the crisis. Every Nigerian and Nigerian group should see any child who is not attending school as a potential danger to both the individual and corporate peace.
We therefore advise the Government to begin addressing this problem by finding a way to return these out school children back to school and ensuring that they stay to complete their education. Those of them who have already lost capacity to return to school for whatever reason, should be given survival skill of any type to enable them have means of livelihood.