Lagos out-of-school children
Undue extortion, fear of failure, finance frustrate our education —Victims
By Elizabeth Uwandu
FOR six years, Agosu Meka was in the company of his fisherman father, Mr. Meka, in Sogunro Community, Iwaya, Yaba area of Lagos. His dream of going to school seemed rather bleak as his father’s daily meagre wages from fish sales was not enough to sponsor him in any of the three primary schools in the community.
The case of little Agosu from Egun in Badagry, who could barely speak pidgin English, is similar to that of hundreds of children in shanties and slums like Makoko, Sogunro and some other parts of Lagos where local languages serve as the only means of communication.
While lack of funds may not be the only reason children in these slums stay out of school, the fear of repeating a class is also a turn off for the pupils. Other reasons include the undue extortion and rigorous registration processes by some public schools administrators.
Sordid tales of out-of- school children in Sogunro: The Sogunro community is inhabited mostly by natives of Benin Republic and Egun in Badagry, and a handful of Yoruba. For many years, children attended the numerous French-speaking nursery and primary schools available in the community.
Formal English education was not available until about 10 years ago when Sunset Nur/Pry International School; Climax Pathway Nur/Pry School and Living Rock International Nur/Pry School were set up to provide basic education in the riverine community. Despite this development, residents declined sending their wards to the English- speaking schools since they could not afford the daily payment of N100 as school fees.
For 12 year-old Friday Mesleto, 10 year-old Frances Wabo and other children playing football in a makeshift field during school hours, attending formal school will only happen when their parents can afford the daily fees being charged by private schools or when a government-owned school is established in the community.
Speaking through Mr. Obed Itodo, a teacher at Sunset Nur/Pry International School, the possibility of Mesleto continuing his education lies only on divine providence as his parents cannot afford to send him back to the French school he once attended, let alone one of the English-speaking private schools. Mesleto previously attended one of the French schools but stopped at Basic three before travelling to Benin,
Explaining in Egun language, the 12 year- old Basic three drop-out said: “Before my family left for Benin Republic, I was in primary three. Now, we are back, my parents say they don’t have the money to allow me start school again. I want to be a doctor to be able to treat my people as we have no hospital here, only our local nurses. So, I feel pained playing here with my mates every morning as we have nothing to do since our parents do not have the money to pay our school fees.”
On his part, 15 year-old Ezekiel Jeremiah’s continuous stay at home during school hours was due to the inability of his parents to pay N5000 for testimonial at Living Rock Nur/Pry School where he had completed his basic education. Jeremiah, who was posted to Aje Comprehensive Junior High School, Sabo, Yaba, Lagos but could not go to school, said: “I cannot go to (secondary) school now because my parents have not paid the N5000 for testimonial from my primary school.
“In Aje Comprehensive, we were also asked to buy English and Mathematics textbooks for N2000 aside other expenses. But my parents cannot afford all these now as our fish business is bad,” noted Jeremiah.
Undue fees, extortion made us stay at home
While finance and lack of public schools in Sogunro may seem the only reasons for the large number of out-of-school children and high rate of illiteracy in the community; extortion and rigorous process of registration continue to hinder many children from schooling, especially those about to enrol into Basic six or the Junior Secondary School, JSS.
Parents bringing their wards for JSS 1 registration were asked by Lagos State Government to bring the following: School badge – N150; Tie-N200; File Jacket- N80; Beret/Cap- N450; Sportswear – N600. Others are birth certificate; tax clearance/pay slip for civil servants; LASSRA and two parent and student passports, with a mandatory charge of N1,500 as registration fee.
However, findings revealed that some secondary schools in Lagos added their respective requirements mostly in cash – a move that made some parents to stop their wards from going to school pending when they can afford to foot all the bills.
For instance, in Sari-Iganmu Junior Secondary School, not only were parents asked to bring the above requirements, they were also compulsorily asked to bring Dettol; big roll of tissue paper; four higher education notebooks, including a mandatory payment of N6,000 to make a seat for three students.
Speaking to Vanguard, Mrs Priscilla Chima whose 12 year-old daughter, Chioma sat dejectedly helping her pound and sell fufu in their compound in Orile, said her daughter’s continuous stay at home was due to her inability to get the required items for enrollment into JSS 1.
The mother of five whose first son currently works as an apprentice with a pharmacist on the mainland, said she does not mind her daughter toeing the line of her brother if they cannot raise enough money. “After all, they said Lagos is offering free education, but nothing is free. After my daughter’s name came out, they showed us the requirements, and in addition, asked that three parents contribute N2000 each to a make seat for our children. So, N6000 is charged to make a seat for three students. Is that free education?” lamented Mrs Chima.
Seven weeks after resumption: we come to National Stadium to play as our names have not come – Prospective JSS 1 students
Vanguard findings also revealed that the recent decrease in the number of Nigeria’s out-of-school children from 10.8 million to eight million in June this year, may likely rise again if majority of the children especially those entering Basic Six or JSS 1 continued to stay at home due to delay in the release of their names by the Ministry of Education.
During our visits to the National Stadium, Surulere, Vanguard found out that many children who ought to be in school were found engaging in sports activities, running errands for sportsmen and even engaging in social vices. For Pelumi David of Favour Nur/Pry School; Daniel Obikwe of Asarudeen Pry School and MukaliaTaiwo, their coming to the stadium to skate on a daily basis was due to the delay in the release of their names.
“We are friends about to enter JSS 1. We come here everyday to skate or do other things like run errands for the adults here who give us little money to enjoy ourselves. This is because our names have not be released,” said Favour.
For 22 year-old Emmanuel Sodeji, his decision to drop out of school in JSS 1 was due to his mother’s death and nobody to care for him. Sodeji, a resident of Sogunro who makes canoes for living, said his dream of becoming a lawyer could be realistic if there was an adult education in his community. He said,“I won’t be able to go back to school as I may be laughed at due to my age. But, I will go back to class if evening adult classes start here (in Sogunro) as I have always dreamed of being a lawyer.”
A visit to the Mechanic Village, Babs Animashaun, Surulere revealed that several young children who dropped out of school were forced to learn mechanical trades in the workshops.
Among them is 19 year-old Arowojolu Kolawole, who though looked bright and could communicate well in English language, was made to stop schooling after his Junior West Africa Examination Council, WAEC.
He said, “I finished JSS 3 last August, but my mother brought me here after my father’s death to learn mechanical trade. My mother said she cannot afford the money for my registration into SS 1 plus my daily feeding. She advised that aside learning to be a mechanic, I also have the opportunity of getting my daily bread here.”
Mr Kabiru, Kolawole’s Master said that learning a handiwork was a better option than roaming the street because of inaccessibility of formal education by some children. “I have many of these young children who dropped out of school either voluntarily or due to challenges. So, Kolawole is better here than roaming the streets. Kola comes here, learns and still feeds. No day when he comes here he doesn’t go home with little money, it is better than going to school on empty stomach.”
They demanded for N20,000 and above to put our children on the list – Parents
Again, in the course of this investigation, it was revealed that some school principals demanded up to N20, 000 and above to include names of students who were not posted to the school in the list released by Lagos State Government, and also for those who are soughting a transfer.
Narrating her travails, Mrs Bright Ufot said, “It is a pity that my child who was staying with my late elder sister in Ogudu and attended a private school had to stay at home doing nothing because an official in Eric Moore Junior High School demanded for N20,000 to include his name in the list the state government was to send.
“This is not registration fee. But, the alarming thing was that I was told that my son’s name which may take six months to come out might not even come out eventually. So, why charge such money when I’m not even sure his name will come out? Do you think if I had N20,000 I will allow him to go to public school? Joel will continue to stay at home till I raise the money to put him in one of these small private secondary schools.”
Education is free in Lagos State, transfer process is easy – SUBEB
Reacting to the claim that some pupils’ names were not yet released after three months of resumption, the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Public Relations Officer, Mr Seyi Akitoye said that names of students who took the Common Entrance examination in June had been released since August.
He explained that even those from private schools who wanted transfer into public secondary schools had since been released in August. Akitoye, however warned the public to be wary of those who claim that the government or its officials demanded for money to transfer or buy one form or the other.
His words:”I can tell you that the Lagos State SUBEB which is basically concerned with basic education up to basic six will never demand or collect any money for transfer from anyone. What is applicable is that those who sought to do transfer that runs between August 1 and September 1 are told to pay a token of N1,000 for public primary school to another public school or N2000 for private school to public primary school. While N5,000 and N10,000 for state and international transfers. And mind you, this token is not collected in cash rather, they are told to pay it into Wema Bank and the teller brought to SUBEB for the collection of receipt for onward processing. So, parents should be careful when dealing with the so-called Lagos State officials.”
The Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC 2004 Act, has its roots from a United Nations’ declaration that ‘every child has a right to education’ and that education shall be free and compulsory. And the UBE Act did put in place regulations to ensure orderly development of basic education in Nigeria, as well as ensure that all children of school age are enrolled to complete basic education.
, which presently covers seven years universal primary education and three (3) years of junior secondary education, totaling ten (10) years?