By Adesina Wahab
Nigeria has the unenviable record of having the highest number of out-of-school children, OSC, in the world, it is currently put at over 15 million.
Also, the country is among the leaders in the Misery Index calculation, no thanks to a number of factors.
Misery Index is the measurement of the impact of unemployment, inflation, and other factors on a nation’s economy and the resultant effects on the lives of the citizens.
Recently, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, came out with some startling figures. Unemployment rose from 27.1% to 33.3% in the fourth quarter of 2020.
That translated to over 23 million Nigerians being out of job, while another 15 million are underemployed. Also,1.4 million people were added to the labour market between the second and third quarters of that year. The inflation rate is about 17%.
In that same year, the nation imported N19.9 trillion worth of items and exported N12.5 trillion, leaving a deficit of N7.38 trillion.
Abduction of students
Coupled with banditry, kidnapping, and insecurity in many parts of the country, many parents and guardians are finding it difficult to send their wards to school. Some children too are wary of going to school now.
Since last December, over 600 students have been kidnapped in schools in Katsina, Niger, Kaduna, and Zamfara states.
The abductors of the 39 students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna State are demanding N500 million ransom to release their victims.
Many Nigerians are reeling under the yoke of harsh economic climate and high level of inflation. John Awelewa, a father of three boys and a girl, has had to change his children’s school three times within a year. In fact, at a point, he asked the first child to stay the just-concluded second term at home. He lives in Agbado area of Lagos State.
Awelewa, who lost his job as a petrol attendant, has taken to bus driving to survive. “If not for the fact that my wife works as a junior officer in one of the local council development areas in Lagos State, things would have been tougher.
“Thank God they are paid regularly even though the salary is small. I am even owing a school owner N11,000 in school fees, while I barely managed to pay some money for the owner of my children’s current school to allow them to sit for the second term exam.
“I asked my first son, who is in JSS 1 in a nearby private school to hold on for now until I am able to get money for him to continue.
“We made efforts at putting him in Agbado Junior Secondary School, the only public secondary school nearby, but it is like seeking admission to a university. The pressure on that school is high and it is the only school serving more than 10 communities in and around Amikanle,” he said.
What can be done — Professor Bakare
The Head of the Department of Economics, Lagos State University, LASU, Professor Ibraheem Bakare, said government policies must be made to have bearing on the grassroots. He also noted that microeconomic indicators in the country have not been properly put to use practically.
“We have a large number of OSC because most families are unable to have access to the basic things of life to support their children and families.
“We have over 40 million MSMEs but that does not translate to real employment opportunities because those businesses are not supported and they don’t operate in conducive atmosphere.
“If inflation is not controlled, more people will be displaced. The government must bring down the level of inflation and provide economic stimulus, relevant and necessary support for the jobless for them to contribute to the generation of income.
“It is the capability of the parents that will create the opportunity for children to have access to education. Government must also meet the minimum standard of allocating 26% of the budget to education in line with UNESCO recommendation.
“In a country like Finland, education is highly valued and it is that kind of mentality that we need for the economic and scientific breakthrough that will make us truly great as a nation,” he said.
Teachers, parents’ views
The National President of the All Nigerian Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, ANCOPSS, Mr Anselm Izuagie, in an interview, said the negative effects of insecurity on education in Nigeria would be too adverse on the nation in few years and called for a halt to the ugly development.
On what the government can do to secure schools, he said: “For a very long time, we have been talking on the need for our schools to be fenced.
“As a body, we have made a series of suggestions to the government. That has always been part of our communique when we hold meetings and issue of that kind crops up.
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“Apart from perimeter fencing of schools, day and night securitymen should be engaged to keep watch. There is an urgent need to fortify our schools. The lukewarm attitude of the government is unacceptable.”
The National Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers NUT, Dr Mike Ene, opined that life must be made better for Nigerians, as many are under serious economic pressure. On the way to tackle insecurity in schools, he noted, ”Government should rise up to its duties to the people. Yes, security is everybody’s business, but the government is the first on the line.
“People should also understand that there is the need to follow this saying that “if you see something, say something.”
“We should also teach our children how to raise the alarm too. Though bandits come with arms, raising the alarm and making noise will disorganize them.
“The world is watching us and everybody is worried about the situation.”
The National President of the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, also expressed a similar view on the need for the government to role out economic policies that will reduce poverty in the country and tackle insecurity in the country.