IN June 2013, the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report, EAGMR, announced that Nigeria had become the country with the highest population of out-of-school children in the world with 10.5 million children.
Other countries named in the report were: Pakistan 5.1m, Ethiopia 2.4m, India 2.3m, and others. In 2018, the Federal Ministry of Education adjusted the number to 12.5m, with the insurgencies and school attacks in the North blamed for the increase. Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to increase funding for education by 50 per cent by 2023 and 100 per cent by 2025, the current figure shows that the situation has gone out of control.
Chief of the United Nations Children Education Fund, UNICEF, Field Office in Kano, Rahama Farah, informed a Media Dialogue on Girls’ Education under UNICEF’s Girl Education Project 3, that the current number of out-of-school children in Nigeria is 18.5 million. Out of this, 10 million are girls.
“Most importantly,” Farah declared, “you will need to know that the majority of these out-of-school children are actually from Northern Nigeria”.
This much has been the picture of things since the creation of Nigeria by our former British colonial masters over a century ago. While the Southern parts fully embraced education and progressively reduced their out-of-school numbers, those of the North have remained intractable due mainly to cultural and other emerging factors.
Top among these is the abject poverty rate among the lower classes worsened by the failure of the Northern elite and middle classes who have fully embraced Western education to carry the lower classes along. The poor send their children to Almajirai Islamic schools while the girls are married off while still minors.
It is these neglected children that have become ready-made recruits for jihadist groups, militant herdsmen and bandit-terrorists killing, kidnapping for ransom and terrorising the North, even extending their activities to the South.
Mass unemployment has started discouraging some poor people in the South from sending their children to school, forcing the youth to either take to hawking of goods in the traffic or go into crime to survive.
Leadership and governance have been in chronic failure mode since the end of the Nigerian Civil War. Today, things have deteriorated to the point that there is hardly any sector of the system that is working.
Nigeria needs a total relaying of its foundation. We need leaders who will revive productivity, educate our children, especially the girl-child, and create employment opportunities. This will gradually attenuate violent crimes and restore national stability.
It is the children we fail to educate today who will return tomorrow to terrorise us. Our experience has already shown that!