by Ife Adebayo
We need to get our children into school, EVERY ONE OF THEM. And the time to do that is TODAY. We are already many years late.
Today I’ll be continuing the series on the hierarchy of needs for Nigerians. I wrote initially that the most basic of needs for Nigerians to survive are (in no particular order) food, electricity, shelter, roads, education, employment, healthcare. I’ll be writing about education today with a focus on primary education.
In Nigeria 20% of children of school age, that is 1 in every 5 child is out of school. We currently have an estimated 10.5 million Nigerian children of school age out of school. This is the highest number from any nation and this is totally unacceptable for a country as rich as Nigeria and a country whose law makers are the highest paid in the world.
The problem of children out of school is real and should be tackled head-on. The slum2school (www.slum2school.org) team is doing a great job. I was on a recent analysis tour of a riverine area of Lagos with the slum2school team to see how many children were out of school and the numbers were shocking, some communities had absolutely no school presence and kids could not go to school in neighbouring communities during the raining season as water levels would have risen and covered make-shift bridges.
Primary education is the most important stage of education. This is the time when children learn the basics that are needed to survive in life, they learn the basics of the Language of Communication (English for Nigeria), they learn elementary mathematics, science and general knowledge. This is when children learn about their environment, current affairs, states and capitals etc. This is a stage of education that is not a privilege but the right of every child.
The Nigerian constitution in section 18 (3) states that: Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide – (a) free, compulsory and universal primary education.
It is disheartening to read that our constitution still stipulates that primary education should be free and compulsory only when practicable. The question is – when is it not practicable to ensure that every Nigerian child gets basic primary education? There is no excuse for Nigeria not to provide compulsory and free basic primary education for every child.
The fourth schedule of the constitution in section 2 states that – The functions of a local government council shall include participation of such council in the Government of a State as respects the following matters – (a) the provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education. This means the constitution places a further responsibility of primary education with the Local Governments. This in my opinion is the best way to provide quality primary education as the Local Governments are the closest to the people and should be in the best position to provide this basic need.
The Child Rights Act which has been adopted by Nigeria but not yet passed by all Nigerian states in section 15 that -(1) every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education and it shall be the duty of the Government in Nigeria to provide such education. (2) Every parent or guardian shall ensure that his child or ward attends and completes his (a) primary school education.
The Child Rights Act therefore places the primary responsibility for primary education on the government but the secondary responsibility on the parents.
A UNESCO analysis points out that children from poor households are three times more likely to be out of school than children from rich households. Girls from poor households in rural areas face the greatest barriers to education. This trend can be seen in Nigeria as rich states like Lagos have lower percentage of children out of school than poorer states like Zamfara.
Currently what we have is a constitution that does not make it compulsory that every child has a primary education, the constitution further puts the responsibility for primary education on the Local Governments, then the child rights act makes it compulsory and puts the responsibility on the ‘government’ without a clear indication of which level of government.
The Nigerian National Assembly and House of Representatives need to give this a serious look with the on-going constitutional amendment. There should be a clear focus on compulsory primary education, modalities must be put in place to ensure this is followed through and ALL STATES must be made to adhere to this law. Primary education is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and it is the foundation on which a nation is built. When we bring up a generation that has 20% of children not in school we are building a generation for disaster, a generation of touts, thieves and area boys. We need to get our children into school, EVERY ONE OF THEM. And the time to do that is TODAY. We are already many years late.
Ife Adebayo is an IT Consultant with work experience in Germany, United Kingdom and Nigeria. He currently runs his own IT firm in Lagos, Nigeria. He is an ardent believer in the Nigerian project and encourages all Nigerians to become actively involved in making Nigeria a better place.
Ife is a registered member of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Epe Local Government, Lagos State. He was an active member of the UK branch of the party, holding the post of Youth Leader for the year 2010/2011.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.