According to UNICEF, Nigeria accounts for one in every five out of school children in the world and 45 percent of out of school children in West Africa. For a country regarded as Africa’s largest Economy and giant of the continent, the figures are as embarrassing as the way the government and critical education stakeholders are curtailing the scourge. Knowing the future impact of having a population largely filled with uneducated children, this menace will (if not properly curtailed),reduce the world’s largest black Nation to a hub of vulnerable children with no access to quality Education.
Statistics from UNICEF show that, about 10.5million children are not in school in Nigeria,even though primary education is officially free and compulsory.This data and the realities following it, is as galling as it is gnawing. So many reasons have been proffered for the embarrassing rise in the figure of out-of-school children in Nigeria. Primary among them is, the Terrorism Outbreak in the North Eastern part of the country. The activities of the Islamic fundamentalist movement Jama at Ahl as-sunnah lid-Dawah wa’l -Jihad commonly known as Boko Haram, has affected in no small measure, the Education sector in that geographical location. Boko Haram goes with the mantra ‘Western Education is a sin’ to launch strategic attacks on Educational facilities and maim teachers.
Following a recent report by Sahara Reporters, an online news media outlet, over 1,400 schools have been destroyed since the start of the Boko haram insurgency in 2009. Also, PUNCH Nigerian Newspaper, reported in a special edition in 2018 that over 2,295 teachers have been killed in the different attacks by insurgents in the Northern part of Nigeria. Insurgency and acts of terror have by no small means dampened the enthusiasm of children to go to school and imbedded in parents the fear of sending their wards to school. Economic barriers, socio-cultural norms and practices, also discourage attendance in formal education especially for the girl-child. Based on research by the IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education (IOSR-JRME), ‘barriers to girl child education in Nigeria especially in the north have been tied to several factors such as poverty, early marriage, cultural and religious misconceptions or misrepresentations as well as teenage pregnancy’. This aptly summarizes the major problem we have in the Northern part of the country, which has Bauchi state leading the chart of out of school children with about 1,239,759 students out of school due to the different reasons and circumstances stated above and more .
The Southern part of Nigeria also has its fair share of this raving scourge as, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (2016/2017), Akwa Ibom state has the highest rate of out of school children in the southern part of the country with about 132,617 children out of school and Edo state having the lowest rate of out of school children in Nigeria with 79,446 Children out of school. In the South western part of Nigeria, Oyo state has the highest number of out of school children with over 400,000 students out of school. This Data was collated by StatiSense, a renowned data consulting firm, relying on the figures put forward by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. Lastly, Ebonyi is leading the ugly pack in the South East with over 151,000 out of school children as at 2017.
Since independence, different governments have come up with policies and white papers on restructuring the Educational sector of the country, an array of prognosis and solutions have been prescribed for this menace. However, the figures that are churned out as regards the amount of out-of-school children in Nigeria yearly makes all this solutions and policies ineffectual. Looking at the Federal Government’s #3.9 Trillion allocation to the Educational sector in the past 10 years,and comparing this to what is obtained in Developed and some Developing countries, the sum can be considered paltry. Hence the reason why the impact of the budgetary allocations, Aids and Grants infused into the sector has not been felt. It has also been a story of poor implementation, corruption and unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks in some instances. Also, to combat this problem, the federal government in 2004, established the Universal Basic Education, (UBE) Intervention fund to assist states in providing educational infrastructure at the basic education level, the states are to provide counterpart funding to be able to access the matching grants. However, some states have not been able to access the UBEC fund. This is particularly condemnable as some state governments are shying away from accessing the funds because they are required to provide half of the grant as counterpart funding in addition to showing proper accountability to the utilization of the funds before they can access another one. Sadly, most of the defaulting states, top the charts of states with the highest rate of out of school children in Nigeria.
With the current budgetary allocation for Education standing at 462 billion naira, the commitment of the current government to education has been questioned in some quarters as, the amount voted for the sector is still low by UNESCO standards which recommends 15 to 20 per cent budgetary allocation to the education sector to enable nations to adequately cater for rising demands. It is submitted that governments at all levels should take more seriously the issue of educating the bulk of its citizenry as failure to do so, makes every other projects and interventions a sham.
FlexiSAF foundation to the Rescue
Alarmed by the rising figures of out of school children in Nigeria, FlexiSAF Edusoft, a company using technology to aid learning process in Nigeria, launched a foundation ( FlexiSAF Foundation) in 2018 with the sole mandate of reducing the embarrassing figures of out-of-school children in Nigeria to the barest minimum and ultimately eradicating same. This they do through identifying less privileged out-of-school children, verifying them, and ultimately enrolling them in school. In Abuja, the foundation in its field operations of identifying out of school children, enrolled 13 children from Gudaba community in the Kuje Axis of the FCT into Aflon Digital Academy, one of the best privately owned schools in Kuje Abuja. The foundation through donations from sponsors, and support from the parent company have also successfully enrolled a child in Lagos, 10 in Niger state, 10 in Kano state, 3 in Zamfara and 3 in Kaduna state.
Recently, the foundation floated its Accelerated Learning Program (AccLearn), a project designed to enhance the transition rate to formal education of children that have not had the privilege nor exposure to any formal education. The pilot project was launched in Rugga community in Wuye Abuja where 50 children have been admitted into the foundation’s speed school system, with the foundation’s instructors drawn from government schools and well trained to teach and mentor out-of-school kids. This laudable program has proven to be useful in this instance with a brilliant curriculum poised at improving the all-round academic growth of the children and seeing to their easy transition into formal education.
FlexiSAF foundation intends to partner with like minded organizations and corporate institutions in replicating this great project in communities with similar educational problems in the Northern part of Nigeria and ultimately across the country. The foundation believes strongly that every nation on earth is as great as the type and level of education it affords the youngest of its citizens.
FlexiSAF foundation’s activities in ensuring that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 4 is achieved in Nigeria, is laudable and worth supporting by well-meaning Nigerians, public and private organizations, and corporate bodies.
Olubunmi Ayantunji is a Legal Practitioner and a Child Education Advocate.