Tackling the Challenge of out-of-School Children in the Country
Education is the bedrock of any Nation
In fact, the future of the country is determined by the quality of education of its children.
In 2018, United Nations Educational, Cultural and Social Organisation, UNESCO’s Education for all Monitoring Report, indicated that the number of school-age children, who were not in school rose to over thirteen million in Nigeria.
A United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF, communication specialist, Godfrey Njoku, in November last year said the northern part of the country accounted for sixty nine percent of the number of out-of-school children, adding that only forty-five per cent of girls were enrolled in schools.
Although this trend is not peculiar to the northern region alone, in the south, giving out girls of school age as home helps is still rampant, just as children hawking sachet water, groundnut, soft drinks and other consumables in major cities while their mates are in school are familiar ugly scenes.
In recent times, issues such as insurgency, conflicts, unrest, deep-rooted poverty, and certain cultural factors have led to an increase in the number of out-of-school children.
Unless the issue of the increasing number of out-of-school children is tackled headlong, the danger the trend poses to the society and the country at large cannot be quantified.
For instance, these children are constantly being exposed to danger of violence, assault, exploitation and anti-social recruitments such as terrorism, child-trafficking and kidnapping.
It is heartwarming therefore that the disclosure by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu that laws will soon be enacted to sanction parents who prevent or refuse to register their children of school age in school.
The minister noted that government’s intervention on basic education amounts to about three hundred and fifty billion naira, hence the need to prosecute parents who refuse to send their children to school for the country to see the desired changes.
The question, however, is does the country have the political will to enforce this extant laws since basic and secondary education is the responsibility of state and local governments?
To tackle this trend headlong, issues such as anti-progressive religious and cultural practices should be addressed by the government to reduce out of school children to the barest minimum.
The Free Primary Education Programme of 1999 and Universal Basic Education Act of 2004, which were adjudged laudable have been rendered inadequate by the failure of governance in many states of the Federation.
For instance, only twenty three out of the thirty six states have domesticated the Child Rights Acts while other states are indifferent to the social protection of the child. Those who have done so, hardly enforce the law.
According to Section 2 Sub Section 2 of the Universal Basic Education Act, a parent who fails to enroll a child or withdraws him or her from school faces a fine of two thousand naira or one month imprisonment; or both.
Also, a five thousand naira fine or two months’ imprisonment or both, await any parent that is convicted of the same offence.
If the implementation of the policy had been taken with upmost priority, criminalizing out-of-school could not have arisen in the first place as the UBE had made provisions for such.
Parents should see children as future leaders and their education should be handled with utmost priority.
Also, government, well meaning individuals and organizations should join hands to end the menace.