Recent report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)shows that Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school and one of the world’s worst education systems. In fact, Nigeria was among Pakistan, Chad and Ethiopia as the countries that are way off target on the six key educational goals to be achieved between 2000 and 2015. The key goals include enrolling all children in primary schools, halving adult illiteracy and ensuring that girls had equal access to schooling.
The report blamed corruption, conflict and lack of investment as responsible for this sad state of educational development. Definitely, every well meaning Nigerian must feel scandalised by this revelation given the fact that while the country’s GNP grew between 1999 and 2012, the investment in the education sector remained very low. Matters are made worse by the fact that officials routinely steal funds appropriated for building of classrooms, buying textbooks and implementing programmes that should bring more children to school.
Two years ago, some officials were indicted for stealing funds meant for Nomadic Education Commission(NEC), an agency charged with the responsibility of getting Fulani herdsmen to enrol their children in school. Incidentally, more than 70 percent of these out of school children are found in some states in the north of the country. The situation has been exacerbated by the Boko Haram insurgency, which has displaced many children of school age there. Moreover, the ‘Almajiri syndrome’, has condemned millions of children to a culture of begging under the guise of religion.
This is why the Muhammadu Buhari administration must take urgent and drastic steps to ameliorate the situation. The progress of any country is not measured for natural resources but by the quality of education, its citizens receive. There is no denying the fact that these out school children pose danger to the future of the country, as they could become willing recruits for any terrorist organisation.
Their continued lack of education due to no fault of theirs is an indictment on the country that continues to ignore the plight of these children in need of knowledge and human dignity. It is sad that many of them end up as house helps to the wealthy privileged few and most times as street hawkers and urchins, with some becoming hardened criminals over time. To solve this problem, the incoming government must devote enough resources to education, especially for the young who are the future leaders. It is unfortunate that the acclaimed richest economy in Africa is sorely lagging behind in the education of its citizens, especially the young ones, while spending billions of naira every year for the sustenance of a lavish and venal lifestyles of a few at the helm of affairs. The country must see the wisdom in educating its children if it wants to be taken seriously by the international community.