• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Safeguarding the Nigerian child

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Education starts from the cradle; little wonder catching children young with quality education remains a veritable tool to lifelong development. As the future of a nation’s socio-economic and political life lies on the quality of children’s education, a shaky educational foundation will impact negatively on their lives when they become adults.

Many Nigerian children have no opportunity to experience the much needed early childhood education. The magnitude of the problems facing education at the basic level in Nigeria is reflected in the 2012 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report which revealed that 10.5 million Nigerian children are out of school.

Reports show that many Nigerian children do not attend school because their labour is needed to either help at home or bring additional income into the family, just as many families are unable to cope with associated costs of sending their children to school such as uniforms, textbooks, transportation, feeding among others.

Data obtained from United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) show that 40 percent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls.

It further showed that 30 percent of pupils drop out of primary school and only 54 percent transit to Junior Secondary Schools with the reason for this low completion rate traceable to child labour, economic hardship and early marriage for girls.

With Nigeria’s exponential growth in population putting immense pressure on the nation’s resources and overstretching public services and infrastructure, children less than 15 years of age account for about 45 percent of the country’s population, have a fair share of the current impasse, thereby putting an overwhelming burden on education and other sectors.

Despite government’s efforts through the implementation of the free Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act passed into law in 2004 to fight illiteracy and extend basic education opportunities to all Nigerian children in the country, it has done enough to reduce the stress on the educational system.

The Child’s Rights Act was passed into law in 2003; unfortunately, it is yet to be implemented in most states in the country. The law stipulates penalties for parents who disobey the provisions of the Act, especially as it pertains to the menace of street begging, child labour, child trafficking and other child-related misdemeanour.

We believe that Nigeria, having ratified and acceded to tenets of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, is saddled with the moral burden of caring for its less-privileged children. Government should devise more pro-active ways of monitoring the performance of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).

Various committees of the National Assembly and state assemblies charged with the responsibility of overseeing the Ministry of Education should be alive to their responsibilities. State governments are implored to invest in educational infrastructure development.

Every Nigerian child should be given this constitutional right. Free and compulsory education is not a privilege; it is the right of every child. And where this right is denied children, the society as a whole suffers. The next generation should be saved from itself.