• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Children’s Day: With plundered yesterday, floundering today, future of Nigerian child uncertain

Street children (1)

It is always said in Nigeria that tomorrow belongs to the children and youth of today. But the reality is that with yesterday completely plundered by the older generation, and today floundering, there is no guarantee of any tomorrow for the Nigerian child.

The Nigerian child by many standards is endangered on all fronts. From the South to the North, East and West, the Nigerian child is faced with many challenges created by the older generations who have been entrusted with looking after the child.

The 2003 Child’s Right Act (CRA) guarantees the rights of every child in Nigeria. According to the CRA, any person under age 18 is considered a child. So far, 24 out of 36 states of the federation have adopted the CRA as a state law, while 12 states are yet to adopt the act in their various states.
Children's Day: With plundered yesterday, floundering today, future of Nigerian child uncertain

The National Human Rights Commission as part of its mandates to promote, protect and enforce the rights of all citizens as well as foreign nationals in Nigeria undertakes several procedures of promoting and protecting the rights of children under this age because of their vulnerability.

On the back of the vulnerability, the plight of the Nigerian child is being mirrored as the world celebrates this year’s Children’s Day. Children’s Day is a commemorative date celebrated annually in honour of children.

In 1925, International Children’s Day was first proclaimed in Geneva during the World Conference on Child Welfare. Since 1950, it has been celebrated on June 1 in many Second World countries, while others mark the day on May 25, 26 or 27 depending on the country. However, the day was first established and celebrated in Nigeria in 1964.

On May 27, Nigeria joins other countries to commemorate the annual Children’s Day. Students and pupils are in many cases given a day off school to celebrate Children’s Day with their families. While it is not a public holiday in Nigeria and businesses stay open, Children’s Day is observed and celebrated by people and organisations across Nigeria.

Tomorrow is another of such day, where schools, public and private organisations, even the government will organise parades and parties to celebrate the children.

However, beyond the parades, parties, and good wishes and speeches that will be rolled out from the various cadres of government; the question many Nigerians would want answered is: what practical plans does the government have for a guaranteed future for the Nigerian child?

With 34 out of 36 States signing the Child Rights Act 2003 as amended, and 24,673,485, or 39.2% of Nigeria children involved in child labour, current state of Nigeria’s economy no doubt has exacerbated poverty, economic inequalities, with an unintended upswing in child labour, according to reports by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Children's day. Some children in public schools

Faced with depleted household income and extreme poverty conditions, many families, are now compelled to send their children to work, to supplement household family income, 14,390,353, or 22.9% are involved in hazardous work, painting a grim picture of the conditions under which nearly two out of every five Nigerian children live.

This is as only 23 states out of 36 plus the federal capital territory, are said to be currently working towards creating safe spaces for the Nigerian child, especially the female, who are considered to be more vulnerable

The NBS report also indicated that of the over 24 million Nigerian children involved in child labour, 14.3millions of them are engaged in hazardous work as of 2022.

The socioeconomic challenges in the northwest geopolitical zone, have created an unparalleled hardships in the region, with highest number of child labourers growing to 6,407,102) and children in hazardous work, growing to as much as 3,266,728 of the population

Traditionally, child labour, was more prevalent in the southeast region, with nearly 50% of the children involved in child labour.

The United Nations Children Emergency Fund UNESCO had in 2023, estimated the number of out of school children at 20 million, even as it is believed that the figure may have increased, on the backdrop of current realities.

Thus, with rising economic difficulties, the nation is now faced with more out of school children, whose future are being mortgaged by denying them access to quality education as well as creating a state of hopelessness.

The high cost of acquiring education sector, many households struggle to barely survive with their meager income.

Many families are sacrificing education, while deploying their children to do petty trading and menial jobs to survive.

Out-of-school children

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in three children in Nigeria is out of school. Also, it estimated that about 10.2 million at the primary level and 8.1 million at the junior secondary school (JSS) level.

Accordingly, 12.4 million Nigerian children never attended school and 5.9 million left school early. According to UNICEF, Nigeria’s out of school population accounts for 15 percent of the global total.

Similarly, the June 2022 UNICEF report indicated that violations of children’s right to education and increased risk of violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and recruitment to extremist groups. While poor retention in school is a major challenge, with 11 percent of learners dropping out of school at each grade level.

While the rest of the world celebrates 2024 Children’s Day, the Nigerian child is daily exposed to limited opportunities for learning and skills development on the back of his/her education exposure.

Also, the Nigerian child is faced with lack of access to meaningful employment, perpetuation of intergenerational poverty and inequality, which results in significant losses in lifetime earnings for out-of-school children and those affected by school closure.

According to UNICEF 2022 data, only one in three children aged 36-59 months has access to Early Child Care Development Education (ECCDE) programmes. ECCDE is the care, protection, stimulation and learning promoted in children from age 3-5 in a Crèche or Nursery. It is expected that all primary schools in the basic education sub-sector operate the ECCDE center as one of the standards required at that level.

Also, only one in three adolescents eligible for senior secondary school are attending school in Nigeria, with over 50 percent of girls not attending school at the basic education level. Same way 66 percent of all out-of-school children are in the Northeast and Northwest region of Nigeria, while 86 percent of them are from rural areas, and 65 percent are from the poorest quintile.

Poverty is currently the biggest barrier to school access for many of the out-of-school children in Nigeria, which is exacerbated by school fees and other costs of education. Other barriers and bottlenecks faced by the Nigerian child on his/her journey to a fulfilled life also involved the incessant attacks on schools and abduction of school children together with unsafe basic infrastructure and facilities like classrooms, furniture, fencing, WASH, among others keep children out of school.

At least, 43 percent of children are forced into child labour on the back of the poverty that many families have to contend with on a day-to-day basis resulting in a chronic underfunding of education and inefficient use of available resources perpetuates the out-of-school phenomenon.

Also, the Nigerian child is faced with social and gender norms that place a low value on education that contributes to girls, Almajiri children and others, not attending school or dropping out. Similarly, lack of comprehensive data on out-of-school children limits reach and impact of interventions.
Children's day. Out-of-school children hawking

Insufficient supply of trained teachers, inefficient teacher recruitment and deployment, and weak regulatory mechanisms lead to overcrowded classrooms on the back of poor quality teaching and learning outcomes that contribute to drop out from the education system.

In a recent encounter with a family in Abuja, BDsunday gathered from a 34-year-old, Rejoice Ahamefula, a petty trader, how current economic realities worsened by the death of her husband, ended the education of her six children.

John Ahamefula was a civil servant working with the FCT Water Board before he met his sudden demise, leaving behind his six children of four boys and two girls.

According to her, Aham Junior, their first son, was just 14 years old when their father died and had to drop out of school as she could not cope with the school fees at the private school where the father had enrolled him and his siblings,

After the death of her husband, she suffered diabetes that affected her foot, making it difficult for her to walk around, let alone engaging in her trading business.

She lamented that “all the six children are now ‘working’ to support her in her business.

While speaking on the challenges in the ramshackle make-shift house, Aham Junior narrated that “even public schools, we cannot attend now, maybe when our mother is well, but now, I and my siblings do different things to support the family.

“I follow people to work at some building sites; my brothers and sister hawk things like pure water, groundnuts, while others stay with my mother at home.”

With the current high cost of living pilling more pressures on parents, the education sector has not been spared as many parents are caving in under pressures to withdraw their children from schools

Aside from the current high cost of living, Hamid Boboyi, executive secretary, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), recently berated State Governors for failing to provide education at the subnational level, by refusing to pay 50% counterpart funding to access the UBEC funds for education at the grassroots.

In his estimation, Nigeria requires 20,000 schools and about 907,769 classrooms to be able to absorb the growing number of out-of-school children.

Andrew Hussaini, a teacher in one of the schools in Abuja, while describing what the current economic realities has done to many parents, said: “Over this period, we have seen the resilience of some parents, but many who cannot afford to bear the burdens of sending their children to the good schools, end up pushing them to public schools, where facilities for learning do not exist.”

The situation is worst at the lower cadre of education, especially at the primary and secondary school levels.

Hussaini believes that government must invest more in education and skills training, “if the Nigeria of our dream will be realised”

“How do you unlock the potentials of such a huge number of children if they remain out of school.

“I teach in a private school, but when I have the need to visit my colleagues in public schools, I feel sorry for our state of education.

“You can imagine what happens to those who are daily being forced to stay out of school because their parents cannot afford to pay for their transportation to and from schools, or settle their school fees or purchase books for them,” he said.

In his bid to tackle these challenges, President Bola Tinubu recently, approved system-wide policies to comprehensively overhaul the education sector with the aim to improve learning and skill development, increase enrolment, and ensure the academic security of the nation’s children. This intervention is still in its infancy, tomorrow will determine its success.

Hunger remains potent threat

As the sun rises over the bustling streets of Lagos, Nigeria, a sense of excitement and anticipation fills the air. It’s another May 27, 2024, and Children’s Day is finally here again. However, for many Nigerian parents, this day is a special opportunity to shower their children with love, attention, and joy.
Street children. Children's day

But, with the current economic challenges facing the country, many parents are struggling to make ends meet, let alone provide a memorable celebration for their children.

The Archbishop, Catholic Archdiocese, Alfred Martins, has urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the food sector to address deprivation and hunger in the country.

This was disclosed in a statement issued by the Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese, Anthony Godonu, recently.

As a result of hunger, many children of school-going age have since left the classroom to the streets to hawk wares to augment their parents’ earnings, for survival.