Nigeria with the current figure of 13.2 million out-of-school children occupies first position on the table of countries with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world certainly calls for sober reflection.
More worrisome is the fact that the figure instead of decreasing in the last few years is rather increasing.
This statistics which represent approximately 20 per cent of the world’s population of such children is an alarming and ticking time bomb that will spell doom for the country if urgent steps are not taken by relevant authorities to address the situation.
We observe that governance in Nigeria has become a circle of family business where politicians secure the future of their children to the detriment of poor Nigerians.
Also, inadequacy of funding, lack of teaching tools and modern classrooms, poor numerations and the acute shortage of qualified teachers are some of the factors leading to the fall in the standard of education in Nigeria.
Recently, the Multiple Indication Cluster Survey report for 2016 (MICS 2016) revealed that out of the 11.5 million of out-of-school children in Nigeria, Northern states have the highest rate with an average of 69%.
The latest data MICS 2016 showed that out of the 11.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, 7.5.million (69%) are from the Northern part of the country while the North East has the largest number of out-of-school children followed by the North West.
With this number, Nigeria accounts for more than 1 in 5 number of out-of-school children globally and 45% of this number are from West Africa.
Within the huge number of the out-of-school children, girls are the majority especially in Northern Nigeria.
Education indicators for Northern Nigeria are however different from the Southern part of the country.
Nigeria’s future prosperity depends on producing children who are well prepared to take their right place in the society but unfortunately, a large number of Nigerian children are at risk of deprivations of the basic social amenities.
Most of these children are situated in the rural areas and hard to reach communities.
Majority of them are living in conflict and communities under emergencies, and it has been difficult taking basic amenities to them.
All children have the right to better life, an opportunity to survive, develop and reach their full potentials without discrimination, bias or favouritism which cannot be over emphasised.
We also observe that the rising number of children engaged in street trading in our major cities is becoming a worsening menace.
The problem is further exacerbated by rising poverty and general insecurity in the country.
In the North, the ravaging insurgency has added to the problem.
If drastic measures are not taken to correct the situation, things would only get worse.
Let us learn from France, Britain, Canada and other advanced countries which built the foundation of their countries and rapid technological advancement on good and quality education.
It must be pointed out also that in these countries, teachers are amongst the best paid workers. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case in Nigeria.
Having failed to fund public education, the children of the poor are roaming the streets, hawking goods while the rich are educating their children in private schools at home and abroad.
But to the detriment of the society, the abandoned children of the poor are being recruited to criminality by terrorists, kidnappers and other criminal gangs.
The irony of the crisis is that a government, which claims that it lacks money to fund education is spending several billions of naira to fight insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry.
We believe that an uneducated population will be locked in a cycle of poverty for their entire lives. Additionally, these children could constitute the next generation of suicide bombers and militants.
We are of the opinion that it is high time the government and relevant stakeholders address the problem frontally.
It is sad that government’s free education for all pupils up to the first nine years of schooling has not been fully implemented.
There is the need to increase the percentage of the annual national budget that goes to education.
Schools should be adequately funded and the enabling environment provided for teachers and support staff to deliver functional and effective education to the children.
We submit that the improvement of the classroom environment is key to lowering the growing figures of out-of-school children in the country.
We also wish to state that teachers must not only be well trained, their welfare must be prioritised while the federal and state governments should muster the political will to adequately fund education.