It would appear that there is no end in Nigeria to the obstacles children have to surmount as the youngest members of Nigeria’s population. Whether it is being picked off like cherries by deadly diseases like cholera, battered by malnutrition or tossed all over the place by conflict, it appears there is always something for children to contend with in Nigeria.
The many challenges children face in Nigeria accusingly point the finger at a country shockingly unprepared for a future, or at least a prosperous one.
A country where children have become practice targets for the many archers of death who roam freely but forcefully is a country unwittingly digging its own grave.
It is telling enough that Nigeria’s out-of-school children are in their millions.It is also telling that schools which hitherto used to be safe spaces for children to thrive have recently become the stomping grounds of bandits who brush through the bushes of Nigeria seeking child captives.
For a country in which 70% of its 217 million people are children and youths, alarm bells recently rung when the United Nations Children Emergency Fund(UNICEF) disclosed that 75% of Nigerian children aged between seven and fourteen years could neither read nor solve simple mathematics.
The chilling revelation was made by Ms. Christian Munduate, the UNICEF Country representative, to mark this year’s International Day of Education (IDE) which held on 24th January 2023 who also called on Nigeria’s next president to prioritize education and children’s welfare.
Perhaps, the only positive about what is otherwise an utterly alarming situation is that Nigeria’s general election is at hand. There is only very little doubt that the predicament of many a Nigerian child when the subject is literacy is a function of many years of leadership failure.
Nigeria’s dereliction in education is well documented. All over the country, schools and their students have known many years of neglect. It is not uncommon to see many schools in the rural areas of Nigeria that have fallen into utter disrepair. Broken windows and doors wedged into decrepit buildings usually greet many Nigerian children on their very first day in school. Then there is the terrifying spectre of disgruntled teachers who despite their heroic efforts are still forced to come up short.
The toll the dysfunction so forcefully present in Nigeria has taken on education is one that cannot easily be ignored. Recently, the number of out-of-school children surged to 20 million. With insecurity having joined poverty as the chief factors grinding down families in Nigeria, many children have been forced to stop their education. The results are clear for all to see in the staggering number of NIgerian children who cannot do what so many of their peers around the world can effortlessly do.
What does the future hold for Nigerian children? What kind of future if any can Nigeria children who grow up under this kind of dysfunction look forward to? With the basics so savagely denied Nigerian children very early on, are they not being deliberately set up to fail?
Education is key. Education has within it an unmatched potency to unlock hitherto unreachable opportunities and possibilities. Education is an equalizer that is in many ways also an elixir for most of the darkness the mind can conjure.Yet, in Nigeria, each passing day casts quality education as a luxury reserved only for the elite.
Everyday presents fresh challenges for education in Nigeria from top to bottom. It was only in 2022 that Nigerian university undergraduates saw eights months shaved off their academic calendar as disgruntled lectures downed tools while self-serving politicians flitted from place to place like killer wasps.
It is not uncommon too for primary and secondary school teachers to down tools in protest against dire conditions of work from time to time. All these compound the complications education already faces in Nigeria.
It is good thing that Nigerians will soon go to the polls. At the polls, Nigerians can choose to recycle politicians who have no plans to improve education given that they can always fix their children into best schools abroad, or chose leaders who because they value education will make quality education accessible to all.
The last few years have been especially turbulent for education in Nigeria. The mess education is currently mired in indicts all those who have been in positions to transform education in Nigeria but chose to do nothing. It also spells in very bold letters just how bleak the future is for children in Nigeria many of whom can neither read their names nor read the handwriting on the wall.