By Charity Simon,Abuja
UNICEF, world’s organ for children’s education, says the rising number of children who are out of school in Nigeria should be of great concern for all, especially the government, writes CHARITY SIMON in Abuja.
For two days in October, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), brainstormed, alongside select journalists, over the incidence of our-of-school-children in Nigeria.
The dialogue, which held in Kano, brought together education specialists and journalists who are informed about developments around education in the country.
The crux of UNICEF’s worry was the danger out-of-school-children pose to Nigeria. According to figures released by the UNICEF, such children account for about 13.3m of Nigeria’s kid population.
The figure may not mean much when reduced to mere numbers. But like humans, the implication is seen when one figures out the reality of unleashing 13.2m uneducated children into the society. Such children will grow to become adults and also, part of the nation’s workforce.
For UNICEF therefore, Nigeria leads the log of nations in the world with children without access to school.
According to UNICEF 69 percent of the affected children are from the Northern part of Nigeria.
Speaking at the dialogue, Mrs. Azuka Menkiti, who is an education specialist with UNICEF, attributed the development to obsolete cultural practices and religion misinterpretation in the region.
She said the number of children engaged in child Labour is on the rise and it remains a major source of concern in Nigeria in spite of legislative measures taken by the government at various levels.
According to her, “it is a ridiculous sight in most big cities, as well as rural villages today, to see children of school age, hawking on the street, begging, herding, operating domestic services amongst other activities.”
Available statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), released after its 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) says about 50.8 per cent of Nigerian children, aged between five and 17, are involved in child labour.
According to experts, child labour is one outcome of the out-of-school syndrome.
Child labour is condemned worldwide and by most governments of the world, Nigeria inclusive, because it exposes the child to accidental and other injuries at work.
The NBS conducted the survey in conjunction with other partners, including the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
For Dr. Dayo Ogundimu, Education and Development Consultant, the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria is “alarming and worrisome in spite of all legislation”.
“The situation”, he said, “is still dramatic in Northern regions of the country where the trade is widespread and accepted with less anxiety more than all other parts of the country”.
Ogundimu frowned at the number of children working in hazardous conditions in the country. He identified North Central part of Nigeria as accounting for the highest number of child exploitation.
“Traditionally, children have worked with their families, but today children are forced to work for their own and their family’s survival.
“There is nothing wrong for a child helping his parents, As long as it doesn’t stop the child from getting an education, doesn’t expose, especially the girl child, to danger, rape and harassment”, he added.
He identified the major causes of child labour as poverty, rapid urbanization, breakdown in extended family affiliations, the rate of high school drop-out and lack of enforcement of legal instruments meant to protect children.
“They should be protected to prevent social, economic and physical harm which persist to affect them during their lifetime.
“These children who work suffer from fatigue, irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, improper socialization, exposure to the risk of sexual abuse, high likelihood of being involved in crime.
“The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that children execute in dangerous circumstances is particularly worrying.
“These jobs include being street vendors, beggars, car washers or watchers and shoe shiners.
“Others work as apprentice mechanics, and bus conductors, while a large number work as domestic servants and farm hands.
“The money earned by child family members has become a significant part of poor families’ income”, Ogundimu noted.
“These children who are mostly young girls should be in school but instead, they are in the market hawking food items because their families need the extra income,”
The government is liable for every child that is out of school because it has the constitutional responsibility to ensure the education of all Nigerian children.
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