Bridging the Gap for Children

According to UNESCO, education is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and many other international human rights instruments.

The fact that many people in our society see education as a privilege is the greatest threat to the Nigerian educational system. Those that hold this perception are not to be blamed for their narrow mindset. In fact, statistics reflect their opinion. In Nigeria, access to, and quality of education is largely dependent on resources available.

According to UNICEF, even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6-11- year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.

In 2017, the Ministry of Education announced that Nigeria has the largest number of children in the world who are not being educated. In the north of the country, the picture is even bleaker, with a net attendance rate of 53 percent. Getting out-of-school children back into education poses a massive challenge.

According to Hannah Arendt, education is an indispensable means by which children are properly introduced to a complex, multifarious world, the teaching profession is the formalised vehicle by which this introduction is done in a standardised, measurable fashion.

This is why education is so important to national development. One of the major indices of a prosperous country is the significant part of its population with education. The educational system is broadly divided into three: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. Out of these, primary and secondary should be accessible to all. Not only are children supposed to have access to education, the education should also be qualitative; sufficient enough to enable proper intellectual development of the children.

In Nigeria, the introduction of the Universal Basic Education Programme puts the responsibility for tuition in public schools on the government. However, there are other requirements needed to facilitate adequate participation in schooling. These include textbooks, uniforms, transportation, feeding, etc.  At a glance, these basic provisions seem easy, but the tragic poverty in Nigeria has made even these unaffordable to millions of children across the country. In the rural areas where movement to school often requires transportation means unavailable or unaffordable to parents, many children are out of school.

According to the world poverty clock, the number of extremely poor Nigerians (Living below $1.90 a day) has risen to 91.6 million. The report adds that six Nigerians become poor every minute. This situation has been exacerbated by the propensity to procreate many offspring by many people of smaller means and the rising cases of single parenthood.  Also, several Government funded schools in Nigeria have practically collapsed over the years because of poor funding leaving children from poor homes with nowhere to go but the streets.

What then can we do to turn the situation around? How do we bridge the education gap for indigent children? It starts with the mindset that inclusive and qualitative education is the right of all children, and therefore we must strive to contribute our quota into getting these children into schools. You don’t have to be very rich to make an impact. If you are engaged and making enough money to take care of yourself and your family, you can contribute into the life of a child.

Already, some Churches, Non-Governmental Organizations and individuals across the country are making laudable contributions towards education for indigent children and there are a couple of them that I have been privileged to be part of.

The Oladiran Olusegun Adebutu Foundation (OOAF), founded by the Chairman of Petrolex Oil, Segun Adebutu, has adopted scores of orphans and vulnerable children, putting them through school and catering for their total upkeep. The took off in 2017 with a vision to eradicate poverty, educate children, and build prosperous communities.

Under the leadership of its lead pastor, Godman Akinlabi, non-denominational Christian ministry, The Elevation Church has embarked on several educational interventions, donating school supplies to children in public schools, building blocks of classrooms to enable conducive learning environment and sponsoring less privileged children through school.

Moreover, CSR-In-Action, Nigeria’s foremost sustainability outfit affiliated to Zenera, has offered scholarships to some primary school children in a nearby slum.

These and many more are entities that are making efforts to turn the tide. But these are tiny drops in an ocean. The challenges that face us are enormous and we need a total change of perception to tackle them. It is my opinion that the only thing capable of overturning the education deficit in the country is the eradication of the prevalent poverty in the country. This will require visionary and proactive leadership at government level and may take years.

However, there is something we can all do to help bridge the gap today. We can all contribute in any small way we can. We can begin by talking to that widow next door who could not afford to pay for her son’s school fees. We can begin by checking out the library in that public school close to us and buying a few useful books for it. We can begin by actively seeking gaps access of the indigent to education, and filling it in our own little way.


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