By Ada Anioji
The situation in the Nigerian society today where numerous children are out of the schooling loop is indeed becoming most worrisome. Given the long-established nexus between illiteracy and poverty, the jarring edge from this very troubling development is that we may invariably be walking almost uncontrollably into the lion’s den with little or no room to escape for a generation that is in dire need of something better.
Let us add some more precise facts to the subject under discussion. According to a recent report by the civil society grouping, A World at School.Org, Nigeria which had long before now been projected to become the world’s fourth most populous country by 2015 has continued to grow its population numbers even as 39% of adults in the country today cannot read or write.
The report also stated further that over 9 million children have never gone to school in the first place.
Unfortunately also, this vast number of children sentenced to doing menial jobs and wasting away while their mates are heading for schools seem not to be reducing.
Across the nation’s urban and rural areas, the picture is quite dismal and it has also not been helped by the recent use of children by the Islamist sect, Boko Haram in the course of their murderous suicide bombing operations. This has not only been a most tragic situation but it has even been compounded by the education-hating antics of the sect which cursorily carries attacks on schools and education centres and abducts children from their hostels. Two such incidents, involving, first the boys of Bunu Yadi, and later, the girls of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State, also known as the Chibokgirls, have now become world-famous and led to the worldwide #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Incidentally, the highest tally of out-of-school-children in Nigeria is that of the North East, home of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Beyond the insurgents-induced victims, it has for some time now also become a commonplace sight within the country to see some teenagers dressed up and on their way to school every morning even as others are on the other hand balancing trays on their heads, meandering through traffic with packs of goods or pushing carts with their hands and waiting upon their customers during the hours of school.
Things got to a head lately in the oil-rich South South region of the nation that the immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan had to set up a special Schools Marshalls brigade to arrest offending children and their parents who fail to take advantage of the state’s compulsory schooling scheme by remaining on the streets during school hours.
It however remains to be seen how effective this intervention has been but the fact of the matter is that this is one other indication that the nation does really have a crisis on its hands in this regard.
But our educational history tells us other things. As far back as 1816, modern primary schools had been established in the country with the first being St John’s Anglican Primary School which still exists today at 30 Palm Church St, Aroloya, Lagos.
That was not a one-off. In 1843, Ologbowowo Methodist Primary School was established and remains standing at its 37 Bankole St, Apongbon premises. Other early schools were St Thomas Anglican Primary School, Badagry; located at the popular Market Road in the historic town of Badagry since 1845 and the Home Economics Centre located at 2, St Saviour Street, Lagos which was in turn first established in 1869.
So how did a nation with a two century old involvement with formal education now sink so low as to become one of the most unschooled nations on earth? Serious soul-searching rally must be undertaken to not only find out how come we sunk so low, but more importantly perhaps, what we need to do henceforth to regain our lost glory as a nation and people.