THE recent report of the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF revealing that about 13.2 million Nigerian children are out of school calls for urgent attention, else, the frightful country may be sitting on a time bomb. This lurid image may be adjudged as a sign of a failed nation.
THE latest report shows an increase of 2.7million from its former 10.5million . The scary report showed that 60percent of the dropouts are girls, a dreaded situation attributed to socio-cultural practises including withdrawing the girl-child from school for marriage.
ALSO, a similar survey by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, revealed that a chunk of these children are from the North arising from the activities of Boko Haram and herdsmen which had reportedly killed thousands of people since 2009.
ALSO, several children of school age in the southern part of the country have been forced into street trading owing to the harsh economic situation in the country. For example, most parents have lost their means of livelihood and thus forcing the innocent children to take up the challenge of taking care of their various homes.
IT is worrisome to note that all over the country, school age pupils are seen roaming the streets engaging in manual labour or other economic activities to fend for themselves and their siblings as the case may be.
THE implication of the unfortunate trend is grievous. Many of them are exposed to danger of child abuse, drug abuse and addiction, sexual harassment, ritual killings and early death by road accidents.
THEREFORE this alarming drop out of school children calls for serious concern in the country. The shocking revelation has put a doubt on the seriousness of government to provide Nigerian children access to qualitative education.
ALTHOUGH, various efforts had been put in place in the past by government: Federal, state and local governments to curtail the trend, the continued dearth of qualified teachers, obsolete teaching materials, poor salary of teachers, poor budgetary allocation to education sector, teachers’ lack of motivation have worsened the situation.
IT is worthy of note that former President Goodluck Jonathan made spirited efforts to make education attractive in the North by building model Almajiri Integrated Model Schools, the sad reality is most of these pupils had since returned to the streets seeking for alms and foods as a means of survival.
THE present government of President Mohammadu Buhari recently launched ” Free School Feeding Programme” to attract pupils back to schools, it has not achieved the desire target and results in the north..
THE fact that the various policies initiated by successive administrations to tackle the menace failed are a warning that they fresh ideas are needed to keep pupils in schools.
WE therefore call on government at all levels and stakeholders to rise up to this challenge before it gets out of hand.
IT has become imperative for policy makers to take education off politics and be given a shot in the arms as a serious social investment that could help take off many children off the streets.
TODAY many public institutions are not better than cow stalls totally bereft of basic amenities like toilets and tables.
GOVERNMENT across the country must begin to tackle and prosecute parents who keep their children off the schools for no justifiable reasons.
THE school feeding programme initiated by the Buhari administration is a laudable and commendable gesture to keep pupils particularly the deprived ones in schools.
ANY effort to keep pupils off the streets but in school is not only a wise social investment but a bulwark against future delinquence.
PUBLIC and private sectors, as well as NGOs should be ready to contribute their quota and make use of their experience to salvage the situation. The first step is to accept the fact that the debacle of ignorance is unacceptable anywhere in Nigeria, a country flowing with milk and honey to tackle any problem.
WE also call for the full implementation of the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, Act of 2004,which gives free and compulsory school education to every child of school age. The fact is that no matter the efforts being made and unless the problem is first taken care of and compulsory free education is enforced, Nigeria may find its future more endangered when it would have to contend with ill-education workforce and population.
WE recommend that the UBEC Act which sanction parents who fail to enroll their children in school be enforced.
THE federal government should also declare a state of emergency in the education sector. Failure to do this is an invitation to anarchy in which the present Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen insurgents may be a child play.
IT is a shame for us to parade a population of 13.2 million school children out of school in Nigeria, This to us is unacceptable depicting a bleak future for the country . Quality education delivery will certainly provide qualified personnel, huge capacity building, reduction in incidents of armed robbery, militancy and all forms of social vices.
ADDING to this, there is the need for the federal and state governments to adhere to budgetary allocation of 26 percent to education, as recommended by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
AS the former President of America, Barack Obama echoed “education is a huge and critical responsibility that should begin at home.” If parents heed to this, the number of children who are conscripted into Boko Haram killer herdsmen and bandits would reduce in the country.
THE time to stop this time bomb is now.