Children still battling to go to school: A Case for the Nigerian Child

Welcome to my weekly column, A Vote for U.N. Global Education First Initiative, where I discuss the principles and ideals of the initiative as it affects the African child.

Today, I will like to relate the state of the Nigerian child and education to the recent policy paper on education and conflict, released by The Education For All Global Monitoring Report team in conjunction with Save the Children for the Global Education First Initiative’s ‘Malala Day’ on July 12 and hosted on the website of U.N. Global Education First Initiative (www.globaleducationfirst.org).

According to the story hosted on the site of U.N. Global Education First Initiative, ‘globally, the number of children out of school has fallen, from 60 million in 2008 to 57 million in 2011, but the new paper shows that such progress has not registered for children in conflict-affected countries.’

The story further reveals, ‘the paper calls for immediate action to bring education to the 28.5 million primary school age children out of school in countries affected by conflict who now represent half of the children who are denied an education. The slow progress in reducing the children out of school in the world has not benefitted those living in conflict affected countries; they now make up 50% of children who are denied an education, up from 42% in 2008.’

Sadly the report alerts that ‘of the 28.5 million primary school age children out of school in conflict-affected countries, 12.6 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, 5.3 million live in South and West Asia, and 4 million live in the Arab States. The vast majority – 95% – lives in low and lower middle income countries. Girls, who make up 55% of the total, are the worst affected, as they are often victims of rape and other sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts.’

It depress me that despite the fact that the Arab States seems to be the boiling point of conflict today, they account for 4 million, while seemingly less troubled sub-Saharan African countries account for a whooping 12.6 million of  children of school age, who are out of school in conflict-affected countries.  Sub-Saharan Africa has the lion share of the figure.

It is in the light of the foregoing that I will like to address the present siege on education in Northern Nigeria. A UNICEF report submits, ‘forty per cent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls.’

The foregoing reports show that children, particularly girls from the Northern parts of Nigeria are disadvantaged educationally. This report was before the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria and the recent war declared on education in that region by the Boko Haram sect.

UNICEF puts the total figure of pupils and teachers, who have been killed by Boko Haram since June 16, 2013 at 48 pupils and seven teachers. The sad thing is that the Nigeria government does not yet have a solution to the situation apart from declaring a state of emergency. The failure of the state of emergency to protect school children is evident in the fact that the 48 pupils and seven teachers were killed after the state of emergency was declared in their states.

As it is today many children and teachers have deserted most of the public schools in the Northern parts of the country out of the fear of attacks by Boko Haram. The situation has further worsened the poor state of education in the Northern parts of Nigeria.

My advocacy today is that the Northern parts of Nigeria should be declared as a conflict-affected area. Local and international concerned and pressure groups should put pressure on the Nigerian government to ensure safety for the Nigerian child. As I said in my article, published on July 9, 2013, I will say here again in concluding this piece, ‘I urge us to begin the debate today and I think the issues are clear in my mind: first, is the school environment safe for our children in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern part of Nigeria? If not, what kind of security measure are we to immediately put in place for the safety of our children, beyond a blanket declaration of a state of emergency? What kind of relief mechanics can we put in place for the affected schools and the families of the deceased, pupils and adults alike?’

I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE. Have an INSPIRED day.

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