International Day of Education and The Nigerian Child

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“All children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances, have the right to quality education” – UNICEF.

International Day of Education is observed every year on January 24 to celebrate the role of education for peace and development. The theme for this year’s (2022) International Day of Educaton is: “Changing Course, Transforming Education.” According to ‘en.unesco.org,’ this year’s International Day of Education is a platform to showcase the most important transformations that have to be nurtured to realize everyone’s fundamental right to education and build a more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful futures. It will generate debate around how to strengthen education as a public endeavour and common good, how to steer the digital transformation, support teachers, safeguard the planet and unlock the potential in every person to contribute to collective well-being and our shared home.

Education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, it will be difficult to break the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.

Nigeria is a ‘country of the young,’ with around 43 per cent (almost half the entire population) currently under the age of 15. Nevertheless, a survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world (about 10.5 million), even though Primary education is officially free and compulsory.

This constitutes a serious problem for the country. Knowing the future impact of having a population largely filled with uneducated children, this menace will (if not properly curtailed), reduce the world’s largest Black nation to a hub of vulnerable children with no access to quality education.

A good education prepares children to cope successfully with life in

today’s society. It equips them with academic skills, including the

ability to read and write well and to do arithmetic. Moreover, it

affects their interaction with others and helps them build up

wholesome standards of morality. Also, as human society becomes even more complex, a good education takes on greater importance.

Many people feel that the main purpose of education is to earn money. Yet, some educated people are unemployed or do not earn enough to meet basic needs. Some parents may therefore think that it is not beneficial to send a child to school. But schooling does more than prepare someone to make money. It equips children for life in general.

However, even for children who attend school, there still exist some

problems that can hinder the child from receiving proper education.

These problems include: overcrowded classrooms which make learning difficult, absence of suitable learning facilities due to poor

funding, a poorly remunerated and therefore unhappy teaching staff,

and so on. Therefore, it is important that parents take an active

interest in what their children are learning at school. They should

get acquainted with the teachers, especially at the beginning of each

term. They could ask for the teacher’s advice on how the children can become better students. The teachers may thus feel appreciated and be motivated to make a greater effort to meet the educational needs of the children.

Regarding the problem of high number of out-of-school children in

Nigeria, it is important to first of all consider and address the

factors that contribute toward their high number. Such contributory

factors include the acts of terrorism especially in the North-Eastern

part of the country, where the highest number of out-of-school

children are found. As a result of acts of terrorism in that area,

many schools have been destroyed, thousands of teachers have been killed, and insurgency and acts of terror have dampened the enthusiasm of children to go to school, and embedded in parents the fear of sending their wards to school.

Furthermore, economic barriers, as well as socio-cultural norms and

practices have contributed to discouraging attendance in formal

education, especially for the girl-child. Poverty, early marriage,

cultural and religious misconceptions or misrepresentations, and

teenage pregnancy also act as barriers to girl- child education,

especially in the North.

Parents sometimes send their sons to school but not their daughters.

Perhaps some parents think that it is too expensive to educate their

daughters and believe that girls can be more useful to their mother by staying at home all day. But illiteracy will handicap a daughter. A

UNICEF publication stated: “Study after study has demonstrated that

providing education for girls is one of the best strategies for

breaking the hold of poverty.” Educated girls are better equipped for

life and make wiser decisions, thus benefiting all in the family.

In some places children are deprived of formal education, and then

handed over to someone to learn a trade. Sometimes these children are exploited. Learning a trade is a good thing, but they would be more likely to avoid exploitation if they first received a basic education and then learned a trade.

Daniel Ighakpe, Tendertouch Primary School, FESTAC Town, Lagos