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…… Kelly Phasey , Uyo
Recent survey around Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital reveals that a higher percentage of school pupils are currently at home due to the inability of their parents/guardians to pay school fees no thanks to the present economic recession experienced in the country which according to National Bureau of Statistics is the worst in 33 years.
According to reports, Nigeria had this magnitude of economic decline during the regime of Ibrahim Babangida, when the economy recorded consecutive decline of 0.51 per cent and 0.82 per cent in first and second quarters of 1987.
As at 2018, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years were 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 (Unicef). This figures are expected to double up presently with due consideration to COVID-19 and recession.
A check around schools reveals that the population of pupils have dropped drastically as a result of some factors like:
1) Child Labour: More than 150 million children aged five to 17 – half of them under 11 – are victims of forced labour and often miss out on education. Of those, 73 million work in hazardous jobs, according to the International Labour Organization.
2) Child marriage : There has been progress, with 25 million child marriages prevented in the past decade. But there is still a long way to go.
3) Climate change: Around 37 million children have their education disrupted each year because of environmental threats. In South Asia, 18,000 schools were shut in 2017 following damage or destruction in the region’s worst flooding in years.
4) Conflict: The long-term effects of growing up in a conflict zone are devastating and UNICEF estimates that 48.5 million pupils worldwide are missing school because of wars and conflicts.
5) Disabilities: Of the 100 million or so pupils around the world with a disability, 80% of them are in developing countries. In these countries, 40% of children with disabilities don’t go to primary school and 55% are not in secondary education.
6) Funding: Some of the poorest countries in the world struggle to finance an education system for all their children. Some systems have to charge fees to survive, which leads to families unable to afford education especially in situations where there are no jobs for the parents or recession like in Nigeria currently.
7) Gender: Fewer than two in three girls in low-income countries complete primary school and only a third finish lower secondary school. Only about 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school but since 2000, the gender gap in literacy narrowed dramatically and the number of girls going to primary school rose significantly. But it hasn’t been enough.
8) Hunger: “Every day, countless children across the globe turn up for school on an empty stomach, which makes it hard to focus on lessons,” says the UN’s World Food Programme. “Many simply do not go, as their families need them to help in the fields or around the house.”
9) Pregnancy: That picture is improving, especially since 26 African countries adopted policies by 2018 to ensure girls can return to school after having their baby. But even where they are allowed to return, many young mothers stay away due to stigma, fees, lack of childcare and the unavailability of flexible school programmes.
10) Poverty: For many families, education isn’t a possibility because they live in poverty. They need their children to help at home or in the fields – and they cannot afford the cost of going to school. Some parts of the world don’t have decent public schools – so parents face having to pay for their children to go to private schools, which are often outwith their financial reach.
And that’s not all… These are just few reasons why children drop out of school or miss out on quality education. I didn’t even include overcrowded classrooms, a lack of learning materials, no schools nearby – sadly the list goes on and on.