While commemorating this year’s International Day of Education on Sunday, January 23, 2022, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, in Nigeria released the latest numbers in review of our education sector in 2021.
The figures are grim. No fewer than 25 schools were attacked by Boko Haram and bandit terrorists in the North with 1,440 school children abducted for ransom.
Also, 618 schools were shut in six Northern states, such as Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Niger and Yobe to prevent their being attacked, thus losing many months of academic activities.
The number of out-of-school children remains 10.5 million, 80 per cent of which are in the North.
This means that despite a Northerner and President Muhammadu Buhari’s personal friend, Mallam Adamu Adamu, being in charge of the Ministry of Education for the past six and half years, no progress has been recorded in our out-of-school children woes. Nigeria remains the country with the largest number of out-of-school children in the world, accounting for one out of five.
Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, further analysed the situation: “While the education crisis in Nigeria is affecting the children across the country, some children are more likely to be affected than the others.
“Female children, children with disabilities, children from the poorest households, in street situations, or affected by displacement of emergencies, and children in geographically distant areas are all disproportionately affected by the education crisis”.
In terms of disproportionate impact of the crisis, the children of the elite who control the nation’s resources, top government officials and political leaders are almost unaffected because they are taken out of harm’s way by their parents, and that includes sending them to the safety of saner climes abroad.
Wittingly or unwittingly, we are building a future country governed by the trichotomy which this crisis is producing: a few well-educated children of the elite, a large middle class of mostly unemployable products of the Nigerian educational system and millions of uneducated or school dropouts at the bottom.
This is a recipe for social instability. Those we neglect today could become the foot soldiers of violent criminals, addicts, separatists, terrorists and revolutionaries.
The myopic elite is weaving the whip with which their children will be flogged by those left unprotected from the crisis in our education sector today.
Where is the “State of Emergency” that Minister Adamu promised in 2018 when the out-of-school syndrome first became our stark reality?
The impending 2023 general elections will be the auspicious opportunity for Nigerians to search for credible, visionary and patriotic leaders who can restore sanity to our education sector.
We must devolve more powers from the centre to allow the people get more involved in solving our security problems to enable all our children to safely go back to school.