Written by Funmi Morakinyo
“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth (children)”
– Diogenes of Sinope
Education is vital to the development of every state; it is the crux of development, civilization and modernization. In spite of its importance, millions of children all over the world are deprived of access to quality education. This is injustice and inequity at its peak. The 2016 UNESCO report on education shows that about 103 million youth lack the basic literacy and numeracy skills and a total of 263 Million Children are out-of-school. Nigeria is not left out in this education crisis, as a matter of fact; Nigeria has the highest number out-of-school children -10.5 million. This is not the future we want. The future we want was resolved by the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly and documented as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). If Nigeria will attain the goals entrenched in the SDG 2030, it must begin with putting education at the forefront, and finding sustainable ways to address critical issues hindering education access and quality delivery.
The LEARNigeria[i] 2017 household survey unravelled some concealed but critical issues. The survey was implemented in 6 states across the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria. The states include Lagos, Kano, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Kano and Taraba. In some states, it was observed that education is subject to political and settlement rift. Two examples were in Kano and Taraba state. In Kano state, because of political rift, a one-time multi-million naira hotel commissioned to be converted into a school was kept on hold. As we drove by the tranquil road where the massive building was located, I thought of how many children the school, if completed by now, will provide education for, how many girls would have benefitted and how Kano state may have been closer to delivering the sustainable development goal on education. Likewise in Taraba state, settlement rift is the order of the day. If government builds a school in a settlement, neighbouring settlements refrain their children from attending the school. They are of the opinion that going to school in another settlement will make the settlement more developed than theirs.
Another scorecard is the deplorable state of education infrastructure. The rural areas are the most disadvantaged in this case. In these rural areas, learning environment is characterized with dilapidated classrooms, no chairs and tables, no clean school toilet, no water and other necessary infrastructure required for a conducive learning environment.
This is definitely not the future we want for the Nigerian child. The future we want is benchmarked on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on education. The SDG 4 challenges countries to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The question is, “Are we close to attaining this goal?” I sincerely don’t think so. As a matter of unease, so many children are not any step close to civilization; not to point out getting the quality education they deserve.
It is disheartening but discernible that government alone is not enough to ensure that our children are in schools and learning the basic literacy and numeracy skills they need in an ever-changing society. We cannot continue to leave the education of our children in the hands of state or local government alone. It is time citizens take action and be the voice of change for the future of every Nigerian child. This is my LEARNigeria story.
[i] LEARNigeria is a citizen-led household assessment of learning of children ages 5-15. It was piloted in Ungogo and Ikorodu local government in 2015 and scaled to 34 local governments including the pilot areas across 6 states representing the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria.