By Funmilayo Adeyem
By most accounts, education is the process of acquiring knowledge that can change the world as well as the people and their worldview.
In essence, education as been recognised as a human right and as an indispensable means of accomplishing other human rights.
Educationists believe that education is a potent way through which persons can be lifted out of poverty, while equipping them with the wherewithal to participate fully in the development of their communities.
The global emphasis on education delivery notwithstanding, the experts insist that Nigeria still has a large number of out-of-school children.
By all means, this is not an exaggeration as the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) recently claimed that the number of out-of-school children in the country has increased from 10.5 million to 13.2 million in the last few years.
Alarming as this may sound, a recent visit to the Kano metropolis confirms that many children of the school age are still roaming the street, begging for alms but there are divergent views as to why the children are not in school.
Ahmed Mustapha, a 10-year-boy from Nasarawa State, who lives in Kano, said that he had a preference for the conventional school system there because it would give him more knowledge.
He, however, conceded that he failed to enrol in a school because of financial constraints.
He, therefore, called on the government and affluent Nigerians to rise up to the situation and make education completely free in order to accommodate the interests of poor people.
However, Kazeem Idris, an eight-year-old boy, said that he had no interest in acquiring Western education, insisting that the education he was getting from the Quranic School was enough to see him through in life.
“I don’t want to go to school; if you put me in school, I will not stay there because I don’t want it. The Quranic school is good and I am okay with what I am learning there,’’ he said.
All the same, concerned citizens have underscored the need to encourage parents, particularly those in the remote areas, to enrol their children in schools, as this would aid efforts to reduce the number of out-of-school children roaming the streets.
Mr Felix Ugochukwu, a parent, insisted that Western education could never be compared with other genres of education; hence the need for everyone to embrace it.
He also noted that children who were not in school often engaged in all forms of social vices plaguing the society.
Ugochukwu, therefore, encouraged parents and caregivers to support Western education and encourage their children to go to school.
“In my area, you will see a lot of children roaming the street without going to school, and nobody is questioning them.
“This is one of the reasons why you see a lot of children in communities begging for alms, and in many instances, these hapless children often join bad gangs to perpetrate evils.
“Schools are built and equipped for the schooling of children. Don’t forget the fact that early education is good for children and we must realise this fact,’’ he said.
Besides, Mrs Eunice Badmus said that parents had a major role to play in the education of their children, adding that parents should also be able to influence the learning processes of their children.
She stressed that if parents failed in this regard, they would have consequently failed in their duties to oversee the proper upbringing of their children.
But in a bid to address the rising menace of out-of-school children in the country, stakeholders have been canvassing for the development of strategic plans for enforcing the child’s right to education.
Mrs Azuka Mekinti, the Education Specialist of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), said that the poor implementation of National Policy on Education had wreaked havoc on the promotion of gender equity among school-age children.
She urged the government to plan policy with appropriate considerations for gender equity, saying that the country would continue to have bad indicators and upsurge in out-of-school children unless pragmatic efforts were made to close the perceptible gaps.
She said that UNICEF was already embarking on a campaign to stimulate massive enrolment of children in schools in the country.
Mekinti said that the organisation, in partnership with relevant stakeholders, was also working out modalities to reduce the number of out-of-school children in the country.
“A lot of students are out of school at the moment and that is why it is one of the priorities of UNICEF to support the Federal Government in efforts to address the issue.
“UNICEF is also working with the government to embark on a campaign for massive pupils’ enrolment to see if we can begin to change the mindset of parents to appreciate the value of education.
“UNICEF, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education, UBEC and the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development, organised a conference of Nigerian traditional leaders on out-of-school children.
“Our organisation is also prioritising learning outcomes, training teachers and facilitators, while supporting the development of infrastructure in schools.
“We are equally supporting government policies and programmes in education sector planning, while ensuring that the plan is reflected in budgets,’’ Mekinti added.
Sharing similar sentiments, Dr Dayo Ogundimu, an education and development consultant, underscored the need for the development of strategic plans for promoting the children’s rights to education.
He said that the development of sustainable strategies for the development of the education sector would also go a long way to spur the socio-economic development of the country.
“Education should be part of the development planning processes of any country; this will enable the countries to know where they want to be in 50 years’ time.
“Several countries have put in place in programmes that are related to their national aspirations for the future.
“But in a country like Nigeria where you have over 10 million children who are out of school, what do you expect?’’ he quipped.
Ogundimu, therefore, called on parents to accord priority to the education of their children so as to secure their future.