According to a 2022 UNESCO report, approximately 20 million children are not enrolled in school in Nigeria. First and foremost, this number amounts to 20 percent of the country’s population. Also, it is more than some of the overall population of various countries in Africa, such as Guinea, an African country with a population of 13.53 million as of 2021, according to the World Bank. This is a worrying trend in the country, one that all and sundry must come together to find lasting solutions to.
In major Nigerian cities, these out-of-school children constitute the louts and thugs hanging around bridges and sleeping out in the cold. The result is that they try to survive by all means through vices such as pickpocketing and robbing passersby of their belongings at night. Oshodi Bridge in Lagos is a popular location where this occurs every night. However, there are other sets of underprivileged children who stay out in the streets begging for help from the Federal Government.
These children continue to face the vicissitudes of life.
Their voices have become more strident than ever as they continue to face the daily realities of living out there. These children are seen in every part of the country, especially in urban areas and in the streets during school hours. Some of them engage in menial jobs and domestic servitude, while others beg in the streets. Some are garbage collectors, while several others are subjected to different forms of exploitative labour in violation of the Child Rights Acts which was enacted by the Nigerian government about 20 years ago.
Even 20 years after the enactment of the Child Rights Act (2003), Nigeria is still grappling with the issues of child labour and out-of-school children syndrome. In addition to having 20 percent of its population out of school, the figure of out-of-school children is the highest in the world. According to UNICEF in early 2022, one-third of Nigeria’s children are not enrolled in school. Some of these disadvantaged children in the streets are now crying for help, calling on President Bola Tinubu to come to their rescue.
Disadvantaged children want Tinubu to take them off the streets.
They told the media that they were hopeful and anxiously awaiting the current administration of President Tinubu to come up with policies and programs that would take them off the streets to classrooms where they can realize their dreams and God-given potentials. Twelve-year-old Ibrahim Abubakar who is a garbage collector and popularly known as “Baban bola” in the streets, said, “We await President Tinubu to take us out of streets to classrooms; we want to go to school, but we have no means.”
Newsmen had met him looking scruffy recently at Sabon Gari area of Kano. He told reporters that he was in Kano without his parents and that he was engaged in garbage collection and picking out scrap metal and waste materials from dumpsites to sell for recycling purposes to survive. He has been doing this since he was seven years old, having escaped with some neighbors from Adamawa State when their village was attacked by insurgents. Abubakar said he would one day want to “wear uniforms and go to school every day like other children.” He also said that there were many children like him collecting garbage for survival.
Urgent intervention needed for these homeless children.
According to the report of the 2018 National Personnel Audit conducted by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in both public and private basic education institutions, Nigeria has a total of 10.2 million children who are out of school. Most of these children are roaming the street as scavengers, beggars, hawkers, and some of them are recruited for crime. Child scavengers are often seen rummaging with their bare hands through heaps of decomposing waste at dumpsites or trucks in cities across the country in search of recyclable materials. As a result, they become susceptible to diseases such as cholera, malaria, dengue fever, respiratory infection and asthma. Experts have also warned that these diseases could spread to communities.