UNICEF has revealed that several indicators have shown that Nigeria lags behind in guaranteeing children’s rights in the country despite its position as Africa’s leading economy. Experts say that the high level of child deprivation hinders the country’s potential to ensure sustainable development. According to the organisation, Nigeria has a high level of child mortality among the highest in ECOWAS. Nigeria has the second highest child mortality rate after Niger. UNICEF also said that despite a decrease in the incidence of multidimensional poverty in Nigeria, about 71 percent of children still face multiple deprivations with almost half of the Nigerian children (47.7 percent) still experiencing monetary poverty.
Figures from the UN agency also showed that three out of four children cannot understand what they read and cannot solve simple mathematics. Country Representative of UNICEF Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, said that child poverty is a huge problem in Nigeria. While it has decreased, in 2022, the country had 64 million children with different types of deprivations. Also, she said that topics like digital development or digital economy cannot be discussed if it is not born in mind that ten million children are out of primary school and eight million children are out of junior secondary school. Also, there are eight million adolescents who are not in school and are not working.
Country representative says investment in education must improve.
Furthermore, Munduate said that the situation is critical if Nigeria wants to build a $1 trillion economy by 2026. She said that Nigeria public investment in education has to improve. According to her, the GDP investment spent on education is 1.2 percent, whereas in the rest of the world, it goes from four to six percent. Speaking during a policy debate on National Child Wellbeing Dialogue at the 29th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, the Chairman of NESG, Niyi Yusuf, underscored the impact of child rights violations on the nation’s development and called for vigorous action to improve the life of children who are the future of the country.
“Annual per capita growth faces a 0.55 percent setback stemming from declining school enrolments, while the economic toll of violence against Nigerian children is estimated at approximately $6.1 billion,” he added. Meanwhile, the Federal Government has lamented that massive investments in the nation’s basic education sector have not translated into desired results. The Minister of State for Education, Dr. Yusuf Sununu, said this on October 24, 2023, while declaring open the 25th quarterly meeting of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) management with the Executive Chairmen of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB) in Abuja.
FG says investment in education not bringing desired output.
In his words, “The investment so far in education is extremely commendable but the output is not commensurate, not matching the input, therefore we need to do something about that.” He said that it was really disheartening that despite the Federal Government’s huge investment, interventions and technical support, the basic education sub-sector is still bedevilled by unpleasant occurrences. These include learners sitting on bare floors, high rate of drop-outs, increased number of out-of-school children, poor infrastructure, dilapidated classroom buildings, inadequate learning facilities, unqualified teachers, inadequate monitoring, inequitable access and low learning outcomes, which have resulted to the falling standard of education in the country.
The minister said that the government cannot continue to sit on the fence and allow Nigeria educational system to continue to deteriorate. “We must take the bull by the horns and delete the name of Nigeria among the ‘Learning Poverty’ countries,” he said. Speaking further on the event, which had its theme as “Redefining National and State Priorities for Effective Basic Education Delivery,” the minister called for new strategies and collaborative efforts between the federal and state governments to address the identified problems.
Every child is entitled to free and universal basic education.
As well, the minister said that the SUBEB chairman must also ensure that every child in their respective state benefits from the free, universal and compulsory basic education, regardless of sex, ethnic or religious backgrounds, language or status as this will reduce the out-of-school children syndrome. A 2022 UNESCO report noted that approximately 20 million Nigerian individuals of its approximately 200 million population are not enrolled in school. This is the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.