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Rising army of out-of-school children in Janguza community

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By Joyce Remi-Babayeju

In this piece Joyce Remi-Babayeju writes that Nigeria’s 10.5 million out of school children is a ticking time bomb likely to explode anytime, particularly in Janguza community where an army of children attend some dilapidated schools in proximity with well built Kano prisons, Nigeria’s largest prisons.

Zainab Abubakar is a 9 year old girl primary four pupil at Army Children Special School in Janguza Barracks in Tofa Local Government Area, LGA, of Kano State who does not understand simple sentence in English language.

Although Abubakar is in primary four, her only means of communication is in Hausa language because she neither understands nor speaks English language which is the supposed medium of learning in her school.

Zainab said that her future ambition is to become a Soldier, but the language barrier she is experiencing now could become a stumbling block to her dreams. She giggled and said in Hausa language which was translated by a colleague, “I swear I come to school every day so I can become a Soldier because I admire them.”

Another pupil from the same school is 10 year old Haruna Abdullahi in primary 6 said that although he treks long distances to school every day, he likes learning. Abdullahi who is the first born in a family of six children said, “I come to school from a far place and I come alone even during rainy days. He too barely understands simple commands in English language.

Both Abubakar and Abdullahi are among the over 1000 population of pupils in Army Children Special School, in Janguza community in Tofa LGA, a school which shares the same neighbourhood with the popular Kano Prisons, Nigeria’s largest prisons under construction.

One thing of note is that majority of these children can hardly communicate or even understand English language. They are very fluent in Hausa language which is the popular dialect of the Janguza people.

According to an N-Power teacher simply called Godwin who was spotted teaching primary four children who are sitting on the bare floor of a dilapidated classroom, said that he teaches in English and then translates into Hausa for better understanding.

Incidentally the Headmistress of the school, Hajiya Hairat Harmut admitted that the children learn more in Hausa language but lamented that the local language in the community is a big challenge affecting the pupils from understanding English language.

“The school authority emphasises teaching and learning in English but all is translated in Hausa, the community’s lingual franca. Another challenge affecting learning in the school is the issue over population of over 100 pupils in each arm of class of pupils who have to trek distances from their homes to school every day. “Most of them trek to school while some come with bicycles from Kabuga village which is more than 30 minutes ride from the school because not all parents can afford to give their children bicycles”, Harmut explained.

Due to continuous community mobilization there is improvement in school enrolment and especially for the girl child, even though there are only 13 teachers to teach this population of children, the Headmistress said.

Lack of necessary books and other teaching tools, shortage of teaching staff, dilapidated buildings, and toilets for girls who are often shy to use the available but neglected toilet is yet another challenge affecting school enrolment and learning.

Unfortunately table and chairs are not enough in the school so many children sit on bare floor and nothing is done about it. The school has no source of funds so we depend on Parent Teachers Association, PTA, for meagre funds.

The PTA levy is N50 per child, but we intend to increase it to N100 from next year. If we use force on parents’ to collect money we are going to lose population of children. We are petting parents to allow their children to come to school every day, Harmut explained.

Although population of pupils is growing in Janguza community school due to mobilization from the school authorities, but dilapidating learning condition is working against efforts put in to get more children educated to meet up the Sustainable Development Goals 4, of getting every child educated by 2030.

There is a closing gap in the ratio of boys and girls in school enrolment , but learning is almost zero because majority of the pupils cannot communicate in English and so they are still lagging behind in universal education which is the right of every child.

Quality of education here is sloppy and with watery contents and so the children seem not to have learnt anything when compared with their mates in other regions like in the South West and South South parts of the country.

While children education is lagging in Janguza community in Kano and other parts of the Northern region, government appears to be looking the other way.

The problem is that Janguza School is in juxtaposition with the popular Kano Prisons, the biggest modern prison in Nigeria. Surely as these children transit from primary to Secondary school level the memory of the poor learning conditions might have a negative effect on them later in life.

Looking from the high walled prison, construction is on-going using the best architectural master piece. A good percentage of the prison is completed with the best building materials and shrewdness. The school and the prison yard could be compared with two groundnuts in one pod, one good and fresh and the other rotten. The popular Victoria Island with high rise buildings in juxtaposition exotic houses and Maroko slums in Lagos is the scenario of Janguza School and Kano prisons.

The worry now is how does a deprived future stop these children from ending up as future inmates of Kano prisons in Janguza?

There is still a low turnout of children of primary school age out of school and for those in school, they are learning under deprived conditions. Most of these children sit on bare ground to learn, some in tattered school uniforms and some with food items to sell during school hours. All these could interrupt children’s concentration.

With this ugly scenario it becomes difficult for Nigerian to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 which is education for all children by 2030.

Certainly an unconducive learning environment makes learning unattractive to children. And when they learn under neglected conditions, they often turn out with half baked education and the greatest fear is that “they might not develop their full potentials nor can they contribute to domestic and national development. And this may lead some unfortunate ones to become inmates of the prison which Kano State government is using a reasonable part of its resources to build.

There is this native adage that says “a child that is not taught would in future sell the house built now”, this implies that when a child does not get quality education, he might turn out to become a miscreant with every likelihood of causing social malaise and end up in prison.

Presently Nigeria is battling the “codeine diet” among youths who consume millions of bottles codeine syrup every day. There is a high crime rate often committed by overgrown out of school children, and school drop outs that often turn into miscreants.

It therefore becomes an irony when government decides to spend millions to build prisons and then neglect schools where children learn the skills of life through educational empowerment that would make them responsible adults.

It could be said that society is only preparing these children for prison life in future, moreso, Kano prisons for children in the North.

According to UNICEF, poor learning outcomes further complicated by the uncommitted, absent teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and poor learning environments many parents and guardians see schooling as a waste of time as their children are not learning – even to read and there is no link to livelihoods and the desired improvement in the lives of their children

The SDG 4 focuses on quality education which ensures inclusive and equitable education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The latest Multiple Indictor Cluster Survey, MICS 5, ( 2016-17), data conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, shows that 11.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria.

Out of the 11.5 million children out of school in Nigeria, 7.9 million or 69 per cent are in the Northern states. North East has the largest number of out of school children followed by the North West.

UNICEF Education Specialist, Azuka Menkiti speaking on gap in access to education in Nigeria at a 2 day Dialogue with Bloggers on Access to Education, said that the Federal Ministry of Education Report states that Nigeria has 10.5 million children aged 6-14 out of school, adding that with this huge number, Nigeria accounts for more than one in five out-of-school children globally, and 45 per cent of out-of-school children in West Africa.

Within the huge number of out-of-school children, girls are in the majority especially in northern Nigeria, she said.

According to UNICEF, in Nigeria, weak political will is affecting implementation of the Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 especially for laws prohibiting the withdrawal of girls from school for marriage.

Girls are usually disadvantaged in educational empowerment as they are the ones who bear the brunt of out- of – school dropout. At Janguza School most of the girls usually sit on bare floor with food items to sell during break time.

Largely the causes for poor education in the Northern part of Nigeria are due to reasons like low budgetary allocation which affects schools supplies like books, not enough desks and chairs, the reason why most pupils sit on bare floor to learn in dilapidated classrooms.

Another reason for the half baked education is the recent security threats like the unpopular Boko Haram attacks targeted at schools particularly in the North East Nigeria which has contributed significantly to the low demand for and access to education especially for girls.

Also is perceived incompatibility of formal (‘Western’) education with Islamic Education which affects both boys and girls in different ways.

Some conservative communities believe educated girls are incapable of raising children in accordance with Islamic tradition and are perceived to be less likely to follow the will of their father or husband. Such negative perceptions contribute to denial of the right to basic education for girls.

Menkiti said that in rural communities, formal education for children is believed to be incompatible to Islamic teachings and capable of eroding traditional and religious practices and teachings in the children.

Also Poverty related reasons further determine demand for education. Most parents in the North are indigent peasant farmers who cannot afford to send their children to school and this is why children are not in school.

Menkiti said,” parents and children from poor households struggle to meet the demands of direct and indirect costs of education. If parents had money, they would prioritise the education of their sons over daughters for socio-cultural reasons.”

Other hindrances for low turnout for education is early marriage which is still very much a common traditional practice, which negatively impacts on girls’ enrolment and retention in school and alsoSocial norms. Some cultural practices and beliefs keep children out of school and deny them the right to education.

The Sustainable Development Goals 4 expected to be achieved by 2030 by Nigeria and other countries is to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.

Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university

Substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

Speaking on the state of education in Nigeria, a Resource Person Dr Adebayo Ogundimu in a presentation on research findings said that almost half of the world’s out- of- school children lives in just 12 countries with Nigeria toping the chat.

“Nigeria has 10.5 million out of school children followed by Pakistan 5.1 million, Ethiopia 2.4 million, India2.3 million, Philippines 1.5 million, Cote D’ Ivore 1.2 million, Burkina Faso 1.0 million, Niger 1.0 million, Kenya 1.0 million, Yemen 0.9 million, Mali 0.8 million and South Africa with the least 0.7 million.

Dr. Ogundimu pointed out major treats to access and inequality to education in Nigeria such as Poverty of parents, Ignorance of importance of educating children, Culture that if girls are educated they would not be submissive to their husbands, religion.

Others he enumerated are corruption and bad Governance which affects educational leadership and administration at all levels.

Surely 10.5 million children out of school is the highest number globally and if this trend is allowed to continue for any reason then Nigeria and indeed the African region is in trouble of underdevelopment and conflict.

But UNICEF says that if Nigeria must achieve the SGD 4 by the end of 2019, there will be a 10% increase in number of parents who seek education for both girls and boys equally in local communities in northern Nigeria.

By the end of 2019, there will be a 20% increase in the number of parents in northern Nigeria who believe education for girls is beneficial for families, communities and the country.

Federal Government ought to start primary education prioritization even up to secondary and tertiary education through political will and implementation of right policies, if we must achieve the SGD 4.

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