National Mirror can authoritatively report that chances of Nigeria meeting the Education For All (EFA) target by 2015 is slim.
EFA is a global movement launched in 1990 in Thailand for collective commitments of signatory countries to achieve six fundamental goals in education. These are the expansion of early childhood care and education, provision of free and compulsory primary education, promotion of learning and life skills for young people and adults, increasing adult literacy by 50 per cent, improvement in quality of education, as well as stemming gender disparity.
But 24 years down the line and eight months to the deadline, Nigeria is still grappling with virtually all these important issues. For instance, Nafisat Olaniyi is a 12-yearold food vendor on the street of Lagos.
She has never been to school. Her excuse according to her is that her parents lack financial wherewithal to support her education. At her age when she should be in the junior secondary school but she cannot write or speak in English.
She told National Mirror in Yoruba that it was not as if her parents are not aware of the free education policy in the state but they cannot afford other financial commitments such as feeding and clothing.
“That is why I am selling food at bus stops and mechanic workshops to raise additional income for the family. I’ve ruled out the possibility of going to school,” she said.
Also, Yakub Davoh, 14, is a potter at the popular Oshodi bus stop, also in Lagos. He was brought to the city from Nasarawa State two years ago by his uncle, who is a guard at a private residence in the neighbourhood.
“I followed him because he promised to look for a house help job for me since I was not doing anything. But on getting to Lagos, the story changed,” he said.
Like Nasifat, Yakub is also not educated and is still not sure whether he will ever go to school. These are just few among millions of out-of-school children in the country. They are virtually all over the country engaging in things not meant for their ages.
Similarly, Mama Arike as she wants to be identified is a petty trader at Ojuwoye Market in Mushin, Lagos. She told National Mirror that as far as she is concerned, she believes that adult literacy class is not meant for somebody of her age. “I will be 49 years by June.
I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school before I married. Now, I have children who are students, what else do I need school for again? So, count me out of adult education,” she said in Yoruba. Many like Mama Arike who are stark illiterates abound in the country and they are not ready to go for adult education.
This was even confirmed by the Country Director of UNESCO, Prof. Hassana Alidou at a launch of EFA Global Monitoring Report in Abuja recently, saying Nigeria was among the countries with worst education indicators globally.
He also said although the country spends so much money on education, many children are still not learning. Equally, UNESCO has severally pointed out that it would take some countries including Nigeria more than 70 years for significant percentage of their children to have access to at least, primary education whereas the Federal Government is boasting of meeting the 2015 EFA deadline.
For instance, while granting audience to the Director of the Bureau for the Development of Education in Africa, BREDA, an arm of UNESCO, Dr. Ann-Therese Ndog-Jatta, the supervising Minister for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike said the federal government was fully committed to the elimination of all forms of illiteracy.
He blamed past governments for the challenges being faced in the sector. But the world body puts the number of Nigerian children out of primary school as at 2013 at around 10.5 million with the North east sharing the largest burden.
National Mirror’s investigations revealed that many factors were responsible for the development ranging from economic, social to cultural issues. This worrisome situation however, does not go down well with the stakeholders in the sector.
The Provost, Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED), Noforija- Epe, Lagos, Prof. Olu Akeusola told National Mirror that there were no parameters to show that the country would meet the deadline.
“There are many school age children flooding the streets during school hours. What are they doing? Some are roaming aimlessly while others are engaging in menial jobs that cannot guarantee them good future. So, I can say categorically that Nigeria will not achieve EFA deadline in the next 20 years let alone next year,” he said.
Agreeing with Akeusola, Mr. Fowowe Sunday, a lecturer at the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, (AOCOED), Ijanikin, Lagos, added that another strong factor thwarting EFA goal is that of girl-child education.
He is particularly worried that contrary to the gender parity in education, the proportion of boys to girls especially in the north with many cases of underage marriages remains wide.