ActionAid Nigeria, an anti-poverty agency, has called on the Nigerian government to prioritise protection of every Nigerian child and more concerted efforts at rescuing the Chibok girls.
The group, which made this call on the occasion of 2015 Children’s Day called on the Federal, State and Local Governments in the country to make more commitments towards the protection and guaranteeing the rights of the Nigerian child.
In a statement, the Country Director, Ojobo Ode Atuluku, said, “In the past two years, over 100 students have been killed in different attacks on schools in the North-East, with over 1,000 kidnapped or abducted. 10.5 million Nigerian children of school going age are currently out of school, the highest number in the world. About 60 per cent of those children are girls and most of them live in the north of the country.”
Explaining further the magnitude of the out of school children in Nigeria, Atuluku added that “implication of this is that one out of every three primary school age children is out of school, and roughly one out of four junior secondary school age children is out of school”. This situation is likely to get worse as she explained due to security challenges, which has resulted in numerous children currently having no access to schools in parts of the north, and particularly in the northeast.
The ActionAid Country Director also raised concern that the current quality of education in the country now poses a threat to quality adult life for the Nigerian child, especially those from poor background. “The quality of education has continued on a free fall, and this is evidenced in the performance of students in external exams such as NECO, WAEC and JAMB. Of the 1,692,435 students who sat for the May/June 2014 WAEC examinations only 46.7% passed with five credits.”
Atuluku also expressed concern on the lack of adequate learning infrastructure for the Nigerian child. “As established in recent studies, the country has neglected to invest in relevant infrastructure that would facilitate learning for the Nigerian child. At 4.1% allocation to education in the 2015 federal government budget Nigeria is still lagging far behind the 26% UNESCO minimum budget recommendation for education.
“Providing reliable and comfortable learning environment for children is a rights issue, which is also tied to securing a future for the children”, stated Atuluku who also expressed concern that the schools in the country as at now are understaffed with the ratio of pupils to qualified teachers in primary schools currently standing at 150:1.
Bemoaning the situation in which Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds every day, making the country the second largest contributor to the under–five mortality rate in the world, Atuluku said that “it is an unnegotiable duty of governments from the federal down to local government levels to invest more in maternal and child health care as well as put in place relevant infrastructure at the community levels to guarantee primary health care which would protect children’s right to life and good health. “The Nigerian government needs to ensure the justiciability of the rights of Nigerian child, where government officials who fail to provide and guarantee these rights could be tried and sentenced, if found guilty”, Atuluku stated.
The ActionAid Nigeria boss who called all tiers of government to uphold their obligation to protecting the rights of the child, as Nigerian is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, said that “it is time to move away from rhetorics and governments become more accountable on the protection of the rights of every single Nigerian child.”