AROUND 10.5 million children in Nigeria are out of school, according to Adamu Hussaini the permanent secretary in the country’s ministry of education.
Analysts said the shocking statistic, which also marks Nigeria as having the largest number of children in the world who are not being educated, stems from decades of under funding the education sector.
Hussaini said most of the children out of school were girls, street children and the children of nomadic groups. He also said Nigeria could only achieve economic prosperity through an “inclusive and functional education system”.
However, BBC Hausa editor Jimeh Saleh says the failure in the education system in Nigeria is due to a lack of government funding, rather than any cultural factors as suggested by the ministry.
“Government funded schools in Nigeria have practically collapsed over the years because of poor funding leaving children from poor homes with nowhere to go but the streets,” Saleh said.
Unicef estimates that 60% of Nigerian children not attending school live in the north of the country.
Prof Niyi Osundare, Nigeria’s acclaimed and award-winning poet and writer said it was “absolutely disturbing” that millions of children were going without education. Prof Osundare who was speaking on a BBC Focus on Africa studio also bemoaned the death of a reading culture in Africa. He said: “You cannot have a thriving literary culture when libraries are dying and children are not going to school.”
Berating Nigerian politicians for being too busy “chasing money” he suggested they should spend time reading instead.
He said: When last our senators read any book? When last did the president read any book? When last did the governor read any book?”
Furthermore, Prof Osundare said: Money without knowledge is dangerous. Ignorance kills a country. It is almost killing our continent and we have to do something about this.”
Prof Osundare who currently lecturers at a university in the USA urged Nigeria to hold steadfast on the principle that “the book matters” and appreciate that literature and development go hand in hand.
“Literature provides us with a mirror to our society,” he said.