Nigeria has featured in global ranking as having the most number of out-of-school in the world. In this feature, NIGERIAN DIARY traces the origin of this social challenge to system mismanagement of funds earmarked for education.

Nigeria’s teeming Almajirai make up a huge population of out-of-school children. Photo credit: Guardian NG.

It is no longer news that corruption is deeply embedded in every facet of Nigeria’s economy, and the education sector is not immune. 

Corruption is fuelling crisis in Nigeria’s education sector as millipns of children who ought to school are not doing so.

Although the United Nations International Children’s  Emergency Fund (UNICEF) places the figure at 10 million, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), about 14 million Nigerian children who are of school-going age are not in school. 

Speaking on the situations, Mohammed Sabo Keana, the Team Lead,  of the year Almajiri Child Rights Initiative (ACRI),  noted that corruption is playing an immense role in keeping Nigerian children out of school.

According to Keana, through kickbacks or diversion, Nigerian officials pocket funds meant for education.

He said, “In many of these Northern states, there are a lot of children who wish to go to school but the schools are not available in the first place. Even where there are schools, there are few teachers, lack of infrastructure and even manpower to do it. There is a lot of money that has been budgeted to finance construction of schools, [and to ensure the] welfare of teachers, but all those things are not in place and so you find out that the money meant for these projects are then being diverted to other uses”.

He added that, “There are dilapidated structures in most primary schools, there are no teachers, and the teachers [that are] available are not motivated, [there is] no chalk for writing. The whole education system is in a state of collapse right now and that’s why we are having [an] education crises in our country. Besides the fact that we have the highest out-of-school children in the world, we are also having an education crises”.

A visit to LEA primary school Dutse, located in the suburb of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), reveals poor infrastructure and dilapidated structures. Even from the entrance of the school, one would be discouraged from entering as the gate already begs for a repair. One needs no explanation to conclude that pupils are being made to learn in an unconducive environment, even as it is widely believed that good environment boost learning. 

 To Alhaji Sani Mairayu, the chairman of Parents, Teachers Association of  Government Junior Secondary School, Zuba, funds generated from the schools are not often used for what they are meant for. 

Mairayu noted that in the FCT, the school fees that are collected, are often not used for what it is intended for, including the maintenance of classrooms and provision of teaching.

He added that “corruption among other factors is the reason for the increase in the number of out-of-school children. When a governor keeps hundreds of millions as security votes, what is he using it for, unaccounted? That money can be channelled to education”.

According to Musa Mustapha, a Minna-based advocate of grassroots education, the consequences of having a high number of out-of-school children are multiple.

He said it has security to economic and even social “negative impacts.”

According to him, “Nigeria has seen the security consequences in recent years in the form of Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping, etc. and all to a very large extent sprout from lack of education.”

Underfunding 

Over the years, Nigeria’s  education sector is underfunded. It is one of factors contributing to the millions of out-of-school children in the country. According to Mustapha, “if it is not for corruption and underfunding, the Almajari School Children put forward by former President Goodluck Jonathan would have been thriving. Now the structures are rotting away and millions of children are still on street. Don’t you see how children are increasing by the day on the street? Don’t you see the numerous ASUU strikes?”

Since the coming of Buhari’s administration, Nigeria’s annual  budget for education has not gone beyond seven peecent. However, according to UN, countries seeking to develop rapidly, must spend 25 percent of their national budget on education.

Why the Rich aren’t Concerned 

At independence and shortly after, the Nigerian educational system was among the best in Africa. But, according to experts, long years of military rule blighted the sector. 

Since the country’s return to democracy in 1999, as attempts to revitalise the sector isn’t bringing forth the expected results, it is continuously becoming privatized beyond the reach of ths common man. Also, to dodge the rot, wealthy Nigerians send their children abroad for studies, less wealthy ones send them to private schools through the university level, while the poor—the overwhelming majority of the population—are dependent on state facilities, or evade education generally.

Returning to the Golden Era

For Mustapha, “to rescue the children out of the street, to reverse the rot in the education sector in Nigeria and to make the world see Nigeria a country capable of giving its youth a world class education, first, anti-corruption mechanism must be put in place, then our budget for education must be increased to 25 percent.”

But he is not seeing these coming to pass “if embargo isn’t placed on abroad studies.”