By Josephine Umoren
Children must be made to enroll and stay in school. The education of children and adolescence is a good investment since the children would transit into vibrant productive youths and potential leaders in the process. The Federal Government of Nigeria has instituted free basic education system where children study compulsorily for the first nine to 12 years of their education life in school to receive appropriate and uninterrupted flow of basic education skills and competences.
The chain of trainings prepares the children to be useful to themselves in the present and future through knowledge capacity building for gainful employment. This way, they become productive youths and contribute to the gross national income with increased per capita income at the family level. Education investment in children is the bedrock of economic growth and development. Before continuing, let me share a story that compliments investment in child education.
Akpanima Etok Akpan hails from Ikot Ekpene Local Government in Akwa Ibom State and is the last born in the family of five. He has two older sisters. At a tender age, Akpaima lost his father to the cold hands of death by motor accident in his final year at St. Columbanus Secondary School, Ikwen in Obot Akara Local Government Area. Akpanimathought that his dream to become a permanent secretary in Akwa Ibom State Civil Service was a mirage. His dear mother was paying his siblings’ school fees in Teachers Training College (TTC), Ifuho in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Areaand could not combine his own school fees.
As he pondered about his gloomy future, he finally decided to sojourn with his maternal uncle, Obong Etim Inua. He lived with his family and did all the menial domestic work as a house boy. One day Akpanima was sent to the market to buy food stuffs. He met his old school mate, Ubong, that had started university education and shared his perils with him, particularly his being of starved of food by his uncle’s wife sometimes for two to threedays but could not tell his uncle for fear of being sent away.
Out of empathy, Ubong, the former school mate, informed his father about his friend’s predicament at the uncle’s house. His father, a bank manager with First bank at Aba Road, invited Akpanima’s mother to take a loan and sponsor the son in tertiary institution. His friend’s mother had no landed property to serve as collateral for the loan. Then, as Ubong continued to talk to his father about his friend’s ill-treatment at the uncle’s house, his father decided to use the mother’s education certificate as collateral for a loan. So, Akpanima’s mother with her TTC certificate took advantage of the offer and sent Akpanima to the university.
Happily, Akpanima studied Public Administration at the University of Cross River (Unicross) now University of Uyo (Uniuyo). Because his mother was empowered through attending school and later working, it was possible for her to secure a loan and sponsor his son to Unicross with her daughters at Teachers Training College, Ifuho after the death of her husband.
After graduation, Akapnima got a job with the Akwa Ibom State government in the Ministry of Finance and started his civil service career. Soon after working, the income of the family increased.
Sadly and unexpectedly one day, he had a ghastly motoraccident on his way to see his fiancée in Oron and bled profusely to a point of dying like his late father. He wasimmediately rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua for medical attention because the roads were good. On arrival at the hospital,immediately, the team of medicals doctors with reverend mother Theresa rose up to the occasion and two days later Akpanimawas discharged from the hospital and he went back to work. His speedy recovery was possible because of the quality of health institution in Akwa Ibom State.
Now, imagine if Akpanima had no education. Imagine if he was not gainfully employed to have had money for his medical bills; imagine if there were no good road networks in the statefor swift movement to the hospital; imagine if there were no medical experts in St. Luke’s hospital that he was taken to; Imagine if the medical doctors were on strike asking for their take home packages; imagine if the security situation was against free movement at that time of the accident, and imagine if there were no good governance to provide all the infrastructure and services in the state. What would have been his fate that eventful day? Your guess is as good as mine.
Now, a cursory look at Nigeria’s National Policy on Education,1981 subsection 7 shows that there are five main objectives ofthe philosophy of Nigerian education which are outlined as a free and democratic society; a just and egalitarian society; a united, strong and self-reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy as well as a land full of bright opportunities for all citizens . A Nigerian child that would stay through school is expected to achieve these noble objectives on completion of his or her education and becoming a productive youth wherever the child may be in life.
The Federal Government’s Universal Basic Education (UBE)system of 9-3-4 formerly introduced in September 1999 provides the link for realizing the policy on education. By this education system every Nigerian child should undergo nineyears of compulsory basic education which cover primary and junior secondary education first and foremost. The system provides another three years of senior secondary school and the last loop of four years for the tertiary education.
By the time a child is through with the first nine years and the next three years of senior secondary education, the child would have spent 18 years receiving educational training. If all Nigerian children would pass through the first two loops of educational training provided for them successfully, then they would be built with solid capacity to take good decisions on their own and for their lives. Nigerian adolescence that passesthrough the three loops of educational training would certainly become an effective, efficient and a productive youth to promote technological, economic growth and development in Nigeria.
More skilled and educated youths would contribute to a positive shift in national development. As the Bible says one person will chase one thousand and two will chase ten thousand but in a situation where there is over 10 million out of school children and inadequate investment in education, the nation cannot boast of many productive youths that would contribute to economic growth and national development of the country.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that in 2016, the total enrolment for public senior secondary schools in the 36 states including FTC was 3,563,743. Out of this, the male students stood at 1,950,093 and the female stood at 1,613,655 respectively. In 2017, the total enrolment for public senior secondary schools was 3,424,175 with the male accounting for 1,858,560 and the female accounting for 1,565,615. The figures for year 2017 show a fall from 2016 figures in both total enrolment and by sex. This indicates a decline of -3.9% (NBS).Also, the total number of students that completed public secondary school in 2016 was 1,018,835 with male students accounting for 563,539 and female students 455,296. Then in 2017, total number was 967,847 with male accounting for 538,345 and female 429,502. From the figures above, it is glaring that about 71% dropped out from public secondary school education in the 36 states in Nigeria including FTC in year 2016 and about 72% in 2017.
National Bureau of Statistics report on Akwa Ibom State shows that in 2016, the total enrolment for public senior secondary was 199,048 and 94,444 in 2017. And that in the same year male student’s enrolment accounted for 125,082 and 46,567 in 2017 while female students accounted for 73,966 in 2016 and 47,875 in 2017. The number of students that completed public secondary school education in 2016 in Akwa Ibom State stood at 46,886 and 25,838 in 2017.By sex, the male students stood at 24,046 in 2016 and 12, 768 in2017 while female students accounted for 22,840 in 2016 and 13,070 in2017. Based on the figures above, about 76% dropped out from public secondary school education in 2016 and about 73% in 2017 in Akwa Ibom State.
When children are in school the need for the unnecessary exploitation of a child would not arise as the child’s educational right is effectively exercised. Therefore, let the stakeholders – state government, local government, traditional rulers, Parents,NGOs, philanthropic organizations, religious organizations,communities and individuals rise up to support the education of children in order to realize and harness the economic gains or benefits of demographics known as demographic dividend.
Demographic dividend would be enjoyed when the children are trained; the rate of birth per woman is under control; equally the rate of early marriage is under control; the youths are gainfully employed; the independent population is made to enlarge whilethe old dependent population group drastically reduces; the per capita income increases; the health and welfare of the citizenryimprove; human capital development and national development would rise.
At present, Nigeria’s population is about 216,771,563 million for year 2022 (https://www.worldometers.info) and its present population age structure depicts an improper fraction showing an expanding pattern. Also the young dependent populationstands at 40.9% of the total population (87,838,000 of ages 0-14) with 3.1% old persons (6,696,690 of age 65 up) and 55.9% working population (120,034,037 of ages15-64), according to United Nations Statistics Division. The age dependency ratio of Nigeria’s population is given as 78.8% (https://countrymeters.info/en/Nigeria).This value depicts a very high pressure for the working population in Nigeria. For information, United Nations defines the dependency ratio of population as a ratio of people who are generally not in the labour force (the dependents) to the work force of a country (the productive part of the population). Demographic transition can be a bail out for Nigeria if and only if this young dependentpopulation group is transiting into the independent population isefficiently managed by the government with potent intervention policy (s).