I am not a doomsday prophetess, but a disaster is brewing menacingly under our noses and if we are not careful, our children whose futures we myopically think may be secured are going to be the ones to combat this disaster. What is this disaster and how does it threaten our children? The disaster is the 10.5 million Nigerian children who are currently out-of-school. When we read certain numbers or statistics, they seem very far away and out-of-touch. We feel that the data is not close to home because we cannot see the details or any direct effect on members of our immediate families or loved ones. But each number is a narrative; each statistic is a story and in our scenario today, a dangerous story that can rapidly snowball if we don’t address the anomalies right now.
The media giant, British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC reported a few months ago that 10.5 million Nigerian children of school age are out of school. For those whose children, nieces, nephews, cousins, sons and daughters are currently in school, the number 10.5 million and potential corresponding narratives may seem farfetched and not close to home. However, fast-forward to a few years and we may have inadvertently raised an army of illiterate, mediocre, and angry discontents. Discontent because they will grow up to be frustrated further by the Nigerian system that does not support the uneducated. Angry because they may realize that they were shortchanged educationally during childhood and now in adulthood, they cannot fit into the global system and speed of lifestyle and development.
Based on research, when a woman is uneducated, she is likely to be unempowered to take care of herself or family. This limitation will affect how she works, feeds her family, spaces her children, adopts healthy practices like even using a contraceptive for family planning. For the men, it may hamper their occupational growth and ability to provide effectively for their families and render them powerless or emasculated. We all know that knowledge is power and excluding 10.5 million children out of school makes them powerless in some form. Powerless to face the challenges of the modern age, powerless to engage with the political process, powerless to take important lifestyle decisions like how many children they can responsibly have and cater for. If some important decisions were taken from the beginning, we would not even have 10.5 million children that we cannot take care of or enroll in a school. Not having proper family planning education or any education at all is very dangerous because if knowledge is power, the absence of it must be powerlessness or weakness.
Having 10.5 million potentially weak people is not healthy for any community or country and Nigeria as a community in the global domain should constructively address the humongous issue of having 10.5 million children out of school. One of the ways of addressing the issue is to make free compulsory education accessible for every Nigerian child. I know that it is available in some respects but it may not be accessible due to a myriad of reasons. Another prong that can be used to address this issue is to initially stem the tide by creating awareness that people should avoid having children that they are unable to take care of by using effective and modern contraceptives for family planning. So many family planning methods like the types distributed by DKT International Nigeria include Kiss and Fiesta premium condoms, Levofem daily pills, POSTPILL Emergency pill, DMPA Sc. injectables, Lydia IUDs etc. They are available, very affordable and can help any person avoid unwanted pregnancies and not have children who they cannot take care of or even enroll in a school.
As the world marks International Literacy Day today, let us all make it a habit to create awareness that no Nigerian should have a child that is not wanted or cannot be taken care of. Every child should have a proper orientation in life through proper parenting, education and healthcare. If we cannot provide for these children, let’s prevent the pregnancy that births them so that every child born will truly be wanted, loved, properly cared for and literate.
Happy International Literacy Day
Chidinma Onuoha is the Program Manager for DKT Nigeria