By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Out of school children of primary school age in Southeast are likely more than those of north central, despite new Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) report which indicated that South east has 42.2 percent out of school children of primary school age while North central has 50.8 percent.
The MICS5, which was revealed by the United Children Funds (UNICEF) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), also indicated that Enugu state in the Southeast has 46.8 percent while Plateau state has 55.2 percent out of school children of primary school age.
Our reporter who analysed the data and traveled to both states under review, discovered that quest for money is the major factor responsible for the army of out of school children in the Southeast, while crisis and death of parents of some children accounts for the number of out of school children of primary school age in Plateau state.
Deducing data from Enugu with 46.8 percent and Plateau, 55.2 percent, Peoples Daily findings revealed that Plateau state would have done better if not for crisis that ravaged it for 15 years and claimed parents and wards of so many children who pulled out of school due to lack of sponsorship.
The findings also revealed that Enugu indigenes prefer trade and other menial business than sending their children to schools.
Dr. Oliver E. Nwodoh, Northern Director of Rural Health Development Centre, said One of the major factors that keep the children out of school is the parents’ quest for quick wealth.
Nwodoh, who is also working to improve the standard of education, is the rural areas said, “In my locality Nsukka for instance, many parents prefer sending their children to learn trade and skills than sending them to school. They believe that children who choose trade and skills will likely make more money in time than those who choose education and who may likely end up jobless for years or even for life after studying hard in school. They would rather send their children to learn trade and skills than sending them to school. An average Igbo man believes that a wealthy illiterate is far better than a wretched PHD holder or Professor.
“Some individuals cited that poverty is a strong force that keeps the children out of school. It is true to some extent, but not 100% true. This is because most of the primary schools in south east are for free. The pupils don’t pay fees. Even the poorest in the land can afford government secondary school fees, let alone primary schools that are free.
“Another contributing factor is unhealthy competition among parents. Some parents will send their children to study in an expensive private school, not that they can afford the expensive fees but because their neighbour’s children are there. They may want to prove to their neighbours that they too are not poor. They believe that only poor children attend public schools. After two to three years when the parents could no longer afford the expensive private school fees, they will withdraw their children and send them away to a distant friend or relative to teach them trade or skills, when government schools are there for them to attend free of charge.
“If care is not taken, and if there is no law enforcement agency in the region to curb these children roaming the street and bush paths as well as child labour, the region will lagg behind in no distance time.”
Also, the Advocacy Officer of LEADS Africa, Obioma Njokwu, said Enugu state is the poorest in the southeast and parents prefer their children to work and get money for them.
He said during advocacies of his NGO in the Southeast, they discover various cases of child labour which he said are common in the state. He said this trend has forced many poor parents to give their girl child in marriage.
“It is an unfortunate situation. Most parents now sit back to wait for their children who are suppose to be in school to bring money for them. Small children have become bread winners because of the level of poverty in the state. Most of our poor population here are interested in what they will get today and tomorrow. They don’t have the patience to invest in education despite free primary schools”.
On her part, Dr. Victoria Ijeoma Ahupa of the Department of Educational Foundations Federal Collage of Education, Pankshin, Plateau state, said the people on the plateau are resilient and do not give up easily.
She added that “Plateau pushes forward because of the concentration of different ethnic nationalities from all over Nigeria. Enugu is not as heterogeneous. It is not widely mixed. The mix of Plateau encourages healthy competition. Everyone wants to be better than the other. Take a close look at other social events like sports music etc. The best are not often the indigenous people of Plateau. Crisis or no crisis, people are not deterred because of the reason of wanting to be the best. Segregation is not common among children like in adults therefore the mix is the encouraging factor.
“Also, the people are accommodating friendly ready to learn mix freely. However, it is also unfortunate that the crisis affected so many homes and forced some children to be orphans with no one to look after them.”
Also speaking, the Deputy Provost, Federal College of Education, Pankshin, Mrs. Margaret Nakom Jatau said Plateau man has discovered the value of Education thus he sends his children to school despite the security challenges.
“Education is seen by the Plateau man as a source of obtaining certificate for meal ticket because the Plateau man is not so much into business or farming but civil service or public service work. The activities of early missionaries and the presence of most religious and denominational headquarters in Jos, like the COCIN, ECWA, FCS, JNI, TEKAN, JIBWIS has widen the interest of Education by the Plateau man and the proliferation of both public and voluntary agency schools.”
On the effect of the crisis on students of primary school age, she said the crisis affected many children who lost parents and don’t have anyone to sponsor them.
“The crisis affected many children because there are cases of children not attending primary school in Plateau State because there is no one to be responsible for such serious activity due to the demise of parents in crisis or conflicts situations. It is also unfortunate that some lost both parents and might be hard for them to find themselves in school again.
“Also, despite the unfavourable condition, children still have to be in school for learning because both the society and their parents encourage them to go to school despite the presence of security operatives all over the streets with guns. However, there are also those who wish to have this opportunity, but the crisis has claimed their parents.”