Nigeria's rating in the 2012 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report is not only dismal but unacceptable. According to the report, 10.5 million Nigerian children are out of school. This figure posted by the EFA, many believe, is grossly under-estimated, given our current socio-political imbroglio. This means the country is likely headed for deeper crisis sooner than later. It is even more worrisome that while the world is going digital we are back-tracking to the Stone Age.
Education should be made compulsory for every child. It is the fulcrum of development and should therefore be given priority by all the tiers of government. It is regrettable that the Nigerian authorities are yet to consider allocating even half of the mandatory 26 per cent of the national budget to the sector on an annual basis, as proposed by the United Nations.
Little wonder, at this age and time, children still study under the trees. In some parts of the country, the girl child is not allowed to acquire formal education. The few that do are married off early by their parents, and the marriage automatically brings their studies to an abrupt end.
The Child's Rights Act was passed into law in 2003; it is unfortunate that it is yet to be implemented by most states in the country, especially in the north. Perhaps a stakeholders' meeting on the implementation of this Act should be convened immediately.
It is the only law that is capable of checking parents' excesses - those who flout the provisions of the Act would face stiff penalty. If every state in the federation implements it, then, the menace of street begging, child labour, child trafficking and other child-related misdemeanors would have been resolved. Men who give birth to children they cannot cater for would be taught a big lesson.
Government should devise more pro-active ways of monitoring the performance of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). The various committees of the National Assembly and the state assemblies charged with the responsibility of over-sighting the Ministry of Education should be alive to their responsibilities. State governments are implored to invest in educational infrastructure development.
We are constrained to remind our political officeholders of their constitutional responsibility as enshrined in Section 18 (c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. The section provides thus: "Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide (a) free compulsory and universal primary education; (b) free university education and (c) free adult literacy programme."
Every Nigerian child should be given this constitutional right. Free and compulsory education is not a privilege; it is the right of every child. And where this right is denied children, the society as a whole suffers. The next generation should be saved from itself.