Learning crisis: UNICEF predicts doom for Nigeria

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From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has warned that Nigeria might not be able to compete in the global circle in the next few decades because of the kind of people that will take over the affairs of the country’s political leadership.

It said the country is producing children who are not provided with the opportunity to acquire necessary education and skills that would make them relevant and compete with the rest of the world.

The UN agency was particularly concerned that while millions of children are out of school, over 70 per cent of the ones in school are just attending and not learning anything that would add value to them and the society.

The implications, it said, is that in two to three decades, the children who are currently in streets doing and learning nothing, and those in school, who are just attending classes and not learning anything, would not be able to add value to the society and economy of the country.

UNICEF Education Specialist, Ahmed Sharouda, in a presentation at a two-day media dialogue on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Child Rights, organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with UNICEF, in Kano, suggested a re-awakening measures to salvage the posterity of Nigeria.

She said Nigeria is faced with a severe staggering learning crisis with the learning outcomes being one of the lowest in the world.

She expressed concern that aside from the millions of children across the country, particularly in the North, who ought to be in school but are in the streets, a larger percentage of the ones in school are not achieving basic foundational knowledge and skills that would prepare them for the world of work.

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She highlighted the fact that there’s low public spending on education, stating that 1.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product is allocated to education, as against the 26 per cent that was said to have been recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

In addition to that, she highlighted the negative impact of the uneducated, inadequate and under-prepared workforce in the basic education circle, making reference to data from the Federal Government that indicated that 27 per cent of teaching staff in the basic education system in Nigeria are unqualified.

Similarly, Ezinwa Chidiebere of the Department of Mass Communication, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) also made a presentation that highlighted the rights of children as contained in the SDGs.

He was, however, concerned that Nigeria was not doing enough as regards the part that deals with children’s rights, attributing it to poor commitment of the government to the enforcement of children’s rights, as well as culture and traditions of some ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.

Ezinwa was unhappy that in Nigeria, children are seen and regarded by many people as an ‘object’ that belongs to their parents or for whom decisions are taken on their behalf, instead of seeing and regarding them as human beings and individuals who have their own rights.

He explained that childhood is a period when children are allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity, love and care.

He made reference to several national, regional and global conventions and treaties that highlighted the rights of children, particularly education, health, parental care and love, among several others, warning that Nigeria might face serious danger in the future, if the rights of children are not protected.