Emmanuel Onwubiko: Nigerian kids school in tears, agony


 

“Liberal child welfare experts decided that child abuse was not evidence of a moral or character flaw in the abusing parent. Instead, like poverty, crime, and homelessness, child abuse came to be viewed as evidence of a societal failure. – Author: Mona Charen;

“Looking at these people now from behind the counter, made her feel like that little girl again, the deprived child that used to press her nose on the glass, peering at things she could never have. – Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi;

Yours faithfully spent this week in Lagos to attend the board meeting of the Heartland Alliance Nigeria chapter and I had the opportunity to move around Lagos Island, Ogba and Ikeja and part of my moving around was to have first hand experiences once more of the ordeals that little Nigerian children go through so as to get educated in the scorching Sun and the vagaries of the weather and the attendant risks posed by reckless drivers of buses and Keke Marwa. Watching the dangerous ways that kids go through to attend or return from their schools gave me goose pimples surely. These sights and sounds of the suffering mass of Nigerian kids made me cry. I then began to wonder what the essence of government is without the faintest consideration for adopting strategies to end these crushing phases of child poverty in Nigeria.

My eye witness experience of what kids go through reminds me of a very recent report from reputable organisations on the growing number of poor Children in Nigeria. This is even much more pathetic when it is obvious that were it not for massive heist of public funds by thieving government officials, Nigeria has no reason to throw millions of kids into the poverty trap unnecessarily.

In one of the three reports, we were told that new evidence on the situation of child deprivation in Nigeria goes to show that appproximatively 54 % of Children in Nigeria are ‘multidimensionally poor’. I think this is even more underestimated than the real life situations. But let’s just go along with these reports that got the by-in of top echelons of the Federal Government including the number two citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria performed the launching of the three reports viz the Situation Analysis of Children in Nigeria, the Multidimensional Child Poverty Analysis in Nigeria and Monetary Child Poverty in Nigeria prepared by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning in collaboration with UNICEF.

Media report has it that the Multidimensional Child Poverty Analysis using Multidimensional Overlapping deprivation analysis approach reveals that approximately 54 % of children in Nigeria are multidimensionally poor by facing at least three deprivations across seven dimensions of child rights including nutrition, healthcare, education, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and information.

Besides, the major ingredient of that specific report states that Multidimensional poverty in children is more prevalent in the rural (65.7 %) than urban areas (28.4 %). There are also high state disparities ranging from 14.5 % (Lagos) to 81.5 % (Sokoto).

On the monetary child poverty report, the generated data shows that 47.4 % of children face monetary poverty by living in households with expenditure less than N 376.5 a day – national poverty line. Slight differences are observed between boys (47.98 %) and girls (46.8 %) while there are high geographical and state disparities (from 6.5% in Lagos to 91.4% in Sokoto).
In Nigeria, according to the report 24.56% of children face extreme poverty by living in households that spend less than $1.90 a day.
The analysis indicates that the country would need as roughly as 1 trillion naira to lift children out of poverty.
The Situation Analysis indicates that child poverty rate is highest among children aged 16– 17 years and least among children aged 0–5 years.

Specifically, the report notes that children are most affected by poverty because they are vulnerable, and that poverty has long-term impacts on the well-being of children, even into adulthood.

According to the report: “Data is critical for effective budgeting and decision making – and the data from these surveys together paint a picture of the situation for children and families in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.

He spoke further thus: “We still have a long way to go towards ensuring the well-being of children and families in Nigeria, with persistent multi-dimensional poverty being a crucial obstacle. The findings of these reports will help guide the federal and state governments as they plan their budgets – providing evidence for where more funds need to be allocated and wisely spent.”

The media indicator points to the fact that an analysis of the reports indicates the need for improved social protection measures to ensure that children are protected from risks, along with an expansion of access to much-needed social services. Whether looking at poverty from a monetary or non-monetary point of view, the data show that children are more likely to live in poverty than other groups.
“It is clear that we need to pay special attention to planning and programming for children, based on the policy recommendations and calls to action contained in the reports,” Peter Hawkins noted. “The data they provide offer a clear direction and key actions necessary for the realization of children’s rights in Nigeria.”

Coming to the most important aspect of the Plight of the Nigerian child, this is what we know from what an editorial prepared by a leading newspaper in Nigeria: For children, Nigeria remains a harrowingly hard place. Conflicts manifesting in different forms have already complicated what is no doubt difficult circumstances to tie children in knots. According to the 2021 Global Childhood Report by Save the Children, a UK-based non-governmental organization focusing on the issues that affect children and their survival, Nigeria remains one of the most difficult places to be a child, ranking below veritable hellholes like Yemen and Syria.

It says that as Nigeria has continued to cascade into chaos, one fact has become more obvious than others, and it is that children are disproportionately caught in the middle of the crises.

When communities have been attacked and entire families slaughtered, children have been victims. When livelihoods have been wiped out and the realization of SDGs 1 and 2 cruelly deferred for already impoverished communities, children have borne the brunt.

Recalled that on Saturday July 2, 2022, in the basement of the Whole Bible Deliverance Church located in Valentino Area of Ondo town, Ondo State, no fewer than 77 people were locked up. Some of the victims had allegedly abandoned their homes while others allegedly disowned their parents while claiming that their parents were not teaching them the way of God. The victims had allegedly been kept in the church for over six months while some of them had abandoned schooling to be inside the church.

It was stated that upon their purported rescue by the law enforcement authority of the victims, the pastor of the so called Church, David Anifowose and his assistant, Peter Josiah, were also arrested by the police.

The victims of this horrendous crime against humanity were all allegedly hypnotized. Upon their rescue, they were said to have refused to be reunited (Stockholm syndrome) with their parents, saying they could not leave their pastors in detention.

A media commentator writing in an editorial commentary then averred that it does appear that whatever was done to detain children under such desperate conditions crawling with the vilest forms of abuse was done without the consent of their parents. In every aspect, it does appear that the children were taken advantage of and that a country too easily distracted by the mundane is failing to check those who halt those who prey on its children in their tracks.

The newspaper then said factually that Children born today have a better chance than at any time in history to grow up healthy, educated and protected, with the opportunity to reach their full potential. Even a generation ago, a child was twice as likely to die before reaching age 5,70percent more likely to be involved in child labour and 20 percent more likely to be murdered.

“For millions of children worldwide, childhood has ended too soon. The major reasons include ill-health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labour, child marriage, early pregnancy, conflict and extreme violence.”

Importantly, for 103 years and counting, international Non-Governmental Organization Save the Children has been at the forefront of efforts to make life better for children all over the world. Every year, it releases a Global Childhood Report. Its Global Childhood Report 2021 shed light on the toughest places to be a child in the world. Of course, Nigeria was caught in the glare of the report like a deer caught in the headlights, echoes the newspaper.

The report which examined the many factors that robbed children of their childhood and revealed where greater investments are needed to save children from poverty, discrimination and neglect, compared the latest data from 186 countries and assessed where the most and fewest children were missing out on childhood.

The newspaper then mentioned that It certainly rung the alarm bells that the 10-bottom-ranked countries all came from sub-Saharan Africa with children in Madagascar, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Mali, South Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic and Niger least likely to experience childhood, a time that should be dedicated to emotional, social and physical development, as well as play. However, in these bottom-ranked countries among which Nigeria features prominently, children were shown to have been robbed of significant portions of their childhood.

It bear no repeating to state categorically in support of the affirmation of the writer if the edutorial opinikn aforementioned that Nigeria certainly needs to do more for its children. Education, the great equalizer, is in a debilitating crisis state in Nigeria today. With the world`s highest out-of-school children, poor funding and management, poor teaching quality, and incessant strike actions by the staff of tertiary institutions, the Giant of Africa has steadily rendered millions of her citizens intellectually stunted.

As stated earlier, my deliberate strolling around Allen Avenue in Ikeja Lagos and about five major areas that are densely populated in Lagos Island show that these aforementioned reports compiled by experts and the editorial opinion of the newspaper highlighted above, simply stated factual details of the agony and tears that Children from poor and deprived homes go through to get education. From burgenproject.org comes what the experts categorised as the five facts about child poverty peculiar to Nigeria. Although some of the statistical data are simply been politically correct.

Those experts wrote thus: “Despite being Africa’s wealthiest country, Nigeria is home to nearly 83 million people living in poverty. With half the country’s population comprising of people under the age of 15, poverty in Nigeria disproportionately affects children. Extreme poverty has disturbed nearly every aspect of child development including education, nutrition, safety and hygiene. These five facts about child poverty in Nigeria offer insight into the struggles that plague children living in poverty and highlight the humanitarian efforts to come in 2021.”

They classified the five facts About Child Poverty in Nigeria by stating that the majority of children in Nigeria live in poverty. According to the Harmonized Nigeria Living Standard Survey (HNLSS) in 2010, 70.3% of Nigerian children lived in poverty while 23.2% lived in extreme poverty. Those living in poverty live under the national poverty line. In Nigeria, the poverty line sits at just $381.75 USD. Despite living on such a small income, people living in poverty often still have access to government facilities for shelter, food and hygiene needs. Children living in extreme poverty, on the other hand, are not able to satisfy basic human needs like food, shelter and safety.

Meanwhile, the report says other children do not go to school because armed conflict has severely affected or destroyed their schools. Poor funding, lack of teachers and long commutes are among other reasons so many children do not attend school in Nigeria. Out of the 10 million mentioned, 60% of those without access to education are girls. This, unfortunately, frequently subjects young girls to child marriage, poverty and gendered roles that limit their potential as citizens.
Millions, they reckoned are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In 2020, UNICEF estimated that 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition, making 32% of children under 5 stunted or severely impaired. Currently, only about two out of every 10 malnourished children receive medical treatment.

As I watch in absolute shock, trepidation and utter dissatisfaction, how thousands of kids are exposed to all kinds of hazards in the streets of Lagos on their way to and from their schools, I began to wonder why the State government of the richest state in Nigeria does not have a transportation arrangement for school children especially the hundreds of thousands of kids in public schools. Why for instance are school children not conveyed to and from schools in government’s funded transportation system? Why let kids roam around in the dangerous streets of Lagos? Lagos has got the trailer load of cash to establish such a subsidised transportation system to benefit all pupils in public primary schools of Lagos State and even up to the secondary school components.

The truth is that Nigeria’s states generated a sum of N1.31 trillion internally in 2020, representing a marginal decline compared to N1.33 trillion recorded in 2019, and an increase compared to N1.17 trillion in 2018.

The downturn is attributable to reduced state revenue as a result of disruptions caused by the covid-induced lockdown, while the crash in crude oil prices also hampered economic growth.

Internally generated revenue is regarded as income generated by various states in the country, independent of their share of the revenue from the Federation Account. However, apart from the clear exception of Lagos State, all others depend largely on statutory allocations to run their state affairs.

However, Nairametrics ranks the 36 states of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, based on their IGR per population, taking into account the estimated population size of each state as at 2016 and 5% growth rate between 2016 and 2020.

In terms of IGR per population for the six geo-political zones in Nigeria, South West takes the lead with an average of N13,966, having generated a sum of N561.01 billion and an estimated population of 40.17 million people. The South-South region followed with an average of N8,694 and a total aggregate IGR of N263.17 billion.

On the flip side, the North-Eastern region, which houses states like Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, etc. recorded the lowest IGR per population of N2,061 closely followed by North West with an average of N2,855.
Lagos State – N31,794, Lagos State, regarded as the economic hub of the nation, with a total estimated population of 13.18 million people as of 2020, generated a sum of N418.99 billion as IGR in 2020. This represents an increase of 5.1% compared to N398.73 billion recorded in 2019.

In terms of IGR per capita, Lagos State generated an average of N31,794 from each member of the population in 2020, as against N30,257 generated in the previous year.
It is no surprise that Lagos State tops the rank, being a major epicentre for economic activities in the country. Lagos State is the largest city in Africa in terms of GDP, and the State is widely known for its large industries, with most corporations in the country headquartered within the state.
It also houses major seaports in the country as well as the State Government’s aggressive taxation policies.

So why won’t governor Babajide Sanwaolu establish a free bus transportation system for pupils of primary and secondary schools? States like Imo, Anambra and much of other states should also introduce similar schemes so we checkmate the spiralling child poverty in Nigeria. But will these heartless and callous policy makers in much of Nigeria be so sympathetic to the poverty scales afflicting millions of our kids? Only persistent advocacy campaigns will put heavy pressure on these politicians to do what is right to ameliorate child poverty.

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA

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