The streets are filled with an alarming increase of out-of-school children and today, more children face the risk of being abducted while in schools. This is an emergency!
Two years ago, during my visit to one of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Kaduna state, I met a young girl, Keziah. She was 11 years old at the time and was out of school as a result of the farmer/herder conflict in her local government area, Kajuru, Kaduna state. Keziah valued education just as much as the other children in various IDP camps, however, their love for education can not guarantee them having one. Disheartening right?
Violent conflict in Northern Nigeria adversely affects education and early child marriage. In a country where 10.5 million children are out of school, a recent account by UNICEF shows that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria has risen to 13.2 million, placing Nigeria as the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. As the education system in Nigeria continues to face the challenges of disrupted school activities and abduction of school children, many more children like Keziah are deprived of opportunities to be in the classroom again and even worse, 60% of Nigerian out of school children who are girls are likely to become a child-bride or become mothers at an early childhood stage. This is a major setback in our quest to achieve sustainable development in quality education, gender equality, peace and justice strong institutions (SDGs 4, 5 and 16 respectively).
We cannot boast of a good educational system in Nigeria when the state of education especially in the Northern region is failing drastically. It is about time we stood up and save the children. As a nation, a leader and a citizen, we have to ask ourselves some honest questions, what is the future of education in Nigeria? What are you doing to protect children in schools, especially children in violent prone communities? Are there laws and policies that protect the rights of children, if yes are they being enforced?
One of the greatest lessons we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that we are all in this together and it is not just enough to care for ourselves, we must also care for others. You can start with one child, one community and one school. Dedicate some hours to create and promote the change you want to see in communities. I have served as a volunteer tutor in IDP camps and I currently volunteer with organizations where I have had several opportunities to work directly with grassroots communities to implement impact programs that ensure children have access to quality education even in challenging times like the coronavirus pandemic and violent conflicts.
Remember, you are always welcome to contribute to social change online and offline. Imagine you are part of the reason a child in at-risk or underserved communities can have access to the quality education and protection they desire and deserve. Save a child today!