Children’s Day, May 27, offers an opportunity to celebrate the Nigerian child and to focus on the conditions of childhood in Nigeria.
The Nigerian child refers to a young human being between birth and puberty (1 – 14 years old) who grows into a fully-fledged man or woman with time. The child has the right to life, the dignity of the human person and personal liberty. They are entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
However, child health and basic education in Nigeria have faced several challenges, although the government and various organisations have been working to address them. Here is an overview:
Immunisation: Nigeria has made progress in expanding immunisation coverage, but there are still gaps, particularly in rural and remote areas. At least 64 per cent of children between ages 12-23 months in Nigeria did not receive all recommended vaccines in the last six years. The 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) and National Immunisation Coverage Survey (NICS) shows that 46 per cent of children were partially vaccinated between 2016 and 2021.
Malnutrition: Child malnutrition remains a significant concern in Nigeria, with high rates of stunting, wasting, and micronutrient deficiencies. Malnutrition is a direct or underlying cause of 45 percent of all deaths of under-five children. Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in world.
Disease burden: Children in Nigeria are at risk of various diseases, including malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and vaccine-preventable diseases like polio and measles.
Access to healthcare: Many children lack access to quality healthcare services, particularly in rural areas, due to factors like inadequate infrastructure and healthcare workforce shortages.
Enrollment: Nigeria faces challenges in achieving universal primary education, with a significant number of out-of-school children, particularly in the northern regions. In Nigeria, primary education is officially free and compulsory but 18 million of the country’s children aged between 5 – 14 years are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6 – 11 year olds regularly attend primary school, according to UNICEF.
Quality of education: The quality of basic education in Nigeria varies, with inadequate infrastructure, insufficient resources, and a shortage of qualified teachers.
Gender disparity: Gender inequality persists in education, with girls facing barriers such as early marriage, cultural norms, and limited access to schools in some areas.
Funding and infrastructure: Insufficient funding and poor infrastructure in schools hinder the delivery of quality education.
Efforts to Address the Challenges:
Government initiatives: The Nigerian government has implemented programmes such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to improve child health. Similarly, initiatives like the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme aim to enhance access to quality basic education.
Partnerships: Nigeria collaborates with international organisations, including UNICEF, WHO, and NGOs, to address child health and education challenges through funding, technical support, and capacity building.
Community engagement: Community-based interventions, awareness campaigns, and involvement of local leaders and parents are crucial for improving child health and education outcomes.
Midday Meal Programme: The Nigerian government implemented a National Home-Grown School Feeding Program to provide free meals in schools, aiming to boost enrollment and improve nutrition.
Nigeria certainly needs to do more for its children. Education, the great equaliser, is in a debilitating crisis state in Nigeria today.