The SP/IBADAN, NIGERIA: Ridwan Ganiyy, 11, had always wanted to be a doctor when he was growing up but the hope of achieving this dream was quickly trampled after he stopped going to school during his primary education. He lost his father and his mother had to remarry, leaving him and his younger brother with their grandmother.
Ganiyy’s grandmother used to make clay pots to support them but developed an eye problem that changed their life’s trajectory, leaving Ganiyy as the person the family depends on for money.
“My dad died and my mother remarried. It was me and my younger brother that was left to stay with Grandma. My grandma used to mould pot but she developed an eye problem and had to stop and that was the reason I had to start begging on the street” Ganiyy told The SolutionsPaper.
High poverty levels and the lack of access to quality education have severely disrupted the way children get formal education in Nigeria leading to several negative societal and educational fallouts.
Data from a joint assessment by the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Nigerian ministry of education estimates the number of out-of-school children (OOSC) in Nigeria at 12.7 million in 2021.
Last year, a report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Research Council (UNESCO) put the number of out of school children in Nigeria at 20 million making it the country with the third largest out-of-school population in the world after India and Pakistan. UNESCO data also holds that Nigeria has the largest population of out-of-school children of primary school age: 9.6 million in 2020, up from 7.5 million in 2010.
Research from the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) shows that the Nigerian economy incurs the highest monetary loss in the west African region as a result of a high population of out of school children: an estimated 13.03 percent of GDP per annum is the financial cost of the imploding number of out of school children in Nigeria.
The CSEA research also revealed that missed educational opportunity highly contributes to crime, social vices as well as a loss in social and political wellbeing of a country.
Omisore Kawthar, an education advocate, confirmed to The SolutionsPaper that the rising poverty levels in the country is continuing to drive more children out of school.
“The majority of Nigerians, especially those in low-income communities, find it hard to make ends meet, talk more of buying books to place in the hands of their children, or have them experience what it means to receive a quality education,” she notes.
Filling the Gap
The Home and Street Kids Welfare Initiative (HSKi) considers education as the best mode of rehabilitating children who roam the street to survive, thus the Kwara based non-profit organisation is helping children like Ganiyy to get re-enrolled in school while providing guidance and counselling, and skill acquisition training.
It was during one of the organisation’s grassroot engagements in Kwara’s capital city, Ilorin, that they found 12-years old Nasiru Salisu who had been hawking garri in Ilorin market at the time.
Salisu had also dropped out of the school when he was four and began to roam the streets of the city to find means since there was no financial support to keep him in school. Salisu also wanted to be a doctor before leaving school.
“My mummy baked garri for sale but there is no money to send me to school. I had to be hawking garri in Ilorin markets to help the family,” Salisu said.
As a direct intervention to rehabilitate and reintegrate the children into school, the initiative provided them with food, clothing before putting them back into its free educational centre; the Oasis Academy.
Located at no 20, kotangora road off taiwo road, Ilorin, Kwara state, the Oasis Academy provides out-of-school and slum children with an initial six-months educational training in the basic subjects of English Language, Mathematics and General Studies, before enrolling them into a formal school.
The free academy runs its classes 3 days a week and currently has 84 pupils. Apart from re-enrolling children to school, the project has a creative hub that trains these children on vocational skills like shoe making, bag making, fashion designing and more. It also helps them showcase and sell their craft every weekend.
Funmi Omisope, HSKi’s founder and team lead, explained that the project started as a response to her ‘burning passion’ for quality education and improved livelihood for street children.
“I started by going to orphanages. I volunteer for orphanages, and in 2006 the children that used to beg on the street caught my attention” Omisope says, “they have always been there on my campus begging.”
The Journey so Far
Since its establishment in 2005, data from HSKi website shows that it has taken over one thousand children out of the street, and currently has about hundred children who are benefiting from their program across Kwara and Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.
HSKi gets primarily funded from the public through donations and grants. Concerned individuals also donate clothes and other material resources. Despite the impacts of this initiative, their journey has encountered some challenges along the way. One of them is the language barrier.
Omisope, the founder, explained that many of these children are victims of the boko-haram insurgency in the northeast and they largely speak Hausa.
“Most of them are Hausas and after seeing the effect [on the learning process], we had to employ a Kano indigene to join the team as a liaison officer,” she told The SolutionsPaper.
Another challenge Omisope noted is the willingness of parents and guardians to send children to school. Omisope explained that due to the multidimensional poverty affecting many households in Nigeria, caregivers would rather let their children roam the streets where they can fend for themselves than to send them to school.
This has made it hard for the organisation to convince caregivers about the benefits of giving children quality education, “because they believe that the kids being in school affects the household’s income,” Omisope explains. “Most of the time they don’t want to release them. Some have lost hope in the educational sector,’’ she added.
HSKi now provides vocational skills acquisition training and financial support to help these parents start up businesses. The initiative believes that a regular and dignified income source will keep parents and their children from the streets.
Kawthar, the education advocate also emphasised that the government needs to intensify conscious efforts to make the right to education in the country ‘a justifiable right’ through partnerships and collaborations with all stakeholders.
“The government can also carry out in-depth research on the various factors limiting NGOs and individual capacities to widen their impacts, meet the educational needs of children and help provide sustainable solutions to them,” Kawthar told The SolutionsPaper.
Currently, HSKi is looking to expand its response by creating facilities that speed up the transformation of out of school children. Two major projects in line with this goal are already in the works.
“We are currently building a boarding facility for the children where all of us will be housed in the same compound and also in order to reduce the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, starting from Kwara, we would be establishing a satellite centres of our academy in cities and areas where street children are clustered,” Omisope explained.
For now, Ganiyy and Salisu are happy to not be part of the out of school children statistics in Nigeria. Ganiyy is currently in primary three, while Salisu is continuing his education from primary two.
Editor: Zubaida Baba Ibrahim
Sub-editor: Precious Ewuji
Multimedia editor: Prince OLA
Tijani Abdulkabeer is a freelance journalist and student at the University of Ibadan. He is a fact-checker and researcher who is interested in humanitarian issues, solutions Journalism and conflict dynamics.