The number of pupils quitting school each year is highly concerning. The number of children who are not in school continues to rise despite alternative intervention – teaching of core subjects like Mathematics, English Language, Basic Sciences and Social Studies – to children with limited access which was introduced by the Buhari administration.
In Nigeria, there are 200 million people, but only about 20 million of them are not enrolled in school, according to a 2022 UNESCO assessment.
The number of Out-of-School Children in Nigeria between the ages of six and eleven has decreased slightly from over ten million in 2021, according to data accessed by WITHIN NIGERIA on the Universal Basic Education Commission’s figures. This is in contrast to the most recent estimate from UNESCO, which puts the number of Out-of-School Children in Nigeria between the ages of six and eleven at around 20 million.
The economy’s dire state—made worse by the removal of fuel subsidies—hasn’t helped. According to a survey by WITHIN NIGERIA, many kids have switched from private to public schools, and some of the latter’s students can be seen working for their parents’ enterprises while wandering the streets. Some children assist their parents’ enterprises in other ways. To support themselves, their siblings, and their parents as well, they drop out of school and work to make a living.
The reporter was driven to investigate this strange but tragic event, which led him to storm Ilesa’s streets, where he encountered a 14-year-old school dropout who had left because of financial troubles. He is also worried about his abilities and how difficult it would be for him to grow without education. Maxwell Olatunji, a 14-year-old child, traveled with his siblings from Ijebu-Ijesa to Ilesa to exhibit artistic creations that are the result of his God-given ability to media outlets in the city.
When the 14-year-old Ijebu-Ijesa native left Diamond 88.5fm after showcasing these creative efforts, this reporter ran into him. Two of his four siblings followed him in the order. The visitation time was the main issue, aside from these aesthetic creations. They visited the station during school hours. Maxwell explained to the reporter that they are out-of-school kids when asked why they were not in class.
Agnes Olatunji, who was just eleven years old, had accompanied her brother Maxwell, who is fourteen, from Ijebu-Ijesa to Ilesa to exhibit his artistic creations. The small girl said in her native Yoruba, “I do not go to school.”
Maxwell Olatunji continued, “My parents do not have the money to pay for us to go to school. My father is a painter, but lately he has not been painting much. My mother is a small-time trader. We stay at home and roam the street sometimes.
Maxwell and his brothers are not alone, as frightening as their story may sound. Many of the street kids and market kids who have never attended school share the same story with them. These young people scavenge, hawk, beg, or perform menial tasks on the streets of the Ilesa metropolis.
Maxwell left DTTS (Demonstration School, Ijebu-Ijesa) in Junior Secondary School 3, and when questioned if he was still interested in going to school, he gave a cryptic response.
“Whenever we work on a project, my boss pays me. We occasionally go to bed without eating, so I use the money to buy food that my siblings and I would eat at home. We trekked to Ilesa from our house in Ijebu-Ijesa to hunt for people who could promote my work and help me raise more money for my family, the 14-year-old stated.
Maxwell, the first child in a family of five, told WITHIN NIGERIA that he used paper, wood, gum, and other materials to create an airplane, a helicopter, and a school bus. He also asserted that while he can draw excellent graphics, he desperately needs help.
I have no reactor. He continued, “These things I made out of paper and others would fly, if I can get one.”
Maxwell explained to WITHIN NIGERIA that he had already begun studying under the guidance of Arito, an artist based in Ijebu-Ijesa, when asked why he did not join those who educate apprentices for artistic labor.
When questioned if he is still interested in returning to school, he initially went silent before speaking. He claimed that he does not want to attend school because he is more worried about how he will survive and what he will eat than about attending class on an empty stomach.
He added that, despite attending a public school, his parents had instructed him not to return to school because they could not afford his tuition.
The father, known as Samson Olatunji, told WITHIN NIGERIA over the phone that his children were attending school until he went bankrupt and was unable to provide for his family.
Mr. Samson, a prophet who works as a security guard and claimed to be in the Cherubim and Seraphim, claimed that he was previously a painter but quit after not being paid for very long.
Mr. Samson told WITHIN NIGERIA that he is upset that he could not care for his children and that his monthly income could not support his family’s requirements. He described his children as precious blessings from God.
My family and I survive on debt. He has skill. I concur that he is doing well. We absolutely need assistance. I wish someone could provide us with financial aid. I will be overjoyed. I feel angry and downright depressed, says a rather sad Samson Olatunji.
When Hon. Taiwo Adeyekun, the interim chairman of Oriade Local Government, where the boy was from, was contacted by WITHIN NIGERIA, he indicated that there are plans to lower the number of out-of-school children and that the Adeleke-led administration is interested in providing all children with a high-quality education.
I feel sorry for the Olatunji family. The status of the economy is dire. In truth, no Nigerian is untouched by the effects of the current economic climate, but we will keep urging our people to be resilient and to have faith in the Federal Government to turn the economy around, he added.
Maxwell Olatunji would improve as an artist and “talent boy” if he were admitted to a technical college, according to Adeyekun, who was arguing for deliberate attention to technical colleges.
I would like to meet the boy’s parents as well. Adeyekun declared, “I am prepared to arrange for him to receive a complete scholarship package at the Government Technical College located in Ijeda, a community in Oriade Local Government.