Nigerian girls often still drop out of school to work, despite the country’s increasing wealth
When their mother was well and in their home in Lagos, Nigeria, 15-year old twins Kehinde and Taiwo Oni thought that they, like their mom, would finish secondary school.
But when she had to return to her old village due to a chronic illness, money grew tight. Gbenga, the girls’ father, lost his job as a mechanic last year. This year, instead of school, each morning the twins drag an engine out of their father’s hut and into the yard, where they spend 12 hours grinding dried peppers for customers, earning $1.50-$2.50 a day.
Their father relies on the twins to support the household, including their younger sisters and brothers. “I don’t want to do this kind of job when I grow up” says Kehinde. “The job is stressful and the money you get from it is not too much.”
Kehinde and Taiwo are among 10.5 million children in Nigeria who are not in primary school — no country in the world has more children out of school. That fact is all the more shocking given that Nigeria is the richest country in Africa.
Despite the financial hardship, their father is reluctant to return to work. He’s taken a position with the church instead. “I could only work part time”, he says. “I [would] have to split my time, you understand. I have to think about the church.”
Gbenga himself never completed primary school — instead he followed his father, a pastor, on religious missions. According to experts, uneducated parents in slum communities are less likely to ensure that their children finish high school — all the more so with girls.
“What I like is everybody get an education before they get married. … I prefer everybody to go to school to be able to speak [and] to write,” said Gbenga.
Nigeria spends only 6 percent of its national budget on education, despite pressure to do more for its burgeoning population of young people. UNESCO recommends that countries spend at least 26 percent of their national budget on education.
“If I have a chance to go to school now I will be very, very happy because I would like to go to the library to read many storybooks. And I would like to write notes — I have missed writing notes — and I will solve many maths,” gushed Taiwo.
Often in Nigeria, there are no public schools close to slum communities. Parents are forced to send children to private schools, which are common in low-income neighborhoods. Extortion by school leaders often adds to the burden; many families struggle to pay both the direct and indirect costs of their children’s education. Moreover, in a country where so many graduates remain unemployed, it takes an additional leap of faith for cash-strapped families to invest in education.
This report was supported with funding by The Malala Fund.
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