Public libraries in Nigeria are stepping up to assist out-of-school children in the country to be literate. Little or non-existent opportunities for learning out of school and non-recognition of the fact that children have individual learning styles are some of the risk factors for the increase in out of school children. The City Public Library Abuja addresses these. It holds a program twice a week for the almajiris – the street children in Northern Nigeria. The children are taught simple words that can enable them to read and understand basic concepts. They are provided materials to express their creativity in painting, drawing, and other crafts. Most importantly, the children are made to feel accepted and welcomed and also provided with slippers, exercise books, and pencils.
The Kano State Public Library in Northwest geo-political zone of Nigeria holds programs both for and about girls. Girls record the lowest school attendance rate in Northern Nigeria. The programs, which include extra lessons for the girls, include not only those who have not enrolled in schools but also those who did not complete schooling at least to O Levels. These lessons help them to cope well with their academic work. Academic achievement helps to reduce the rate of school drop-outs.
The Library also holds occasional workshops and seminars to educate the general populace on the need to educate girls. Furthermore, in Kwara State, North central geo-political zone, the Ilorin branch of the National library is exploring a partnership with an NGO – Home Street Kids Initiative that works with street children. The organization brings the children in the library to learn basic literacy skills through games and story-telling. Just like Abuja City Library, this library also seeks out street children in a program called “Gold On Our Streets” (GOOS) for reading and learning sessions.
It is estimated that 10.5 million Nigerian children aged 6-11 are out of school and more than sixty percent of these children are in the Northern region. Nigeria has the unique distinction of being the most populous country in Africa. UN projects that the population of the country will outstrip that of US by 2050 as it will go on to become the third most populous country in the world. Increase in population of developing countries always comes with a price – a decline in living standards as infrastructures are stretched to limits.
Nigeria appears to be already paying the price before the main deal is sealed! The UN (2016) Policy Paper 27/Fact Sheet 37 “Leaving no one behind: How far on the way to universal primary and secondary education?” noted that about 263 children and youths were out of school for the 2014 school year. This is made up of 61 million children aged 6-11 years that should be in primary schools, 60 million young adolescents of junior secondary school age (about 12 to 14 years), and 142 million youths of senior secondary school age (about 15 to 17 years). The report credits Nigeria with having the largest number (8.7 million) of out of school children aged between 6-11yrs.
Public libraries are playing definitive roles in resolving the issues that increase the number of out of school children in Nigeria as they provide spaces and opportunities for street children not just to learn but to do it in new and varied ways.
- Amara, Onuh. “Nigeria: Government panics over 10.5 million children who are out of school”. https://answersafrica.com/nigerias-out-of-school-children-10-million.html 2017 Accessed 3rd August, 2017.
- UN “World Population prospects”. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/ Accessed 15th August, 2017.
- “Leaving no one behind: How far on the way to universal primary and secondary education? Policy Paper 27/Fact Sheet 37” http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002452/245238E.pdf 2016. Accessed 14th August, 2017.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Overview: Factors that may place students at risk” http://www.doe.mass.edu/dropout/overview.html?section=riskfactors Accessed 15th August, 2017.
Center for Public Education “Keeping kids in school: what research tells us about preventing dropouts”. http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Keeping-kids-in-school-At-a-glance/Keeping-kids-in-school-Preventing-dropouts.html 2007. Accessed 15th August, 2017.1.