The Dilemma of Primary School Attendance in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Agitated by the increasing number of school age children not attending primary school in Nigeria, this study set out to investigate the factors that inhibit parents in sending their children to school. A random sample of 2000 parents, whose school-age children do not attend primary school, was drawn from the north, south, east and west of Nigeria. A 14-item four-point scale questionnaire that had a reliability coefficient of 0.63 was used for the collection of data. It was found that the significant factors that discouraged parents from sending their children to school were poverty, value for money, and fear of prevailing unemployment for school leavers and misconceptions about female education. It was recommended, among other things, that the government should pursue a genuine programme of poverty alleviation and economic empowerment of parents so that they would be able to send their children to school. The need to intensify the campaign against sex discrimination in educational opportunities was also recommended. It was further recommended that efforts should be made by the government to diversify and stimulate the nation's economy to create employment opportunities for school leavers.

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Current efforts at educational development in African countries have focused, among other things, on the expansion and liberalisation of educational opportunities for increased school attendance. This is in apprehension of the increasing number of illiterate persons in Africa. For example, it has been reported that the school age children (6-12 years of age) who were not attending school: made up 14.1% in Ghana; 24.2% in Nigeria; 16.4% in Niger; 14.9 in Congo; 13.8% in Kenya and 7.7% in Botswana (African Education Consortium, 2003). The above figures are obviously staggering and intimidating when viewed against the national populations. Thus, 24.2% of school age children (about 23 million) who were not attending school in Nigeria is an indication that the problem of school attendance is massive. It is important to note that the foregoing reports were demographic. The investigation did not seek to find out why the conditions of school attendance were so. These reports have however generated interest in issues and conditions related to school attendance in these African countries. The following demographic reports show that there has been no significant improvement in school attendance in Nigeria since Evis and Okon made a similar report in 1993. According to this report, four out of every 10 children of school age were not registered in school. Instead, they were found mainly in busy urban streets hawking different items for money or were found going to the farm with their parents. The investigation further revealed that the youngsters preferred going into commercial and business activities as the surest and quickest means of becoming rich instead of going to school. Garrick and Celia (2000) had earlier reported that African countries, south of Sahara face almost the same educational crises, largely because of their common colonial experience and inability to grapple with the problem of poverty.

Another study carried out by Browns and Ali (2000) on the rate of dropout in Nigerian primary and secondary schools revealed some startling results. It was found that though dropout existed at both levels, it was more serious at the secondary school level. While the primary schools sampled lost six pupils yearly on the average, the secondary schools sampled lost eleven students yearly on the average as a result of dropout. However, it would appear that irregular school attendance and dropout is a global scene. There is no system in which all children and youth are in school till completion. Be that as it may, this problem appears to be more acute in Nigeria. According to Hargrove (1987) and Woods (1994), irregular school attendance and dropping out are a complex social problem for which there is no simple solution. …