It is often said that we aspire to the level of opportunity available to us. When a child can access education their opportunities expand and their dreams can grow. Yet, around 10.5 million children in Nigeria are currently out of school.
For some, the first day of school never came. Others dropped out because the education system failed them.
In Nigeria, the majority of out-of-school children live in the north-east, an area that has been historically marginalised and recently devastated by conflict. The impact of the conflict has been profound and the deliberate targeting of schools, teachers and students has eroded an already fragile education system.
Protecting children’s right to an education
At the height of the insurgency, many schools were forced to close. Classrooms and equipment were destroyed. Today, some burned out schools stand as empty shells - a harsh reminder of what happens when we don’t protect children’s right to education.
Plan International is working to provide protective learning spaces for children in north-east Nigeria to ensure they have a safe place to be during the day, to offer counselling and support and hope for a brighter future.
Fatima, 13, is a student at one of Plan International’s mobile learning centres in Maiduguri. She is currently displaced, having travelled over 100 miles to escape the conflict. Before arriving in Maiduguri, Fatima had never been to school. She now has big hopes for her future.
“Education will help me succeed in life. One day I hope to be doctor so that I can support my family and help other people,” she explains.
Fatima lives with her parents, five brothers and one sister in a small rented house which they share with another family. Each day, from Monday to Thursday, she gets up early and walks to the centre where she studies from 8-11am.
Reaching displaced children with mobile units
Patim, 50, is Fatima’s teacher. Each day she travels from her home to the learning centre by keke napep (motorised tricycle). She decided to become a mobile teacher in this area because the region is host to a large number of internally displaced people (IDPs) and children who have no access to education.
Education will help me succeed in life. One day I hope to be doctor so that I can support my family and help other people.
“The majority of children at the mobile learning centre are IDPs. Some have lost parents and family members. Some children are from the local community and come because they are less privileged and cannot afford to pay school fees.
“Many of these children feel like my own. Many have lost their parents and need a lot of support. When they see me coming they run to the gate and call to me. They call me aunty. Some even call me mother."
Education protects children from child labour and marriage
Patim talks of the need to enrol more children at the learning centre. She describes how new children arrive each day but there is not enough space, teachers or materials to support them. She would like to run a second shift in the afternoon but needs more resources.
Many of the children attending the learning centres have never been to school but as a result of these classes, they can now write their names, read letters and understand basic mathematics. The children attend regularly and are keen to learn. This space also offers protection to the children during the day.
“Many would be working on the street if they didn’t come here. It is particularly important for girls. It prevents early marriage. One father recently came to thank Plan International. He told me that he had decided not to send his daughter to be married because she is now accessing education.”