Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today , Malcolm X, the popular American Muslim minister and human rights activist once said.
And in local parlance , the old saying rings true, that education is the best policy.
This explains why education as the bedrock of society , is given prominent attention by governments of the first world.
In Nigeria , funding of education has become an endless tussle between the government and unions /stakeholders in the education sector.
The resultant effect of the poor funding is the falling standard of the public school system across the country.
This has also warranted the proliferation of private schools. The deplorable nature of public schools has over the years led to the mass movement to private schools that charge high tuition fees.
A report by The Business of Education in Africa last year revealed that Nigeria is home to more than 11 million Out – of – School Children ( OSC), which is a hard nut for officials of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) in the various states to crack.
It is more worrisome that Lagos State, which is the Centre of Excellence in the country , contributes to the out – of – school children figure.
A walk through the streets of Lagos on weekdays reveal the large number of children of school age loitering the streets and who are not productively engaged in some vocational training.
Findings reveal a lot of factors responsible for this trend in many of the hinterland communities , which range from poverty to poor awareness and non – availability of public schools in their localities.
Despite the seeming odds, some still make the daunting effort to acquire knowledge. One of them is Felicia Folahan , a Junior Secondary School 3 student of Ikoga Junior Grammer School, Badagry, Lagos State.
To get to school from Erekiti , where she lives with her parents involves walking for hours, usually between three and four hours.
Her options are limited, it is either she abandons schooling for farming or commutes to school by riding on a Motorcycle, but the daily cost is prohibitive for her parents, which is N 300 at the least. This, her parents have repeatedly told her , they Can’t afford.
Her mother makes garri for sale from the cassava harvested by her father from the family farm, which is just small enough to engage in subsistence farming.
So, she has resolved to take the tough option, be in school and be part of the little education government can offer at a cost, which is spending approximately six hours to commute to and from school besides the little other incidentals that might be required to keep her status as a student.
Folahan told our correspondent that she gets to school tired and not in the best frame of mind to learn until another 30 minutes.
She said she would usually be sweating profusely whenever she arrives in class , which is usually the third period for the day. And that is the nearest of the three secondary schools she could attend closest to her community.
The others are in Agbara area of Ogun State. Folahan is not alone in her predicament. There are many other students in Folahan ’s shoes, who live around the Erekiti corridor.
One of them is Ayomikun Avoseh. She too daily navigates through the bushy paths to get educated.
She disclosed that the situation is more precarious during rainy season, which sometimes forces her to stay back at home and miss some days.
According to her , during rainy seasons, the roads become heavily waterlogged with some sections requiring them to pull off their uniform or draw it very high up to be able to wade through the water.
Avoseh said getting an okada rider to charge N150 from the school to Erekiti does not come easy as most bike riders do not see the route as a good one to ply.
The Guardian Newspaper