Nigeria's Children’s day: A time of sober reflection - CNBC Africa

Nigeria's Children’s day: A time of sober reflection

Western Africa

by Dara Rhodes 0

Nigeria has the highest out-of-school children in the World. PHOTO: Getty images

The over 200 school girls that were abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State by the terrorist group Boko Haram have still not been found nearly seven weeks later.

Basketball player Ejike Ugboaja said he was saddened by the abduction of the 200 girls because he was born not far from where the kidnapping occurred.

“I was born in Kaduna and it’s a place I love so when I heard what was coming out of that area, it wasn’t a good feeling,” Ugboaja told CNBC Africa.

With the tough conditions that some of the country’s children face, Ugboaja has set up a foundation called Ejike Ugboaja Foundation, which focuses on lifting children out of poverty through sports and education. The NBA player believes that the least he could do was to assist underprivileged children in Nigeria. 

“I set up the foundation because I was one of those children that didn’t have anything, I had a family that couldn’t pay my school fees. Someone else had to pay my fees to when I made it to the NBA, I thought it best to give back,” Ugboaja explained.

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In celebration of National Children’s Day, young people have voiced their concerns about the Boko Haram activity within the West African state. The terrorist group’s name loosely translated means “Western Education is bad” and they have made a point of attacking schools in line with this.

According to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Nigeria is already struggling with having the highest number of out-of-school children in the world with approximately 10.5 million children out-of-school.

(READ MORE: Nigeria battles 'out-of-school' epidemic)

Secondary school student Sabrina Murray-Bruce told CNBC Africa, “I feel irritated because, [Boko Haram] feel that Western education is bad for [us], [they say we] are not supposed to be educated but we need our chances to be part of the something else instead of just working as housewives.”

Fellow student, Oreoluwa Jaiyemsimi, supported Murray-Bruce and said, “We deserve to be what we want to be when we grow up and so that is why we should go to school. Every child should be entitled to education because it’s your right to have a good education.”

Simisola Balogun agreed with her peers and commented on the gender rights, “There is actually a lot of discrimination around, not allowing women to be empowered and not giving them their rights, telling them what they should do and what they shouldn’t do.”

(WATCH VIDEO: Nigeria's children speak out about Chibok girls' abduction)

Murray-Bruce, Jaiyemsimi and Balogun added that all children should be treated equally and both boys and girls should attend school.

Throughout the country, about 20 per cent of girls are married by the age of 15 and 40 per cent of girls are married by the time they turn 18. In addition, 27 per cent of the married girls aged 15-19 are in polygamous marriages. 

Balogun said that she felt betrayed that the system would allow such for girl children. “I’ll feel used, it’s just not fair. I have my right to marry whoever I want and I don’t think you should marry me off at like 13 or 14 [years of age]. That doesn’t make sense, we are not matured enough.”

Two per cent of 15 to 19 year old married girls are in school compared to the 69 per cent of unmarried girls. Meanwhile, 73 per cent of married girls received no schooling, compared to eight per cent of unmarried.

Jaiyesimi concluded, “I don’t think you should force me to do something that I don’t want to do like get married and it’s actually not fair for the children in the north because they don’t have a voice against it.”

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