Nigeria has four years left to achieve United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The country has committed to ensuring universal primary education by 2015. But the forecasts for this are bleak.
They dash through the streets of Lagos holding a sponge and a small bottle of dishwashing liquid. The little boys who clean the windows without being asked and at lightning speed and demand a few naira for doing so are a horror to every motorist. Those small beggars in the Muslim-majority north are similarly unpopular: They stand at traffic lights, roadsides and bus stations in torn T-shirts, holding filthy plastic bowls and asking for money and food. And all this at the best time of the morning — they should actually be in school.
Particularly alarming in Nigeria: reportedly up to twelve million children do not go to school. But there are also concerns about the explosive population growth and resistance to any form of family planning.
Four million girls do not go to school Members of SERAP (Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project), the Lagos-based non-governmental socio-economic rights and accountability project, also know the problem. "According to our information, 12 million children are not in school and instead roam the streets," says Adetokunbo Mumuni, director of the organization. That's why he's now calling on all Nigerians to bombard President Goodluck Jonathan with messages via Facebook and advocate for free basic education. So far, however, without success. Although Jonathan regularly posts on the social network the well 623.000 supporters about political ideas, he has not yet commented on the SERAP demand.
However, Hajia Zainab Maina, the Minister of Family Affairs, now seems to be addressing the problem: The politician, who is said to be a strong leader, is currently touring the country and promoting better educational conditions, especially for girls. The bad statistics can't keep them quiet either. It has just had to announce that around four million girls alone do not go to school.
The goal of providing all children with a primary school education by 2015 could also fail due to population growth. With around 150 million people, Nigeria is already the most populous country in Africa. But by the end of the century, that number could rise to 730 million, the United Nations estimates. This would put Nigeria in third place behind China and India in terms of population statistics.
A little hope remains
Ahmed Haruna can only smile about all these discussions. He is a Muslim and lives with his family in Kano state. He has two wives, 13 children and does not rule out a third marriage. "Of course my children go to school," he says with a tone of alienation. "At least the boys and almost all the girls." His way of life is that of a good Muslim, says Haruna. After all, they say, Islam wants a big family.
According to Ismaila Zango, a sociologist at Bayero University in Kano, the vast majority of people in the northern part of the country have another reason to raise large families. "Children are valued as laborers on farms and as vendors." That's why it hardly gives family planning measures a chance. There have been repeated attempts, for example in 1998, when the government ied a directive that every woman should give birth to a maximum of four children. "But on average, we still have 5.7 children. Unlike in China, there is neither education nor state prere in our country," says the sociologist.
A little hope remains for him nevertheless. Meanwhile, even religious leaders would address the population explosion and draw attention to problems such as lack of education and jobs. But for the achievement of the millennium goals in four years, this is probably long too late.