While six years of formal education are free by law in Nigeria, the country remains home to 1 in 5 out-of-school children globally.
And, while it's free, education is seriously underfunded in Nigeria. In 2020, only 6.7% of the national budget was allocated to education, far below UNESCO's recommended 15%-26%.
“In northeastern Nigeria, 2.8 million children are in need of education-in-emergencies support in three conflict-affected states (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa). In these states, at least 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed, with another 1,392 damaged but repairable,” UNICEF reported.
While there have been different government interventions at varying levels, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has gone on labour and welfare-related strikes almost every year since 1992. A considerable portion of the developmental work being done in Nigerian education is being carried out by nonprofits and similar organisations.
Raquel Daniel is a social entrepreneur and the founder of Beyond the Classroom Foundation, a Nigerian non-profit organisation that focuses on education for children and sexual and reproductive health for adolescent girls in low-income and rural communities.
She is also the author of FLOW, a girl’s guide to menstruation, and There Is A New Virus in Town, a book about coronavirus for children. She is now working to deliver the book to 20,000 children in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Ethiopia, and Uganda, with a partnership with the Mastercard Foundation — to help ensure that all children are informed about COVID-19 and understand how they can keep safe.
Daniel spoke to Global Citizen about her work, why it’s important to reach children with COVID-19 information, and the most urgent challenges facing education in Nigeria.
Global Citizen: What does Beyond the Classroom Foundation do?
Raquel Daniel: The foundation is focused on education for children and sexual and reproductive health for teenage girls in low-income communities. We enroll children who have no access to education back to school, and educate girls on menstrual and personal hygiene, while providing free sanitary pads to those who cannot afford it.
Our focus on education extends to teacher training and school renovations. In response to the pandemic, we expanded our beneficiaries to include the families of the children and girls we work with, ensuring they had food items to stay well during the lockdown and the women and girls had access to free sanitary pads. We also started educating children about COVID-19 as part of our educational programme.
How would you describe the problem the foundation is solving?
The two core problems we’re focused on are: access to education for children at the primary level and access to sexual and reproductive health information for girls in low-income communities.
Why do you think it is important to solve these problems?
There are over 5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria. Many of them would love to go to school, but have no access to funds to enroll and supplies to stay in school. Without education, these children grow up to become a nuisance to the society and the cycle of poverty for their families continues.
With an education, I believe a person can either get a good job or start a business that can ultimately get their families out of poverty. This I believe to be true because I am the first in my family’s generation to go past secondary school. No one ever attempted it because it was expensive.
The result of that is not only evident in my life, but in my family as well. Now, we have a lot of my nieces and nephews eager to go to school because my life turned out differently from what they see in our family. Many are now in school because of that.
It is important to educate and provide access to education for every child because with an education, they have a choice to either get a job or start a business that will not only positively affect them or their families, but will be good for the economy as well.
What are the top three areas you think require urgent attention?
We need to build more schools and renovate the current dilapidated schools; make education completely free from primary to secondary level; and hire trained teachers, provide ongoing training for our current teachers, and also increase the salaries of teachers in our government schools.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
More than 75 million children globally miss out on the education they deserve because of conflict, natural disasters, or other crises. You can join the movement to ensure every child can access safe, free, and quality education by taking action here.