Ibrahim Adamu
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From waste collection to classroom: Story of Adamu’s pursuit of education


Coming from the background of a family of seven children and parents who did not have any form of formal education with the perception that education is considered a luxury, a 15-year-old, Ibrahim Adamu, a local waste collector popularly known as Mai bola, in Sabon-Gari area of Kano state, is fighting against all odds and now pursuing education.

On a daily basis, Adamu shuttles between collecting waste from different houses in the big suburban Sabon Gari area of Kano and school. The money he earns from the business has become a significant part of his poor family’s income. Being the first child, he sees it as his responsibility to provide for his family. Rather than giving up on his education by dropping out of school, in the face of these difficult challenges, he enrolled in an afternoon school.

Beaming with a smile, Adamu, who is in Junior secondary school (JSS) one, told Persecondnews why he doesn’t want to drop out of school.

“After Primary school, I stayed at home for more than a year, that was when one of my friends introduced me to this business. I always admired children in school uniforms and longed to go back to school, but I couldn’t because if I leave this business, I and my family will starve.

“It was in the course of doing this business I saw a student who told me about the afternoon school which starts at 2 p.m and closes at 6 p.m. and I immediately enrolled when the next session began.

“I have always loved school because I dream of leaving this business someday. I want a better life for me and my family, and I believe going to school is the only way out. I want to be an engineer in the future,” he said.

Education as a basic right
Education is the basic right of every child, yet Nigeria records ever-increasing number of out-of-school children with an estimated 10.1 million schoolchildren. This has prompted the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) to develop a five-year model to support over 10 million children to access education by 2027.

Speaking at a two-day media dialogue on the “New Country programme 2023-2027 and the status of implementation of the Child Rights Law 2003 in states”, in Kano attended by Persecondnews, UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, disclosed that the vision of the 2023-2027 programme for Nigeria is to ensure that the rights of every child in Nigeria especially the most excluded, survive, thrive, learn, be protected and develop to his or her full potential.

“10 million children access formal or non-formal education; 4.8 million children access learning materials and 21 states scale up foundational literacy and numeracy; 22 states using integrated data system for sector planning and 12 states with improved adequacy, efficiency and equity in education finance,” the section dedicated to education read.

Child labour pervades despite adoption of the Child Rights Law
Child labour is the employment of children under the age of 18 in a manner that restricts or prevents them from basic education and self-development.

Adamu may be going to school, but how well is his academic performance? Does he have time to study owing to the fact that he is engaged in child labour? Not only is child labour a child rights violation, it is also a barrier to the fulfilment of other rights. It undermines education, nutrition, health and also hinders the social and economic development of children and families, a UNICEF report states.

“There are times after working all through the morning to afternoon packing garbage, I become too tired to go to school. If I eventually go to school, I will doze off without listening to what the teacher is saying.

“Combining this business with schooling is difficult, but I will keep managing,” Adamu added.

According to the UNICEF report, working children have no time, money or energy to go to school. About six million working children in Nigeria, equally split between boys and girls, do not attend school at all, while one million children are forced to drop out due to poverty.

Over eight million children manage, at least partly, to stay in school and work in their spare time to pay their fees. Due to high demands at work, these children often skip classes. Missing out on education makes it impossible to break the cycle of poverty and exploitation and prevents children from having a better life and a safer future.

This is why UNICEF has been supporting the implementation of the Child Rights Law (CRL) in the states.

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) 2021, revealed that 31 percent of every ten children aged 5-17 years are engaged in child labour. About 27 percent of the children aged 5-17 years are engaged in economic activities above their age specific threshold.

Also, 29 percent per cent of children aged 5-17 years are working under hazardous working conditions, mostly reported as carrying heavy loads, exposure to extreme cold, heat or humidity, and working with dangerous tools or heavy machinery. The percentage of children aged 5-17 years who engage in child labour in Kano stands at 32 percent.

Also speaking at the media dialogue, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Fatimah Adamu, pointed out the need for all sectors to budget for children and also develop national agenda for them that would address issues such as child marriage, out-of-school children, and child labour, among others.

She noted that 35 states and the FCT have adopted the CRL, except Bauchi State which is yet to adopt it.

“The CRA is a ticking time bomb. Its proper implementation by all state governments that have adopted it is crucial. This act is about safeguarding the rights of those who are seldom heard; the vulnerable children.

“Failing to protect and listen to them carries significant consequences,” she said.

The five-year strategic plan which began in January 2023, will also help Nigerian children who are left behind in developmental strides meet up with their counterparts in other parts of the world.



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