How Africa Can Do Better for Its Children

Educate All Children in Africa: The Time is Now

Isioma Ononye
7 min readJun 16, 2024

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

While purchasing food items such as tomatoes, yams and plantains in an open market in Wuse, some young boys hold on to the steel wheelbarrows to carry food items from marketgoers. After the buyers are done shopping, the boys collect two hundred or five hundred naira from them. Other young boys can be found walking around asking for money. I open my purse and call out to them. I give him five hundred naira. He happily collects the money and then runs away.

On my way back home, I look through the window of the car and there are school-aged children who hawk for bread by the road.

Then I go for a run in the park and there’s a lady who is unable to walk. She sits on the dirt-ridden floor and her child crawls around. I wave and smile at the child who is not fully dressed. While I run, I take a deep breath and I wish I kept some money in my pocket to give her.

Then at home, I switch on the news and I find out that a two-year-old has been molested. A twelve-year-old has been raped. There’s a neglected child out of their home as their parents have accused them of witchcraft.

Yes, the plight of the Nigerian child is vast and consequently breaks my heart because Nigerian children like children all over the world deserve better.

When I think about Nigerian children and how Africa can do better, there are three things that come to mind. First, I want Nigerian parents to consider how many children they can provide for before they bring them into this world. Secondly, I want Nigerian children to have access to a good education. Third, I want Nigerian children to be free from all forms of gender-based violence.

1. Let’s Take Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Seriously So More Children Are Not Born Into Poverty

We have to consider the quality of life that can be provided for children before they enter the world. This must be taken seriously because as much as children are a blessing, why give birth if the child will not be properly cared for? Why give birth if the child is malnourished? Why give birth if a child has to take on the burden of providing for their home?

Understanding sexual and reproductive health rights is one solution that will ensure that children are not born into poverty or into homes where they will be neglected.

More women in Nigeria thus need to have access to proper methods of birth control and contraceptives so that they have more control and a say over their reproductive rights.

In a report by the Center for Reproductive Rights, A Women’s Reproductive Rights in Nigeria: A Shadow Report, we find out that in Nigeria, “40% of the population has access to proper health facilities. When it comes to family planning services provided, the government providers supply approximately 37% of modern contraceptives in Nigeria, including condoms, spermicides, intrauterine devices, injectables, and the pill but despite governmental efforts, there is often a shortage of contraceptives at health clinics.”

When it comes to women’s access to abortion, abortion in Nigeria is illegal as it carries a jail sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment- unless it is performed to save the life of the pregnant woman.

The result of this is that women take to unsafe measures to abort the child which would then result in maternal deaths.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, “Of the estimated annual 50,000 maternal deaths, approximately 20,000 result from the complications of unsafe induced abortions. A more recent study found that complications from illegal abortions account for approximately 50% of all maternal deaths in Nigeria.”

Nigeria must do better when it comes to sexual health services because when it’s women are better informed and have more access to healthcare services, they make better decisions on family planning. They prevent unwanted pregnancies.

This means that they bring children into good homes when they are ready to and are sure they will be properly taken care of.

2. Let Nigerian Children Be Able to Speak Out, Be in a Conducive Environment & Have Access to A Good Education for a Better Future

While doing volunteer work in Abuja to assist a teacher in helping children with studying, reading and writing, one of the girls expressed that she didn’t have time to study.

The little girl didn’t have time to study because part of her duties in her house was to fetch water.

I thought to myself that for a girl who is not up to the age of 12, why should that be her responsibility and how do her parents feel about it affecting her studies?

The Nigerian child should be able to speak out about how they feel. They should be able to speak out about the conditions of their home and how it affects their education.

Also, the Nigerian child must have access to a good education and value it.

A good education is essential in a child’s life but according to UNICEF, “at least 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria — the highest rate in the world. A full one-third of Nigerian children are not in school, and one in five out-of-school children in the world is Nigerian.”

When I think about what it means to have a good education, it is an environment that is conducive to learning and getting a good education should not only be reserved for the elite. Getting a good education should not only be for those who can afford a private education.

A public education should also be adequate for all children.

Next, getting a good education means that the educational environment should be up to standard. Children should not be seated on the floors or crowded in a classroom.

In addition, getting a good education means that educational materials should be available for everyone and due to the digital age, people should be digitally literate to facilitate learning.

Not only should children have good educational materials, but they also need teachers who are well-equipped to teach the subjects they are assigned to.

Having qualified teachers is key and in 2022, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State organised a competency test for teachers and said that “we will not continue with the mess, there is no going back in redeploying incompetent teachers to their proper place in order to change the narratives associated with decay in the education sector.”

What Governor Zulum did is commendable and imperative because children can’t thrive in the classrooms if their teachers are not fully educated on the materials they teach the students.

If teachers are more competent, the students benefit because they learn what is needed to be learned from the primary to the secondary and tertiary levels.

Once children are better educated, they can be seen and heard through their aspirations in the arts and sciences. They can be seen and heard through their contributions back to society or the growth of the economy.

3. Let the Nigerian Child Be Free from All Forms of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The Nigerian child is subject to different forms of gender-based violence and child sexual abuse from the moment they are born up until when they become adults.

When it comes to the forms of gender-based violence they are subjected to, it ranges from sexual abuse in their homes by family members to strangers and authoritarian figures in either their places of learning or worship.

Nigeria must combat gender-based violence because it affects the African child’s ability to thrive, to focus on their education and function in society.

For a Nigerian child to therefore be free from all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, they must be in a society that values and respects them. They must be in a society that wants to protect them and not take advantage of them.

To achieve this, we should all be educated about gender-based violence, both physical and emotional violence and abuse.

Then, we must break free from the culture of silence and secrecy when it comes to gender-based violence. This means that when someone knows that something wrong is happening behind closed doors, they should be able to speak up and speak out to the right authorities.

Then, let those cases see the light of day. Let the court of law hold perpetrators and offenders accountable for wrong-doings. This should be a norm and not a unique occurrence.

In Conclusion

Nigeria needs to invest more in its value for education. Nigeria needs to make sure its children are in schools and not hawking on the streets. Nigeria needs to make sure that every child has access to a good education. That way, they can learn and thrive. That way, we hear them boldly state their dreams and we see them go out into the world and turn those dreams into reality.

For Nigerian children to participate in society, let us make sure they are in communities where they are safe and protected. That within and out of their homes, they don’t walk in fear that they will be subjected to abuse. That we don’t let evil win and have their innocence stolen by bad men or women who threaten to break what was born whole.

Nigeria can do better for its children and the time is now to make sure that women have access to sexual health and reproductive services so they make better decisions when it comes to family planning. That they bring up children in homes where they are loved and wanted. Homes where they can be provided for so they don’t continue on the same cycle of poverty.

For Nigeria to do better for its children, let it hold its children up with pride. Let it hold its children up with love. Let it provide for its children so they grow and develop to give back to their homes. To give back to their society. To give back to their country which has given them so much. This is how Nigeria can do better for its children.



Isioma Ononye

👩‍💻I write about self-esteem, faith, mental health, women’s issues, social media & TV + Film Reviews. 📩Newsletter: