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How child poverty is threatening human capital development in Bauchi State, by Bashir Hassan Abubakar

Out of these projections, population of children between 0-17 years in Adamawa is 2.4 million, in Bauchi is 4.7 million while Gombe State has 2.1 million...


How child poverty is threatening human capital development in Bauchi State, by Bashir Hassan Abubakar

Recently, UNICEF Bauchi Field office organised a media dialogue with journalists and state actors drawn from Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States.

The objective of the dialogue was to highlight plight of Children in Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe States as they go through a lifetime of poverty, deprivation and limited access to basic necessities of life.

Children are the future of every entity right from the center down to the community and household level. So, what happens when such Children are not equipped to pick up from where their predecessors left, the answer is not far fetched, such societies will be left with unlettered, ill equipped and unprepared human resource to manage the affairs of the larger society.

Nurturing and harnessing such human resource for the future should start at the level of conception of children. Because when a child is conceived and the pregnant mother attends all her ANCs, Postnatal care and ensuring her child gets all the required immunisations, that is clear indication that, that child might grow to his/her full potentials in life.

When a child could not get these basic care, that child could be said to be living in abject poverty.

There are two level of child poverty that impedes children’s ability to develop, thrive and live to their full potentials to contribute meaningfully to societal development.

At the moment, these two levels of child poverty are threatening the continuity of a sound human resource in Bauchi State and some other states of the Federation.

Section 29 (4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) defines a Child as “any person under the age of 18. According to the National Census, these category of citizens formed the largest population in Nigerian States of Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe. So, if such categories children are not nurtured and looked after, one cannot begin to imagine what the future holds for these States and the Country at large.

As earlier stated, there are two levels of child poverty namely: monetary and multidimensional poverty. While Monetary child poverty is the inability of of a child to have access to basic consumption needs, Multidimensional child poverty is the non fulfillment of child rights to survival, health, development, protection and participation.

In other words, the concept of child monetary poverty is lack of income to meet basic needs and goods , which is usually measured by household income/consumption. On the other hand, the non-monetary or multidimensional child poverty is the deprivation in child rights. Such rights includes: Lack of access to Water, Sanitation, Housing, Education, Health and Child protection. Experts averred that deprivation in three or more of these rights throws a child into dimensional poverty.

The 2022 Population Projection indicates that Adamawa state has a population of 4.9 million, Bauchi has 8.3 million while Gombe State has a population of 3.9 million.

Out of these projections, population of children between 0-17 years in Adamawa is 2.4 million, in Bauchi is 4.7 million while Gombe State has 2.1 million.

Bauchi State Scenario

The statistics above as captured in a 2021 analysis of a survey conducted by the National Planning Commission indicates that Bauchi State has the highest number of Children that are over half the population of the State.

It is disturbing to note that the National Planing Commission’s 2021 study also projected Bauchi State as having 66.58 percent of it’s children population in the Child Monetary Poverty category. This means that over half of the children are living below the poverty line of 376 Naira per day. This is further compounded by the multidimensional child poverty of the State that stood at 86.1 percent .

These indices of Child Poverty in Bauchi State was further confirmed by the 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2021) of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Under the early childhood development that has to do education, the MICS 2021 indicates that Bauchi State has only 6 percent as against the National average of 38 percent coverage. School attendance among children of primary school age is lower in Bauchi State with only 38 percent enrollment. Also, school attendance among children of lower secondary age is less than 15 percent in Bauchi State.

According to MICS 2021 , the number of out of school among children of primary school age is nearly two-third of Bauchi State Children. Also, the number of out of school among children of lower secondary school age is close to two-third of Bauchi State children.

The survey further has it that large number of children in Bauchi State are not protected from violence and exploitation. The MICS 2021 highlights that child labor of children aged 5-17 year is at a staggering 54.9 percent and birth registration of under five children stands at only 38.3 percent.

Also, in the areas of safe and clean environment for children to thrive, Bauchi State is lagging in other WASH indicators like water, sanitation, hygiene services and practices.

The percentage of children living in multidimensional poverty in Bauchi State has disturbingly increased from 69.8 percentage in 2017 to 86.1 percent in 2021 according to the Federal Government report as captured in the survey conducted by the National Planning Commission.

These categories of poverty brings about poor health, education, access to WASH and safe space for children to develop and thrive to their full potentials and limited prospects in their lives.

Natural and man-made phenomenon like climate change, Covid-19, floods disaster, insurgences, communal violence, banditries etc are contributing to children poverty.

Unless Bauchi State Government, at all levels and other key non-state stakeholders act fast, the future of an entire generation is at risks.

What Bauchi State Government can do

Mitigating child poverty to secure, and ensure sound and productive human capital is a policy choice and also the political will to implement such policies. Other states across the country like Lagos, Delta, Osun, Oyo, Edo , Ogun that have made such choices have drastically reduced child poverty.

READ ALSO: POWA empowers over 100 members, PWDs in Bauchi

Bauchi State Government can start by prioritising public spending for key social services and improve access to social protection. These, the Bauchi State Government can achieve through good governance.

Through good governance, Bauchi State Government can ensure the delivery of social services like education, WASH services, safe environment to all children at the local level, where the poverty level is much more higher.

Strong social protection systems and investing in children can change a child’s future, freeing them from a lifetime of social exclusion and economic hardship.

A resource person during the media dialogue on child poverty, organized by by UNICEF FoB, Dr. Ali Madina Dankumo also proffered a way forward for Bauchi and other States. He enumerated the under-listed measures to mitigate Child Poverty to include: Investments in Education, Healthcare access, Social protection/Nutrition programs, Empowerment of women and Girls, Child-sensitive policies, Community engagement and participation, Effective data collection and monitoring, Partnerships/ collaboration and Long term vision and sustainable development.

It is instructive to note that UNICEF Nigeria field office Bauchi had been supporting Bauchi State Government, and other States in the region in their efforts at Child Poverty Reduction.

According to UNICEF’s Field office Bauchi (FoB) Social Policy Specialist Yusuf Auta, Government at all levels need to increase budgetary allocation and improve on releases for children-focused interventions in order to mitigate the Child Poverty.

As indicated in the Federal Government Survey, extreme poverty rate is expected to increased with an estimated 84 million Nigerians living below $1.9, with children being worst hit.

Dr. Dankumo , while interacting with journalists at the media dialogue on child poverty said, “Since children are the future workforce and leaders of a nation, failing to address child poverty deprives the country of the potential contributions of its youths, limiting overall capital development and innovation”.

It has become a matter of necessity for Governments at National and Subnational level to, as a matter of urgency, take proactive approach towards reducing child poverty to ensure growth in National Development. Some of these approaches can be achieved by creating employment opportunities for the poor, through economic and institutional reforms. Prioritizing of basic needs in National Development policies through improved production, skills acquisitions and heavy investments in agriculture and providing incentives to the private sector. Targeted cash transfers and cash plus initiatives is also another approach in reducing child poverty.

Role of Media in Addressing Child Poverty

The media, a means of communication through outlets such as radio, television, newspapers, internet etc , plays key role in reaching out to people, influencing the public widely, many a-time eliciting positive policy directions in a critical sector.

This much was reiterated by UNICEF’s Field office Bauchi Communication officer, Opeyemi Olagunju when, during the recent Gombe Media Dialogue on Child Poverty, urged Journalists to be innovative in bringing out compelling stories that could trigger action on the part of Government to reinvest in children through sustained provision of quality healthcare and education, safe environment, nutrition, shelter and other basic social services that are prerequisite to child development.

How child poverty is threatening human capital development in Bauchi State, by Bashir Hassan Abubakar

How child poverty is threatening human capital development in Bauchi State, by Bashir Hassan Abubakar

Speaking on the sideline too during the Gombe engagement, an implementing partner of UNICEF FoB media activities, Mallam Umar Shira said that, though other sectors are also begging for media attention, the demand for media action to reduce child poverty can be said to be all-encompassing.

“You cannot talk about reducing child poverty without touching on the need to improve health care, education, environment, WASH, nutrition, economic empowerment etc. So, as a journalists when you undertake a project on Child Poverty, you also have ample opportunity to write on other critical sectors mentioned earlier as it affects Child Poverty”, said Shira

It is instructive to stress that, through information dissemination Journalists increase knowledge and awareness of an issue, problem and solution. Such information also counter myths and misconception.

It is heartwarming to observe that participants at the meeting have resolved to continue to advocate for child friendly policies as part of their contribution to achieving reduction in child poverty, using different platforms of communication.

As stated from the above analysis, Bauchi State Government and indeed other States across the North East region needs to take lead in mitigating Child Poverty in order to secure it’s human resource and capital development.

(Some of the pictures used are for illustrative purposes only)

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