Meeting Matthew, who wishes he could go back to school

In Lagos, Nigeria, public primary education is free, like other states in the country.

Unfortunately, you still meet children that are out of school, just because they do not want to go to school or even because the school walls cannot “accommodate” students with special needs.

Coupled with this, the majority of these children are from families that suffer from the scourge of poverty and their parents don’t have time to care as much about education.

Matthew at his place of work in Lagos

Some of these children end up taking vocational training in an informal setting, some will keep roaming the streets of Lagos until they become “area boys”, others end up becoming bus conductors while others get “saved” and return back to school (but this happens rarely).

I met Matthew, who was aged 14 or 15. It took him almost 30 minutes to spell his name. He does not know his precise date of birth and needs his mother to tell him when he is going to celebrate his birthday next.

“I cannot remember the last time I celebrated a birthday,” he said while conversing with me in a local dialect because he cannot speak a sentence in English.

He told me he left primary school when he was in primary five and to date he has experienced various social vices. When I asked him why he left school, he said in Yoruba language: “Mi o mo, nitori pe mo ma nsa ni school” – meaning “I do not know, because I [ran] away from school”.

I asked why and he told me how he often avoided classes to play games in the street while school was in session. He also said he would leave school just to “take a stroll” on the street or to wash cars for extra money.

After 30 minutes of talking to Matthew, I asked him if he still wanted to go back to school. He said yes but feared his parent will not support his education.

He also told me about how his dream of travelling to South Africa was shattered just because he could not spell his name right at the embassy and could not answer some questions.

Matthew is currently learning vulcanizing as a vocational trade in the street of Lagos and has spent close to seven years at his workshop. He said his childhood dream was to either be a lawyer, a doctor or a soldier.

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