What word comes to mind when you stumble upon those images of children from third-world countries? Nine times out of ten, that word is poverty.
What is poverty?
The World Health Organization (WHO) best describes it with these words:
Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, it is fear for the future, living one day at a time.
Poverty is a state of financial lack whereby the impoverished are unable to achieve the minimum standard of living. As highlighted in the definition provided by WHO, people who live in poverty are unable to afford healthy food, housing, quality healthcare, and education.
At the individual or personal level, poverty can result in a host of mental and physical health problems. At the societal level, poverty can lead to high rates of unemployment and crime, a rise in slum areas, a health decline, and a decrease in the percentage of educated people.
Nigeria: Poverty and Inequality
Poverty status in Nigeria is assigned to people who fall below the threshold set by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Despite the launching and relaunching of different poverty eradication schemes by different presidential administrations, a report from the NBS shows that over 40% of Nigeria’s population (approximately 82.9 million individuals) live in poverty.
When using the global threshold for poverty status instead, over 100 million Nigerians are entrenched in abject poverty. With such disheartening figures, the gap of inequality between the rich and the poor has only continued to widen.
Inequality occurs when resources, opportunity, or wealth are not distributed equitably within a society or between various groups within a society. Such inequality may appear in a number of ways, including economic inequality (where some people or groups earn much more money than others), educational inequality (unequal access to high-quality education), and healthcare disparity (unequal access to healthcare services)
Education: Impact of poverty and inequality
Beyond the dictionary definition of education as a process of teaching or learning systematic instruction, education is also a powerful tool and instrument that can drive development, reduce the poverty rate, and help a country achieve economic stability.
Sadly, close to 20 million children in Nigeria have been forced out of school by poverty. The inextricable link between poverty and education means that poor students often lack access to resources and basic school supplies that are needed to study and accelerate learning.
Poor students are also more likely to suffer from malnutrition and health issues, both of which can impede their comprehensive abilities. All of these only serve to increase the dropout rate of poor students from learning institutions. Unfortunately, this crippling effect of poverty (inability to access quality education) only means that most poor individuals are trapped in poverty.
The impact of poverty and inequality on educational outcomes
- Limited future opportunities for impoverished students: Inability to access education due to poverty can serve as a barrier to future employment and potential earnings. Oftentimes, students who lack access to education are left with only menial, low-paying jobs that hardly reach the minimum wage. This threatens their ability to create a meaningful future for themselves.
- A cycle of poverty and reduced social mobility: Lack of financial power and resources to escape poverty means that poor people are trapped in its vicious cycle, unable to get an education and change social positions.
- Health and well-being implications: Numerous studies have shown that poverty-stricken individuals are stuck with low educational achievement and are more likely to suffer from deteriorating health. This in turn affects their ability to improve their livelihood.
- Impact on society as a whole: Poor societies tend to witness a sharp increase in the rates of unemployment and crime, whereas, the rate of education declines rapidly.
The bottom line
It is a challenging but crucial endeavour to address the long-term effects of poverty and inequality on educational performance. It necessitates a dedication to equity, social justice, and equal opportunity for all societal members. We can work to create a future where every person has the opportunity to prosper through education, regardless of their circumstances, by acknowledging the interwoven nature of these issues and putting complete solutions into place.
Researcher: Olamide Opebiyi