Free but unattainable: children’s rights, access to basic education and discourses of risk from young people in Lagos City, Nigeria




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European Educational Research Association and & Emerging Researchers‘ Conference



Peer reviewed



This study conducted an investigation into the discourses of risk among Children and Young People (CYP) in the environs of Lagos, Nigeria, which is Africa's largest city. The primary focus was on understanding how these risks hinder CYPs' access to Free Basic Education (FBE), an extension of the United Nations' Universal Basic Education (UBE) program. Notably, there has been a lack of comprehensive research exploring this connection from the perspectives of CYPs in Nigeria, making this study a valuable contribution to the discourse. Adopting a qualitative approach, the research employed Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as the research method. Two distinct data collection tools were used for CYPs: photovoice (N=18) and community walk (N=15). Additionally, in-depth interviews were conducted with "significant others" (N=20) such as parents/guardians, teachers, headteachers, and education officials to triangulate the data. By critically examining the findings through the lens of youth at risk studies, including relevant aspects of Becks' Risk Society Theory (RST), the study elucidated the reasons why CYPs in Nigeria perceive "free" basic education as elusive and unattainable based on their perspectives. Four key issues emerged from the study. Firstly, it shed light on the lived experiences of CYPs and the risks they face while residing in deprived areas of Lagos. Secondly, it explored how CYPs comprehend the concept of "free" basic education. Thirdly, it examined the barriers preventing CYPs from accessing FBE offered in schools. Finally, it investigated the suggestions put forward by CYPs to facilitate, support, and sustain "free" basic education within the context of their right to education. The findings offer a limited yet significant glimpse into the experiences of CYPs and the risks they encounter due to the socio-economic conditions in which they grow up. Furthermore, they articulate why these CYPs are unable to attend school despite the policy rhetoric of "free" education. For many CYPs in Nigeria, "free" basic education has become a mere buzzword with little to no practical outcomes in their daily pursuit of education.



Discourses of risk, Children and Young People (CYP), Lagos, Nigeria, Free Basic Education (FBE), Universal Basic Education (UBE), Photovoice, Community Walk


Matemba, Y. and Oyerinde, O.S. (2019) Free but unattainable: children’s rights, access to basic education and discourses of risk from young people in Lagos City, Nigeria. Paper presented at European Conference on Educational Research 2019, Hamburg, Germany, 2/09/19 - 6/09/19


Research Institute

Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEI)