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17 Nov 2017


Cynthia has only just gotten back from school after long hours of academic rigours which she hardly benefited from. To think that she had spent another eight hours at school with nothing in her belly and with the probability of getting none upon getting home is rather frustrating.


The situation with our high school friend, Cynthia, is common to students from homes that live below 1USD per day and may therefore be adjudged poor particularly in developing countries such as Nigeria. Of course, the areas of needs of such students go beyond the physiological needs. It spans across security, esteem, material needs, achievement needs, etc.


What is poverty?

The definition of poverty may be considered from different perspectives. Viewed from a general standpoint, poverty may be described as the deprivation of materials and resources required for wellbeing. According to the World Bank Organization, poverty has many faces and may manifest in different dimensions such as “hunger, lack of shelter, being sick and not being able to see a doctor”, etc.

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From the foregoing, despite its complexities, the bottom line of poverty is lack of money and its causes are many just like its effects. As a matter of fact, poverty levels vary from society to society or from nation to nation. Interestingly, what inhabitants of a developed nation or members of the high class describe as poverty may be in slight contradistinction with what members of the middle and low class regard as poverty. These disparities, however, it remains established that poverty brings about deprivation or lack of a basic need. Our concern, however, shall be limited to the effects of poverty on education, or put, differently, how poverty may impair the learning process of an individual.


Effects of poverty on an individual’s education


  1. Inadequate brain functioning

The effects of poverty on an individual begins apparently right from conception. During the formation process, the child already begins to suffer lack of required nutritional materials necessary for proper foetal development. The cases of severe nutritional deficiencies, inadequate formation of body parts or dysfunction of the brain are inevitable. More so, such babies born into poverty are exposed to poor nutrition at the infant stage which ultimately affects brain functioning.



According to the National Centre for Education Statistics, by age 4, children in poor homes hear 13 million words spoken in the home while those in the working class families hear 26 million and those in professional/well-to-do families hear 46 million words. This implies that the socioeconomic status of a family goes a long way to determine the receptiveness of a child’s brain to new words, ideas and concepts.


  1. Emotional instability

The continuous trauma and insecurity that goes with poverty leave students from poor homes less confident and inferior to their counterparts from rich homes. As a result, they are forced by circumstances to perform woefully in academic activities which they would have naturally performed excellently if they had all resources required.

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  1. Health and safety issues

To a large extent, health and academic performance are interrelated. Children exposed to health issues such as environmental pollutions, abuse, overwork, malnutrition, inadequate health care underperfom in school work.


  1. Mental stress

Another effect of poverty on academics worth mentioning is acute stress on the individual’s cognition. Rather than engage in positive and progressive reasoning, such individuals are engrossed in thoughts of overcoming their most immediate needs at every point in time, and this affects retention and understanding.


The consequences of poverty on an individual’s academic performance transcend just deficiency in reading and writing. Poverty could cause the victim to live below his/her potential. Parents, Governments, Educational bodies as well as concerned private institutions should therefore see to it that poverty alleviation programmes are put in place to enable students fully realise their inherent blueprint.

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