While UNESCO estimated that 244 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 18 worldwide were out of school in 2021, 118.5 million of them were girls and 125.5 million were boys. This is so concerning that one in every five of the out-of-school children in the world is found in Nigeria. Even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school.
Of these, only 61 percent of 6-11-year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education. In the Northern region of the country, there is a bleaker picture, with school children’s net attendance rate of 53 percent. Gender also plays an important role in educational marginalization in the region. Getting the 20 million out-of-school children back into education poses a massive challenge for all levels of governments.
Foundational segment remains the most critical in the education sector.
This does not appear surprising when the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) announced that Nigeria needed an additional 20,000 schools and 907,769 classrooms to be able to absorb the growing number of out-of-school children in the country. Director of Press of the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Goong, disclosed this in a statement. He noted that the Executive Secretary of UBEC, Hammed Boboyi, gave the statistics while briefing the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, on his agency’s activities.
A 2022 report by UNESCO estimated that Nigeria currently had approximately 20 million out-of-school children but the federal government under the former president, Muhammadu Buhari, contended that the country only accounted for 12.4 percent of the total number of out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa. Goong said that the Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, gave strong indications that his administration would prioritize basic education in the country. The minister also emphasized that the foundation level remained the most critical segment in the sector which must be properly developed to impact positively on other tiers of the sector and overall national development.
Forthcoming census will finally solve the issue of the statistics.
Further, the minister stated this in his office in Abuja, in continuation of his briefing sessions with parastatals and agencies under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education. He added that the government of President Bola Tinubu would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that every Nigerian child was brought on board the ship of education. He noted that the forthcoming national census would finally end the controversies surrounding the actual figures of out-of-school children.
Earlier in his briefing, UBEC Executive Secretary, Dr. Hamid Bobo, had told the ministers that the country needed an additional 20,000 schools and 907,769 classrooms to absorb the growing number of out-of-school-children. He identified infrastructure gaps, and inadequate manpower as some of the challenges facing the commission in its efforts to ensure equitable access to quality basic education. It is important to note that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had repeatedly expressed concern over the growing number of out-of-school-children in the country. He had said that it had placed the country on a keg of gunpowder waiting to explode.
OAU students threaten to shut down the school over fee hike.
Meanwhile, regarding the recent hike in the fees of tertiary institutions, students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) have threatened to shut down the campus if the management fails to reverse the school fees. In a statement issued by its Public Relations Officer, Abiodun Olarewaju, the school management announced an increment of fees payable by both new and old students by over 300 percent. Addressing newsmen at the Ken Saro Wiwa Students’ Union Building, the President of Great Ife Students Union, Abbas Akinremi, said that the students will soon commence the process of shutting down the campus of the management’s failure to start negotiation on the issue.