The World Bank has said that Nigeria has 11 million out-of-school children, and this is the highest in the world as of 2020. Nigeria is the largest black nation in the world, and has over 200 million people. The significance of Nigeria in the world is such that one in every four Africans is Nigerian. Based on this metric alone, Nigeria deserves its “Giant of Africa” nomenclature.
However, a significant number of that population are out of school. This begins to make sense when one analyses the data. The median age in Nigeria is 18.1 years, while the life expectancy in Nigeria is 54-69 years according to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators in 2019. Conclusively, Nigeria is a youthful country. In fact, more than half of the population are between the ages of 0 and 25 in the country. So, the statistics are a call for concern.
Poverty is one of the causes of increase in out-of-school children.
Nigeria surpassed India as the poverty capital of the world in 2018, with about 87 million people living in abject poverty, compared with 73 million in India. According to the United Nations, the international community pegs the threshold that constitutes extreme poverty as living on less than one dollar a day. For this reason, many of these children may have been out of school because of poverty. Education is quite expensive in Nigeria, even when it is public education.
Though public education at the primary and secondary levels may be tuition-free, the cost of feeding, transportation, and buying school materials is well above one dollar. What this means is that people who cannot afford to spend up to a dollar every day will find it difficult to spend more to ensure that all of their children get an education. Poverty is not the only cause of this issue. In Northern Nigeria, the Almajiri system of living and survival of children as young as five also contributes to the number. Insecurity and religious sentiments are other reasons children may be out of school. For instance, many of the Chibok Girls who were reported to have been kidnapped by Boko Haram were 13-15, or even younger, and some of them were sitting their West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
The number of in-school children doubled, but out-of-school still highest.
The World Bank disclosed in a document titled “Nigeria Development Update (June 2020): The Continuing Urgency of Business Unusual” that the number of in-school children was 20 million in 2003 and it has increased to 40 million in 2020. The population of Nigerian children under review (aged 6-15) increased from 35 million in 2003 to 51 million in 2020. Despite these impressive figures, Nigeria still has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
A spokesperson of the Bank said, “Although Nigeria has experienced a significant expansion in access to education during the last few decades, it still has the highest number of out-of-school (OOS) children in the world.” With more than 11 million OOS children between the ages of 6-15, 1 in 12 out-of-school children are in Nigeria. The Bank also notes that these children represent 22% of children in their age group. In Nigeria, the OOS problem is multi-causal; that is, it has multiple causes which may be mutually exclusive, mutually dependent, or both.
The OOS phenomenon requires a combination of interventions.
Due to the multi-causal nature of the problem, it needs a combination of interventions and efforts aimed at solving it. To increase the demand for education in Nigeria, some of the crucial steps that can be employed are reducing the cost of education by eliminating school fees, providing cash transfers, and shifting socio-cultural norms that prevent school enrollment especially in Northern Nigeria, where majority of the OOS children are found. Apparently, the North has more out-of-school children than the South, and this pattern also corresponds with the number of extremely poor people in Nigeria.