Michael Olugbode in Abuja
More than 50 per cent of girls in Nigeria are not attending school at the basic education level, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
The Education Manager at UNICEF, Jutaro Sakamoto, disclosed this at the weekend at the education conference organised by the French Institute in Nigeria.
He said 7.6 million girls are out-of-school (OOS) in Nigeria, representing 3.9 million at the primary school level and 3.7 million at the junior secondary level.
Sakamoto also said 48 per cent of OOS girls are in the North-west and North-east, adding that gender parity in net attendance ratio is below 1.0 in 10 states (primarily in the North) but is decreasing in 15 states.
According to him, nine per cent of the poorest girls attend secondary school compared to 81 per cent from the richest quintile.
While lamenting that Nigeria accounts for 15 per cent of OOS children globally, Sakamoto said: “If we can’t address the situation in Nigeria, we can’t solve the situation in the world.”
He said those who are going to school are not being taught well due to a lack of facilities, adding that UNICEF’s Education Opportunity for Out-Of-School Children (OOSC) project had made some impact.
Speaking earlier, Prof. Mufutau Tijani – a French and Applied Linguistics professor at the University of Abuja – raised the alarm that more children would be out of school if the government failed to act now.
Speaking on the topic: “Demographic dynamics and access to basic education in Nigeria: Challenges and prospects”, Prof Tijani linked the challenges of increasing OOS children to the population explosion in Nigeria.
Quoting figures by the World Bank and United Nations, the University lecturer said Nigeria’s population was estimated to be 224,991,917 as of 21st September 2023, adding that it is projected to be 400 million by 2050, making Nigeria the third most populated country on earth after India and China.
He pointed out that the more population in Nigeria, the more the number of OOS children as the government struggles to provide infrastructures to meet the needs of the rising population.
He also said despite significant investment and key measures (some of them radical, such as punishing parents who neglect their children’s schooling), Nigerian institutions responsible for education were struggling to cope with a galloping demography.
The 2004 law on free and compulsory basic education guarantees in principle the right to education for every child in Nigeria but Prof Tijani noted that there was no enforcement.
He also said the schools were not enough to take care of the large population of children in the country, calling on the government to enforce its law on compulsory basic education while also providing more funding to the education sector.
He also called for attention to the issue of family planning and girl-child education especially in the northern part of the country.
The Head of Cooperation and Cultural Affairs at the French Embassy and Director of the French Institute in Nigeria, Judikael Regnaut, said the institute will continue to create the platform for conversations that will help to improve education in Nigeria.