18.5 million children have been reported to be out of school in Nigeria according to the United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF).
Rahama Farah, head of the UNICEF office in Kano (North) told journalists on Wednesday that the figure has risen since 2001 due to the numerous attacks on schools by jihadists and criminal gangs in the north that have particularly harmed children’s education.
Farah said, “Last year, Unicef estimated that 10.5 million children were out of school in Africa’s most populous country.
“Currently in Nigeria, there are 18.5 million children out of school, 60% of whom (more than 10 million) are girls,”
“These attacks have created a precarious learning environment, discouraging parents and guardians from sending their children to school,” Farah insisted.
“Since Boko Haram abducted 200 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014, dozens of schools have been targeted for similar mass abductions.
“Last year, about 1,500 students were kidnapped by gunmen, according to UNICEF. While most of the young hostages have since been released for ransom, some still remain in captivity in forests, havens of armed groups”.
“In the predominantly Muslim north, only one in four girls from “poor, rural families” finish secondary school. Insecurity, “accentuates gender inequalities”.
“Violence and mass kidnappings have forced the authorities to close more than 11,000 schools in the country since December 2020: Farah added.
The situation has resulted in increasing cases of child marriage and early pregnancy, according to the UN agency.
Recalled that Nigeria adopted the Child’s Rights Act in 2003, giving a nod to both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The Act contains a number of rights for children. Among them is Free and compulsory basic education.
Though, chief of the stumbling blocks to child education in Nigeria is religion, coupled with ethnic and cultural diversity; nonetheless, there are other forces like poor funding for education considering the paltry 1.7% of GDP to education, inadequate and under-prepared workforce as a record reveals that 27% of the teaching staff are unqualified. Others are insufficient physical resources with a high classroom learner ratio of 1:55 in primary schools, and low school readiness as no less than 10 million children aged 3 to 5 are not enrolled in early childhood care and education (ECCE) with a net enrolment ratio (NER) put at 30.7%.