By Temitope Mustapha, Abuja

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Figures from the Universal Basic Education Commission in Nigeria, reveal that the number of Out- of -School Children in the age bracket of six and eleven years, in Nigeria, has declined slightly from over ten million in 2021.

That figure is expected to further drop to about nine point five million in 2023. But the latest data from UNESCO says there are now about twenty million Out-of- School children in Nigeria.

This is based on the agency’s adoption of the new methodology with the Sustainable Development Goal Four, which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality of education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Demographic trends of Out-of-School children in Nigeria as reflected in the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Six, launched in 2022 by the Nigerian government and UNICEF,  shows that the highest number of Out-of-School Children are found in northern Nigeria.

The statistics show that States like Kebbi have sixty five percent, Zamfara and Bauchi both have sixty one percent,  while the lowest rates are in Ekiti with two percent  and Imo with just one percent.

Out-of-School Children, OOSC has been described globally as ‘‘Children in the official Primary school age range of six to eleven years who are not enrolled in either primary or secondary school.

At present, the world faces unprecedented education crisis based on a UNESCO 2021 report, which says two hundred and fifty eight million children that are out of school globally are mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The scourge of Out-of-School Children is however not peculiar to Nigeria as statistics released by UNESCO on other countries shows that Pakistan, India and Nigeria are the three nations on comparative basis in the last five years. The United Nations’ Agency’s put the record of Out-of-School children for the six to eighteen years age bracket in India at a little above fifty two million while Pakistan, had nineteen point four million as at 2022.

The incidences of terrorism and insecurity in general increased the number of Out -of -School children in Nigeria by five hundred and thirty thousand children with the majority of them located in the northern part of the country which has also suffered the most, due to the effect of climate change.

Other factors like poverty, ignorance, gender inequality, religious and cultural influences also gave rise to circumstances which made parents to withdraw their Words from schools.

The interventions of government at all levels and efforts of development partners to reduce the number of Out- of- School children are yielding positive results even though it is not as fast as expected.

In a renewed effort to tackle the challenges posed by Out- of -School Children in the country, the Universal Basic Education Commission in March 2021, deployed the World Bank sponsored Better Education Service Delivery for All strategy to reduce the numbers to the barest minimum in the next few years.

It also embarked on plans to deploy and strengthen the Early Childhood Care Development and Education strategy to tackle the menace.

The Nigerian government had in 2018 launched a Home grown School Feeding programme as a way of retaining students in schools with the goal of being able to recover seventy percent of children who had dropped out of school.

It promised to double primary school enrolment from forty six to ninety percent, and its expected to boost the number of female who are able to complete the secondary school education programme in the most endemic communities in Bauchi, Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto, Katsina and kano; with the assistance from its development partners.

Experts believe that the country would need to increase its budgetary allocation for education while empowering stakeholders in the basic education level at both the federal and state levels.

The call now is for the relevant government agencies at the basic education level which is the foundation for growth to strengthen their monitoring and evaluation systems in order to provide relevant data to guide investments in the sector.

It has also been suggested that the five-year grace period for the matching grant disbursements be reduced to two years to ensure prompt and easy access to the funds. These measures will go a long way to bring the much needed relief in the issue of Out- of- School children.


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