United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has disclosed that Nigeria accounts for 45 per cent of the growing number of out-of school children in West Africa.Citing the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data report, UNICEF noted that while southern states have an average of 11 per cent of children aged between six and 14 years out of school, northern states have an average of 31 percent.
It stated that of the 13.2 million out- of-school children in Nigeria, 7.9 million (or 69 per cent) are in the northern states.
UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, in his paper at a media dialogue on promoting equity for children, also identified gender as an important factor in the pattern of educational marginalisation.
Njoku in his paper titled: “Gaps in education access in Nigeria: A situation analysis and what UNICEF is doing,” identified poor implementation of policies and laws.
It also cited poor learning outcomes occasioned by the uncommitted, absent teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and poor learning environments as major hindrances to effective educational system.
“In Nigeria, weak political will exist to fully and effectively implement the Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 and other education policies. The recent security threats to schooling in the North East as well as other parts of Nigeria has contributed significantly to the low demand for and access to education especially for girls,” it said.
The UNICEF chief listed other factors responsible for increased number of out-of-school children as poverty, early marriage and poor learning outcomes.
According to him, poverty-related reasons are included as the most important determining factor regarding demand for education and why children are not in school.
“Parents and children from poor households struggle to meet the demands of direct and indirect costs of education. If parents had money, they would prioritise the education of their sons over daughters for socio-cultural reasons.
“In many parts of Nigeria, early marriage is still a common traditional practice, which negatively impacts on girls’ enrolment and retention in school. Some cultural practices and beliefs also keep children out of school and deny them the right to education,” the report added.