Concerns Over Northern Nigeria’s Out-of-School Children

The Minister of State for Education, Yusuf Sununu, has lamented the growing number of out-of-school children (OOSC) in northern Nigeria, deeming it “unacceptable” and “disheartening.”

Speaking on Monday at the Bauchi State 2023 Education Summit at Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar Hajj Camp in Bauchi, Sununu stated that there was an urgent need for concerted efforts to address and reverse the troubling trend.

“The rising figure of out-of-school children in Nigeria and most particularly in the northern part of Nigeria is not only unacceptable but disheartening.

“There must be concerted efforts to address and reverse the trend of this time-bomb phenomenon. At the federal level, the newly established National Commission for Almajiri and Out-of-Schoo Children is set to commence activities.

“The Commission will address issues and develop mechanisms for the integration of Tsanga/Madarasa schools to be integrated into basic education”, he said.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in three children in Nigeria is out of school, totalling 10.2 million at the primary level and 8.1 million at the junior secondary school (JSS) level.

The UN education body also indicated that 12.4 million children have never attended school, and 5.9 million left school prematurely, contributing to Nigeria’s out-of-school population, which accounts for 15% of the global total.

Acknowledging the sector’s enormous challenges, Sununu stressed the need for collective efforts by all stakeholders to combat the issues, including out-of-school children syndrome, poor teacher quality, inadequate learning environments, gender inequality, and discrimination.

“It is pertinent to mention at this juncture that the challenges in the education sector are enormous, but we are all equal to the task.

“Collective efforts by all stakeholders will defeat the challenges of out-of-school children syndrome; poor teacher quality, unconducive teaching, and learning environment; gender inequality and discrimination; poor data generation, utilization and management issues, inadequate infrastructure in our schools and the inclusion of Nigeria on the list of world learning poverty countries”, he said.

Research on Improving Systems Of Education (RISE) revealed that despite compulsory free basic education, around 10.5 million children aged 5 to 14 years are out of school in Nigeria.

It added that approximately 50 per cent of these children reside in the northern region, heavily impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Highlighting the pivotal role of education in sustainable development, Sununu said that education served as the key to a better future, fostering responsible citizenship and national development.

“Education is the key to sustainable development and essential for unlocking a better future for all children.

“It is the foundation on which they can build their lives and contribute to the development of their state and society”, he added.

Sununu maintained there was a need to strengthen the education system to produce patriotic citizens with broad knowledge, good character, and competitive skills on the global stage.

“Our education system must be strengthened to produce patriotic citizens with broad knowledge, good character, and competence in skills to compete and fit into the global space”, he said.