How terrifying are UNICEF’s 20 million Nigerian out-of-school children

It is widely recognized that primary education is the foundation of individual and national development. The skills learned at that level form the foundation upon which the capacity for future economic productivity is built.

Primary education encompasses the first six years of Nigeria’s nine-year primary education program which aims to provide every child living in Nigeria with an adequate foundation for a successful and productive life.

The nine-year primary education curriculum comprises 10 subjects: Mathematics; Basic science and technology; English studies; Religion and National Values; Cultural and creative arts; business studies; Nigerian languages; VMBO studies; French and Arabic.

In addition to these technical skills, primary education is also an essential part of the socialization structure that aims to instill in children the socially acceptable norms, beliefs, values ​​and behaviors with which they are expected to conform for successful integration into society.

This means that when children are deprived of quality primary education, they risk having a damaged foundation that exposes them to the possibility of lifelong technical and social incompetence that hinders their chances of adequate integration into the family, the workplace and society. as a whole, and if a significant proportion of a society’s children do not receive a proper primary education, society itself is likely to end up paying high social and economic costs.

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With this in mind, it becomes easier to understand the importance of the statistic that says that 20 percent of the world’s out-of-school children are in Nigeria. Primary education in Nigeria is compulsory and officially free in public schools, but UNICEF data says nearly 20 million Nigerian children between the ages of five and 14 are out of school. These numbers get even scarier when you factor in data from the NBS’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. 61 percent of 6-11 year olds attend primary school regularly and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive pre-school education.

Regional breakdowns of pre-school enrollment and school attendance provide a clearer picture of the issue. The northern part of the country has very disturbing school attendance rates with states like Bornu, Bauchi, Sokoto, Gombe and others with extracurricular rates ranging between 48-60 percent and early school enrollment rates that were in the 3rd year. -7 percent.

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Out-of-school care in the regions outside the North was much better, with single-digit percentages being the norm, but poor early enrollment is a cause for concern as it indicates that the primary education process has not started on time by most children in the country and it becomes worrying when we look at the actual quality of primary education being offered. Worryingly, the Southeast had low early enrollment rates that were in the range of 6-12 percent, with Anambra state having markedly poor grades with more than 20 percent not attending school, in part due to the uncertainty associated with the situation of the indigenous population of Biafra while Ebonyi showed growth with an early enrollment rate of 20 percent, the highest in the country.

The extracurricular rates for female children in the northern core regions were deeply disturbing as they showed that nearly 60 percent of girls in those areas are out of school and are being deprived of the education that would provide them with the necessary tools for optimal socioeconomic performance. Hopefully, the uncertainty and cultural barriers that prevent the girl from attending school will soon be removed.

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The socializing role of primary education deserves to be better valued and significantly improved in Nigeria, especially in the problem areas where locals indulge in antisocial and destructive behavior that exists in part because people were not adequately conditioned through an effective socialization process that would otherwise have been. made available by a good primary education system.

  • Cheta Nwanze is a partner at SBM Intelligence

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