The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, has put the current number of out-of-school children in the country at 10 million.
This implies an increase of 3,054,000 from the 6.946 million the figure was last year.
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The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had, earlier this January, said the number of out-of-school children which was 10.1 million in 2019 had reduced to 6.946 million in 2020.
But at the official flagging off of the World Bank-sponsored Better Education Service for All (BEDSA) in Dutse, Jigawa State, Nwajiuba said: “With an estimated 10,193,918 children out-of-school, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Nwajiuba did not mention the factors responsible for increase in the figure, but said for Nigeria to address these challenges adequately, it must strengthen the quality of basic education by confronting head-on those factors denying children access to basic education.
The minister said Jigawa State was one of the worst hit.
He said the flag-off of the programme in Jigawa was in appreciation of the efforts of the state government towards reviving the ailing sector.
He said apart from Jigawa, 16 other states, including all the states in the northwest and northeast as well as Niger, Rivers, Oyo and Ebonyi States, would also benefit from the intervention to help reduce the number of out-of-school children.
He the selection of the states to benefit from the project was based on the number of out-of-school children there while describing Jigawa as one of the worst-hit by ranking.
The minister described the current figure of out-of-school children as disturbing, imploring state governments and other stakeholders to join the Federal Government in addressing the issue “since it affects the development of the country.”
Jigawa State Governor Muhammad Badaru Abubakar said to address the issue of poor enrolment of children and others, his government recruited 1,393 teachers in 2018.
The spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Goong, did not respond to Daily Trust’s inquiry on what led to the increase in the number of out-of-school children in the country.
An educationist, Michael Ojunugwa, however, attributed the situation to the recent abductions of students and teachers in some states in the north.
“If nothing is done to tackle abduction, it’ll get to a point where education will no longer take place in the north as no parents will allow their child to go and suffer in the hands of insurgents or bandits just to be educated,” he said.
A social commentator, Suleiman Eshiotsekhai, said: “The UNICEF figure in the past years indicated about 11 million out-of-school children in Nigeria. It’ll be a nice idea to hear more clarification from the minister.”