The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, disclosed this in a statement while commemorating the International Day of Education.
Hawkins commended the Nigerian government for the pledge to increase the annual domestic education expenditure in the country by 50 per cent over the next two years, and by 100 per cent by 2025.
He noted that millions of Nigerian children have never set foot in a classroom as he lamented the crisis in the education sector amid COVID-19 concerns.
The statement read in part, “In Nigeria’s N17tn 2022 budget signed into law, 7.2 per cent is allocated to the education sector. This is a step forward – an increase from 5.7 per cent allocated for 2021 – though there is still a long way to go to reach the internationally recommended benchmark that countries spend 15-20 per cent of their national budgets on education.
“The Nigerian Government has committed to increasing funding for education, which is a very important step – far too many Nigerian children today are not in the classroom – and for those who are, far too many are not getting a solid education that can translate into good prospects for their futures.”
“10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria, which is the highest rate in the world. The figure indicates that one-third of Nigerian children are not in school, and one in five out-of-school children in the world are a Nigerian,” he said.
According to UNICEF, while the education crisis in Nigeria is affecting children across the country, some children are more likely to be affected than others:: girls, children with disabilities, children from the poorest households, in street situations, or affected by displacement or emergencies, and children in geographically distant areas are all disproportionately affected by the education crisis.
The statement reads further, “Millions of Nigerian children have never set foot in a classroom – and this is a travesty. Perhaps, equally tragic is the high number of children who make it into a classroom, but never make the transition from primary school to secondary school – thereby cutting off their chances for a secure future.
“It is estimated that 35 per cent of Nigerian children who attend primary school do not go on to attend secondary school. Half of all Nigerian children did not attend secondary school in 2021. As we celebrate the International Day of Education today amid concerns in much of the world about the impact of COVID-19 on education, we must take a close look at what is happening to our children in Nigeria, and the opportunities they are missing out on when they lack education.
“We need to look towards communities – leaders, parents, teachers and caregivers – and together, find the best strategies to ensure that all children enrol into school, have access to continuous learning and ensure they emerge with quality skills that equip them for a prosperous future,” UNICEF said.
Hawkins stated that there was a need to ensure that girls have access to learning to enable them to receive an education that would begin to address issues of gender inequality.
“All girls have much to offer to find solutions to Nigeria’s challenges – and we have to nurture their creativity and innovation. We also need to ensure that children are safe when they are in school – no child should be afraid to enter a classroom – afraid their school might be attacked or that they will be kidnapped. And no parent should fear sending their children to school.
“In 2021, there were 25 attacks on schools. 1,440 children were abducted, and 16 children killed. In March 2021, no fewer than 618 schools were closed in six northern states (Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Niger, and Yobe) over the fear of attack and abduction of pupils and members of staff. The closure of schools in these states significantly contributed to learning losses for over two months,” he added.
Hawkins stated that Nigeria’s education system could be transformed through adequate funding to ensure safety in schools, the application of gender-responsive policies, including recruitment of female teachers and improved facilities for girls; the creation of multiple and flexible learning pathways for students, such as digital and transferable skills learning; the integration of foundational numeracy and literacy in Qur’anic schools; and teacher training in the latest methodologies.
“All Nigerian children deserve a fighting chance – no matter who they are or where they are. And this must include education. It is not only their right – it is the smartest and best way to secure the future of Nigeria as a whole,” he added.