According to UNICEF, the rate of out-of-school children in Nigeria accounts for one-five of the world out-of-school and 45 per cent of the total out-of-school children in West Africa. For a nation regarded as the continent’s giant and largest Economy, the figures are as deplorable as the government’s disposition in curtailing the scourge.
With the causes having many facets, the approach to solving it should equally be multipronged. Hence, Nigeria’s out-of-school children are grouped into three:
The first group refers to children who have never been to school, majorly constituted by nomadic populations. The significant causes of inadequate enrollment of nomadic people are rooted in cultural and economic factors beyond the scope of the government’s education policy. An instance is the culture of migration among this population, which has made the conventional school system not suitable for their lifestyles.
Another set of out-of-school in Nigeria are children enrolled in Almajiri schools whose population is about five million. Even though this is controversial as the system was basically to teach Quranic and Arabic literacy among children and youths in northern Nigeria. While the students may not be categorically regarded as out-of-school children, the system has been abused due to high poverty rate with preference to large families and low government interventions.
The last group of out-of-school children are the dropouts whose reasons include insufficient funds to cover minor school expenses by parents. Even though the government claimed to cover all fees. The lack of maintenance and inadequate funding have forced many school administrators to task parents. Another reason for incessant dropouts in recent time is insecurity, especially in the northern part of the country.
With this growing problem, there’s a need for multifaceted policies to cover the social and economic aspect of the problem. However, beyond the monetary interventions, the government should explore a crosscutting approach towards reducing the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. The following are therefore recommended:
Government should show commitment to overhauling the nation’s educational sector, coupled with recruitment of teachers to meet the standards of the number of teacher per students. A working educational system will go a long way in encouraging parents to enrol their children into schools.
Government should also intensify efforts against Insecurity which is ravaging different parts of the country. Bandits and Boko Haram terrorists have grown to be a seemingly insurmountable threat to education in the nation’s northern regions.
Government should provide support to the most vulnerable families, including the nomadic populations. Many families find it challenging to support their children’s education and instead enrol them in the labour force to make a living. Comprehensive poverty alleviation interventions are necessary to reduce the pressure on families to monetise their children Labour.
Also, harnessing synergies among the sustainable development goals is also significant. Hence, the education sector reform alone is not enough to achieve sustainable quality basic education for children. Other aspects, including the citizens’ reorientation, poverty alleviation and security of lives and properties, should be taken care of.