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UNICEF raises concerns over Nigeria’s education crisis

By Idowu Abdullahi

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has raised concerns over the worrisome level of education crisis in Nigeria, saying there was need for greater collaboration, increase and adequate funding to halt the trend across the country.

It explained that while the Federal Government pledge to increase Nigeria’s annual domestic education expenditure by 50 per cent over the next two years, and by 100 per cent by 2025 was a welcome idea, it was important the government walk the talk and make true its promises on the sector.

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, decried the 10.5 million children out of school in Nigeria, which he claimed, was the highest rate in the world. According to him, a full one-third of Nigerian children are not in school, and one in five out-of-school children in the world is Nigerian.

Through a statement to commemorate the International Day of Education on Monday, Hawkins while welcoming the government’s commitment through its budget on education, noted that there was 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,” Hawkins said.

According to him, 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.

“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 enroll into school, have access to continuous learning and ensure they emerge with quality skills that equip them for a prosperous future.”

“We need to especially ensure that girls have access to learning – so they can receive an education that will 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,” said Hawkins.

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