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Northern Nigeria: Addressing UNICEF-reported 4m dropout crisis

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently unveiled a disconcerting revelation that underscores the grave challenges plaguing the education sector in Nigeria.

This report sheds light on the dire predicament faced by approximately 4 million Nigerian children, spanning Primary 1 to Junior Secondary School 3, who are compelled to abandon their educational pursuits annually due to the deplorable state of education in the country.

This opinion article delves into the multifaceted nature of this issue, shedding light on the escalating crisis of poor education quality in Northern Nigeria and the role of UNICEF’s interventions to counteract the concerning dropouts.

The Educational Landscape in Nigeria

The current report serves as a wake-up call to the deteriorating condition of the education system in Nigeria, a country that stands as a beacon for other African nations.

The findings emphasise the stark reality that a staggering 1.6 million children remain out-of-school in the North-East region alone. Moreover, a distressing revelation emerges, as it is stated that a significant 70 percent of Nigerian children lack the foundational skills of reading comprehension and basic arithmetic proficiency.

This disconcerting statistic challenges previous assertions that substantial governmental expenditures had been directed towards diminishing the number of out-of-school children within the nation.

Lack of Qualified Educators

A noteworthy aspect of this report is the glaring inadequacy of qualified educators, particularly in the North-Eastern region of the country.

According to Tribune Online, UNICEF’s Chief of Field Office in North-East Nigeria, Phuong T. Nguyen, stated that one-third of teachers in this region lack the essential qualifications to instruct effectively.

Recognising the severity of this issue, UNICEF has undertaken the responsibility of training over 1,200 teachers, imparting the necessary skills to enable them to competently instruct in schools situated in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states.

“We have done enough assessments to realise that from baseline to the midline, we have really increased over 55 per cent of children are able to read and write in addition to solving simple mathematics problems, with that in mind, we are ready to scale up.”

“We want to use all opportunities working with the state ministry of education, with national and local NGOs, with communities to scale up more widely, we have the materials and we are able to share that widely with any government, with any community, with any NGO to scale up across the border,” Tribune quoted Nguyen as said.

This development raises pressing questions about the role and efficacy of traditional teacher training programmes in the country’s higher institutions of learning.

The Role of UNICEF

The report brings into focus the role of UNICEF in addressing the educational crisis in Nigeria. The organisation’s proactive measures to bridge the gap in teacher qualification by conducting specialised training initiatives highlight a stark contrast with the inadequate educational provisions within the nation.

This role reversal, wherein UNICEF assumes the role of equipping educators, underscores a concerning trend where established avenues for teacher training are faltering.

Consequences and Way Forward

The enormity of the out-of-school children statistic, particularly in the northern regions plagued by security concerns, demands a comprehensive response from both federal and state governments.

The report emphasises the urgent need for concerted efforts to prevent these vulnerable children from becoming recruits for extremist groups and a liability to society.

Addressing this crisis necessitates initiatives that extend beyond training educators. A holistic approach that involves educational reforms, increased investment in schools, and widespread teacher qualification programmes is vital.


The UNICEF-reported 4 million dropout crisis in Northern Nigeria is a poignant reminder of the woeful state of education in the nation. This revelation serves as a clarion call for governmental entities to prioritise the revitalisation of the education sector.

By heeding the imperative to provide quality education, invest in skilled educators, and implement comprehensive reforms, Nigeria can pave the way for a brighter future for its children and mitigate the looming societal challenges posed by an inadequately educated populace.

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