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UNICEF highlights Nigeria’s struggles in education development, faults alarming out-of-school rates

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A recent presentation by Abdurrahman Ibrahim Ado, an Education Specialist with UNICEF, has shed light on Nigeria’s ongoing challenges in improving educational outcomes, particularly in reducing the alarming rates of out-of-school children (OOSC) across the country.

During a two-day Regional Stakeholders Engagement Meeting on Out-of-School Children and Retention, Transition, and Completion Models in Bauchi, Gombe, and Adamawa states, held at the Emerald Hotel Hall in Gombe, Ado highlighted that Nigeria is failing to achieve significant progress in addressing educational deficiencies, despite urgent needs for improvement.

Ado revealed that 1 in 3 children in Nigeria is out of school, totaling more than 18 million children across primary and junior secondary levels alone. This figure accounts for over 15% of the global out-of-school children population and more than half of such children in the West and Central Africa region.

The education specialist emphasised that although the rate of out-of-school children is decreasing, it is not keeping pace with the country’s growing population.

He noted that while most out-of-school children at the primary level have never attended school, dropout rates become a major challenge at the junior and upper secondary levels.

In response to these alarming statistics, the Nigerian government and its partners have initiated various interventions aimed at improving educational access and quality. These include government- and donor-driven programs such as Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA), Alternate School Programs (ASP), Open Schooling Programs (OSP), and Opportunities to Learn (OTL).

Ado also highlighted specific initiatives like the Accelerated Basic Education Curriculum, which targets educational organization, curriculum design, and mainstream schooling, particularly focusing on nomadic, almajiri, and boy-child education.

Efforts have also been made to establish community learning hubs in collaboration with local civil society groups and development partners to enhance catch-up learning in literacy and numeracy, with lessons taught in local languages. Other initiatives include school feeding programmes, conditional cash transfers to vulnerable families, and the Female Teachers Trainee Scholarship Scheme aimed at creating role models within communities.

He stressed the importance of community engagement in identifying and addressing barriers to education, including poverty, cultural norms, and inadequate infrastructure. This involves community outreach programs, partnerships with civil society organizations (CSOs), parental involvement, mentoring, tutoring programs, cultural sensitivity, advocacy, and policy influence.

He also emphasised the need for evidence-based and equity-focused decision-making to implement targeted policies and interventions, particularly in regions with the highest concentration of out-of-school children, such as the North-East and North-West, which account for a significant proportion of OOSC in Nigeria.

The UNICEF education specialist urged for increased investment and innovative approaches to reach the most disadvantaged children, especially those in rural areas where the out-of-school rates are most pronounced.

He emphasised that addressing these challenges requires collaborative efforts and tailored interventions based on local needs to ensure that every child in Nigeria has access to quality education.

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