SBM Intelligence’s out-of-school kids report
While a lot is being said about tertiary education in Nigeria, issues about basic education, especially primary school education, have not taken centre stage. For months, the major conversations around education in Nigeria have been about the Academic Staff Union of Universities; their demands, rights and responsibilities. However, there has hardly been any nationwide conversation of such magnitude about basic education in Nigeria and the attendant effects of the lack thereof.
It has been discovered that many Nigerian children lack quality basic education which is the foundation of individual and national development. This is reflected by the 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics and published in August 2022 which was reported by an SBM Intelligence chart. According to the survey, it was seen that only 26.8% of children between ages 7 – 14 in Nigeria could read functionally in any language and only 25.4% could carry out basic arithmetic. UNICEF data also revealed that about 20 million Nigerian children between the ages of 5-14 years are out of school.
Many factors have contributed to this. One of such is that many Nigerians, especially in the North, no longer find it safe to send their children to school. Starting from the mass abduction of school children in Borno State’s Chibok in 2014, many more incidents have occurred where school children have been kidnapped en masse. This has led to many parents withdrawing their children from school while many schools have been closed down on different occasions due to the threat of insecurity or actual experience of insecurity.
According to a report by SBM Intelligence in 2021, at least 1409 students have been kidnapped from their schools in Nigeria since the first incident in the country’s latest school abduction epidemic which started in March 2020. In the 19 incidents up until the latest mass abduction in Zamfara State, 17 teachers have also been kidnapped alongside their students, and at least ₦220 million has been paid out as ransoms.
Unfortunately, 16 of the victims of these incidents have died. The report further gave a breakdown of those who were killed. While 9 were killed in Kaduna, 3 died in Niger, 3 in Zamfara and 1 in Kebbi state. A breakdown of the most affected states showed that the North-Western states were mostly affected alongside Niger, a North Central state. 440 students were kidnapped in Katsina, 419 in Zamfara, 236 in Niger, 209 in Kaduna and 105 in Kebbi states.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) also stated that a total of 11,536 schools were closed since December 2020 due to abductions and security issues and added that these school closures have impacted the education of approximately 1.3 million children in the 2020/21 academic years. The picture is so grim when one considers a report by SBM Intelligence which stated that a total of 621 schools were closed down in the North in March 2021 alone. These closures were a result of violence and the kidnapping of students from boarding schools in the region.
Bearing these in mind, it is easier to grasp the reasons Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) in the world. In a report of OOSC per state by SBM Intelligence published in August 2021, Bauchi had the highest number of OOSC children which stood at 1,239,759 while Edo had the lowest number of OOSC at 79,446.
A regional breakdown of the out-of-school-children numbers showed that the North West had the highest number of OOSC which stood at 4,479,311, North-East followed with 3,301,566 OOSC while the North Central had 1,756,689 OOSC. Down south, the South-West zone had 1,324,887 OOSC, the South-South numbers stood at 879,762 while the South East zone had the lowest OOSC at 571,961.
Put together, the North had 9,537,566 OOSC. The consequences of OOSC in the North are evident. The region has been paying the social price of a decade-long insurgency and these OOSC numbers further provide a ready pool that terrorists can draw from. On a macro level, these OOSC cannot contribute meaningfully to the country’s economy at large.
Different policies have been made to tackle the OOSC problem. The most recent of them is the Accelerated Basic Education Programme (ABEP) – an abridged system aimed at providing alternative educational programmes for school-age children who had had their education disrupted or never even begun to start with. It runs in an accelerated timeframe that provides pathways to mainstreaming learners into relevant levels of schooling based on proper profiling.
There is no better time than now for this and other similar policies to be implemented so as to keep these numbers in check and make basic education affordable for all; in terms of price and safety.