Religion, gender major factors for high rate of out-of-school-children in the North – UNICEF

Pernille urged parents in the region, who favour religious education over formal, to embrace both.

The North has the highest number of children out of school in Nigeria, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said.

An official of the organisation said Wednesday that Bauchi State has a whopping 1.1 million children who have no access to basic education, while Katsina has 781,500.

UNICEF’s Deputy Representative in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, said a ministerial strategic plan states that Nigeria has 10.5 million children aged 6-14, out of school.

“When we speak of out-of-sohool children, who are they? It is too easy to keep them nameless and faceless. The latest MlCS data tells us that 69 per cent of out-of-school children in Nigeria are in northern states,” Ms Pernille said, at a Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of-school Children held in Kaduna.

“These children are in your communities, on your streets, in the households, in your council area.

“Other sources say the number of out-of-school children is higher. But the focus is not the precise number, the focus should be on boys and girls in your communities who lose out on education, lose out of livelihoods, and lose out on hope and the future they can have for themselves, their families, their communities and their country. Nigeria loses out on a literate and skilled workforce it needs to grow economically.

“Nigeria needs to take leap to bring more children into education and into learning. Partnerships and collective actions are essential.

“This is the reason why we are here today at the Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of-School Children. Together we can take the quantum leap to give more children the opportunity to go to and stay in school,” she said.

She added that more than half of primary school aged girls are not in school in the North-east and North-west states of Nigeria.

Pernille said though there are several reasons millions of children are not in school, gender is one of the most important factors in the pattern of educational marginalisation.

She urged parents in the region, who favour religious education over formal, to embrace both.

“Children need both. They also have a right to learn to read and write, mathematics and develop the knowledge and skills that will enable them to be contributing citizens of Nigeria. One approach to address both needs is the integration of basic education subjects into Islamic centres, Quranic Islamiyya and Tsangaya to reach more children with basic education skills. Approximately 26 per cent of muslim children in northern Nigeria only attend Islamic education,” she said.

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