UNICEF Urges FG To Remove Barriers Creating Out-of-school Children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has advised the Nigerian government to address barriers responsible for the increasing number of out-of-school children in the country.

UNICEF’s Country Representative to Nigeria, Peter Hawkins said this in a special interview programme, in Abuja.

Hawkins identified poverty, proximity to school, and inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities, among others, as factors hindering retention in school and the completion of education in the country.

According to him, one of the biggest problems is the reduction of the number of schools from basic to post-basic level, especially for the girls.

“What you find is a village where the schools are full of girls and boys, and it is incredible, it is fantastic.

“But immediately they have to go to junior secondary education, you see a massive drop in enrollment and going to school.

“Because of security concerns, distance concerns, there’s poverty concern and so on and so forth…

 “Two: the issue of access to quality education. You see, it is in many communities, especially the rural communities. Can they afford to let the children go to school?

“Now, Nigeria is very good at its free education; basic education is free for all. But it is the transport to the school (that is an issue). When you get to the schools, there’s the uniform; whether it is the books and all of these unintended consequences that are all costs that are there.

“So, we need to find how to reduce those barriers, making the school closer to the villages is an obvious way.

“The third is that many rural communities don’t have the means to sustain their children,” he said.

The UNICEF official said many parents in rural areas have resolved to sending their children to towns with the hope that they would get better learning.

He also identified the menace of Almajiri (pupil of non-formal Qur’anic school) in parts of the country as one of the reasons for the increasing number of out-of-school children.

“And we know that the phenomenon of the Almajiri in different parts of the country has perpetrated a vast number of children who are out-of-school, who are learning, but not the full scope of the learning.

“Spiritual learning is fantastic, and we should encourage it. But it needs to be complemented with numeracy and literacy to ensure that the child has it in the right environment,” Hawkins said.

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