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THE federal government has said it reduced the number of out-of-school-children in Nigeria by 31 percent in 2020.
The number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, which was 10.1 million in 2019, reduced to 6.946 million in 2020, according to Adamu Adamu, minister of education. Going by Adamu’s figure, this represents a 31.18 percent decrease over one year.
The reduction in the number of out-of-school children in 2020, as stated by the federal government, occurred in spite of the fact that schools across the country, at the local, state and federal levels, were shutdown for most of the year (2020) due to lockdowns occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.
Academic activities were suspended and schools were closed when the country started going into lockdown, starting with Lagos and Abuja at the end of March 2020.
Schools eventually reopened towards the end of the year, from September, when the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) gave the nod to school administrators and state governments to resume academic activities.
However, despite the disruption in the education sector for most of 2020, Adamu said the government was able to reduce the number of out-of-school-children in the country during the year.
Adamu, who announced the development on January 21, at a ministerial press briefing organised to showcase the achievements of the Ministry of Education in 2020, claimed that, during the year in focus, 3.247 million children who were hitherto not in school were enrolled.
The minister said the enrolment was as a result of several activities undertaken by the ministry.
The improved enrolment was also boosted by a $611,000 World Bank credit facility secured by the federal government, under the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) initiative to strengthen Universal Basic Education(UBE) in 17 states, in line with the Ministerial-Strategic-Plan on Out-of-school-children.
Noting that impressive school enrolment figures have been recorded in the states where the BESDA is being implemented, Adamu said, “I can tell you that through the BESDA initiative, we have reduced the figure of out-of-school-children by 3.247 million as at 31st December 2020.”
The additional 3.247 million enrolment, the minister further claimed, was made up of 1.792 million enrolled in formal schools, and another 1.454 million that were enrolled through non-formal interventions such as the Almajiri programme, girl-child nomadic education and internally displaced persons camps.
The figures, according to him, were confirmed by the National Population Commission and the National Bureau of Statistics.
Adamu added the National Association of Proprietors and School Owners of Nigeria (NAPSON) contributed to the enrolment of over one million out-of-school-children in 2020 with each private school sponsoring five students.
A breakdown of the total enrolment of 3.247 million for the concerned states, where the BESDA initiative was implemented, shows states involved as Adamawa, 25,714; Bauchi, 83,391; Borno, 62,336; Ebonyi, 65,471; Gombe, 52, 600; Jigawa, 47, 616; Kaduna, 39,091; Kano, 302,434, and Katsina 26,555.
Others were Kebbi, 25, 556; Niger, 73,568; Oyo, 40,007; Rivers, 22,782; Sokoto, 71,000; Taraba, 24, 246; Yobe 72,000; and Zamfara, 19,005.
Adamu said the federal government intended to enroll even more out-of-school-children in 2021.
Already schools have resumed in many states across the country and the minister revealed that another 500 million dollar credit facility obtained from the World Bank to drive the Adolescent Girls Learning and Empowerment (AGILE) programme would ensure that many girls were taken off the streets, trained and empowered.
In addition to reducing the number of out-of-school-children in the country in 2020, Adamu further claimed that, despite the lockdown, the government was able to reach and train millions of adult, non-literate Nigerians on basic literacy and numeracy across 14 states.
The training, according to the minister, resulted in 900,000 Nigerians being ‘taken off the shelf of adult illiterates’ in 2020, despite the lockdown.
Odera Nwizu, a school proprietor in Lagos, said the minister might have mistaken the number of pupils enrolled in these programmes as the number actively participating.
“It is possible that pupils were enrolled before or during the lockdown, but many of them would not have started school after the lockdown. So, it is a poor metric to use enrollment to determine outcomes. People get names from anywhere and submit as long as money is involved, but how many of those names are genuine? How many of those pupils started school eventually? Was there any effort made to track those who actually attended school in September after the lockdown?” he asked.
Emmanuel Ekuma, an education analyst, urged Nigerians to focus more on human development than statistics.
“I believe in numbers, being a mathematician myself, but we can do better as a country if we focus on delivering results than reducing ugly statistics we do not like. If we want a fair assessment of our work, then we must involve local and international stakeholders to do an independent assessment,” he noted.
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