Education Ministry tackles UBEC, UNICEF over data on out-of-school children

THE Federal Ministry of Education has tackled the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for presenting 18.5 million as the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

The UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Kano, Rahama Farah, had recently quoted the data at a Media Dialogue on Girls’ Education under the Girls’ Education Project-3 (GEP3) in Kano State. 


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The data was from the 2018 National Personnel Audit by UBEC, the most recent information on out-of-school children in Nigeria.

With the data, Nigeria has the world’s highest number of out-of-school children.

UBEC is an agency under the Federal Ministry of Education which supervises basic education. It provides data on basic education for the government.

Basic education in Nigeria begins from primary one and terminates at Junior Secondary School Three (JSS 3), covering nine years.

Fictitious claim by Education Ministry

The ICIR reporter contacted Ben Bem Goong, the Director of Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry of Education, on the phone to confirm if the data was still valid.

2018 UBEC’s data on out-of-school children in Nigeria 2

Goong requested that the reporter see him in his office to compare figures.

In his office, Goong said the ministry’s data for out-of-school children was 6.9 million as of 2020, and not 18.5 million.

He said a UBEC official who quoted the figure at a meeting at the ministry was shut down.

“The Chief Executive of UBEC came here and made a presentation, quoted figures out of context (he paused as if changing his mind). Ok, not the Chief Executive, somebody sent here. There and then, I corrected him immediately, and his staff kept correcting him. Possibly, he was quoting from this kind of data.”

Quoting a portion of the 2020 Annual Ministerial Press Briefing read by the Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, he said: “We have reduced the figure of out-of-school children from 10.1 million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020.”

Goong quoted the figures from page 11 of a booklet containing the minister’s speech and other information on the state of the nation’s education.

A table on the page shows that the nation enrolled 1.05 million children in 17 states in 2019.

2018 UBEC’s data on out-of-school children in Nigeria 2

The government carried out the enrolment with the $611 million funding aid from the World Bank for school enrolment for children in Nigeria.

The Bank had pledged the fund in August 2018, and the government spoke about its release in February 2019.

Because the UBEC released its data of 18.5 million in 2019, and there is a gap of 11.6 million between the figure and what the ministry presented, the reporter requested Goong to provide document(s) to show that the country reduced its out-of-school children from 18.5 million in 2018 to 6.9 million in 2020. 

He failed to back the ministry’s claim with evidence, and the reporter told him that he would use the ministry and UBEC’s figures in his report.

Goong became furious and said the UBEC’s data quoted by UNICEF could not be more credible than the ministry’s.

He said: “UNICEF is a UN agency, based in Washington DC. We are giving you figures in Nigeria, and you’re telling me it’s not correct. Who is UNICEF? Where does UNICEF get its data from?”

The reporter said there could be a disparity in the data presented by UBEC and the ministry. He disagreed.

The reporter also told him that UN figures were usually credible and more widely used. He retorted by cursing the reporter. “You’re an embarrassment to this nation,” he said.

He also threatened to beat up the reporter.

The reporter, however, returned his curse. He then ordered the reporter out of his office.

Nigeria has a history of conflicting data on out-of-school children

Nigeria has paraded varying figures of its out-of-school children.



    File Photo: Some out-of-school children in Nigeria

    Preparatory to the conduct of its 2018 UBEC’s National Personnel Audit, the executive secretary of the commission, Hamid Bobboyi, had decried conflicting data on the issue in the country.

    “We keep running away from the reality. A lot of statistics are being bandied around, but let’s get something that can be relied on.”

    Through Goong, the ministry had also, in August 2021, disputed the result of research on out-of-school children.

    Meanwhile, the public relations officer with UBEC, Bitrus Madaki, confirmed to The ICIR that the 2018 National Personnel Audit was the most recent data on basic school education in Nigeria, including the out-of-school children population.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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