LATEST data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shows that Nigeria now has 20.2 million out-of-school children.
The figure is three times the figure (6.9 million) which the Nigerian government claimed as the number of out-of-school children in the country as of May this year.
On Thursday, UNESCO released a new set of data on out-of-school children worldwide, with Nigeria having the highest number.
From the data, 244 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 18 worldwide are out of school.
“Important data gaps have been filled in countries that have large out-of-school numbers but where no administrative data of good quality has been available for over a decade, such as Nigeria, which has an estimated 20.2 million children and youth out of school, Ethiopia (10.5 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (5.9 million) and Kenya (1.8 million),” UNESCO noted.
UNESCO released the data sequel to the resumption of pupils in schools for a new session this month in most countries.
The organisation expressed worry about the number of out-of-school children and its impacts on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, among which is Goal Four – quality education for all by 2030.
In May, The ICIR reporter contacted the Director of Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Bem Goong, to confirm if the number of out-of-school children in the 2018 National Personnel Audit by UBEC was still valid.
The 2018 National Personnel Audit had the most recent information on out-of-school children in Nigeria.
But government officials had dished out different figures, prompting the need to confirm the accurate data from Goong.
Goong invited the reporter to his office after a telephone call.
In his office, he repeatedly claimed there were only 6.9 million out-of-school children in the country as of 2020, not 18.5 million as stated in the National Personnel Audit report.
He also quoted from page 11 of a booklet containing the 2020 Annual Ministerial Press Briefing by the Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, stating, “We have reduced the figure of out-of-school children from 10.1 million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020.”
When the reporter argued that a UNICEF official quoted 18.5 million a day earlier, Goong got angry and labelled the reporter an unpatriotic citizen who believed in global agencies’ data rather than those provided by the Nigerian government.
He cursed the reporter and ordered him out of his office. The reporter, however, returned the curse.
The ICIR reports that insecurity has contributed to out-of-school children in Nigeria, as the country contributes 8.3 per cent of the problem globally, as contained in UNESCO’s latest data.
Insecurity has deteriorated in the country, with the North-West, North-East, North-Central and South-East recording huge tolls of the crisis in the past decade.
In January, The ICIR reported that parents withdrew their children from Kaduna and Niger schools because of the crisis.