Reduce number of out-of-school children, UNICEF tells FG

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

UNICEF Country Representative to Nigeria, Mr Peter Hawkins said this when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria Forum, a special interview programme, in Abuja.

Hawkins identified poverty, proximity to school, and inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 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.

“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 also identified the menace of almajiri (pupils of non-formal Qur’anic schools) in parts of the country as one of the reasons for the increasing number of out-of-school children.

He added, “We know that the phenomenon of the almajiri in different parts of the country has perpetrated a vast number of out-of-school children; 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 by numeracy and literacy, to ensure that the child has it in the right environment.”

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On the conflicting figures of out-of-school children by UNICEF and the Federal Ministry of Education, Hawkins said the Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey put the out-of-school number at 10.2 million.

He said the figure was produced by the National Bureau of Statistics and other relevant agencies.

According to him, all the figures have been produced by the government; the MICS is by the NBS of Nigeria.

According to Hawkins, the most important issue to deal with is not the figures but the impact they would have on the children.

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