Nigerian officials question UNESCO data on country’s out-of-school children

Some government officials have questioned the latest global data on out-of-school children by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Officials of the federal and Lagos education ministries expressed the doubt at an event on Wednesday.

UNESCO in September announced that Nigeria now has about 20 million out-of-school children. It noted that there were 244 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 18 who are out of school globally.

According to the statistics, India, Nigeria and Pakistan have the highest figures for out-of-school children globally.

The government officials who spoke as panellists at the annual education summit organised by the Education Writers’ Association of Nigeria (EWAN) emphasised the need for an independent and accurate data collation system in the country rather than “depending on data from international agencies.”

The summit was tagged “Towards safe schools in Nigeria.”

Participants at the summit also discussed the violent attacks on schools by criminals and other forms of violent incidents in schools.

The Director of Senior Secondary Education, Federal Ministry of Education, Binta Abdulkadir, said the UNESCO figure is inaccurate because the federal government has been able to reduce the number of out-of-school children through the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA).

“The federal government has taken a number of steps that have greatly reduced the figure in recent times. BESDA is one of the steps and through it, we have got over four million children back to school in no fewer than 17 states of the federation,” she said.

BESDA is an intervention programme funded by the World Bank with the aim to increase equitable access for out-of-school children, improve literacy and strengthen accountability for results at the basic education level.

The Basic Education Commission had earlier stated that 17 states of the federation as of July 2022, received over N65 billion as intervention funds to combat the rising figure of out-of-school children between 2019 and 2021.

The states include all 13 states in the North-west and North-east geo-political zones, as well as Niger, Oyo, Ebonyi and Rivers states.

As of November 2021, the Federal Ministry of Education noted that about 924,590 of the previous figure of 10.2 million out-of-school children in Nigeria had been enrolled on the BESDA programme.

On his part, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Education, Tokunbo Wahab, also expressed doubt about the UNESCO figure. He urged reporters to query some of the data from international agencies before using them.

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