Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, has observed that of the 10.5 million children aged between 6 – 14 and out of school in Nigeria, 69 per cent are in northern part of the country.
She noted that Bauchi State has the highest number of out-of-school children of 1.1 million and Katsina comes in second with 781,500 children out of school.
Speaking in Kaduna on Wednesday at the Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of-School Children, she observed that many parents in northern Nigeria prefer Islamic education over formal education, but they are not mutually exclusive, adding that children need both.
She explained, “They (children) also have a right to learn to read and write, learn mathematics, and develop the knowledge and skills that will enable them to be contributing citizens of Nigeria.
“One approach to address both needs is the integration of basic education subjects into Islamic centres: Qur’anic, Islamiyya and Tsangaya to reach more children with basic education skills. Approximately, 26 % of Muslim children in northern Nigeria only attend Islamic education.”
She recalled that in 1999, Nigeria took a bold step by declaring its commitment to provide free basic education for all children, stressing that this commitment was followed by the establishment of the Universal Basic Education Commission in 2004 to enable the Government to fulfil its commitment to provide free basic education for all children.
UNICEF deputy representative said, “While these are commendable actions towards guaranteeing the right to education for all Nigerian children, we at UNICEF are concerned about the slow progress.”
She lamented that the out of school children lose out on hope and the future they can have for themselves, their families, their communities and their country.
“Nigeria loses out on a literate and skilled workforce it needs to grow economically. Nigeria needs to bring more children into education and into learning Partnerships and collective actions are essential,” Ironside explained.
She added, “UNICEF recognizes the importance of the Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of-School.”
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