Despite this achievement, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is warning that the millennium goal to have all children in primary education by 2015 will fall short “by a large margin”. In its 2012 global monitoring report, ‘Youth and skills: Putting education to work’, the organisation reports that progress has slowed down rapidly. This means the 10% of children still not in primary school face bleak prospects for an education.
Half of these out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa and in countries like Nigeria, the number is actually rising. Nigeria now has the largest number of primary-aged children out of school, an estimated 10.5 million of them. This represents a rise of 3.6 million children since 2000.
The Nigerian government is committed to universal primary education, but the country is struggling to cater for the rapidly growing number of the young. And with high levels of poverty, deep inequalities remain, with children from well-off families many times more likely to attend school than those from poor households. Poor families are often unable to afford the extra costs of schooling, such as uniforms and books.
The UNESCO report says that countries with high levels of out-of-school children, such as Nigeria, need a “targeted approach for those groups still missing out”. When children don’t receive an education, it isn’t only individuals who lack opportunities in life. A country’s wider economy also suffers when the young don’t have the necessary skills for employment. And in a country like Nigeria, which has a large young population, the combination of a difficult jobs market and poor education, can be a social tinder-box.
Commenting on the new report in The Guardian, the head of education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said there was no inevitable link between poverty and poor performance in education. He also highlighted the fact that countries with great wealth in natural resources are often the ones falling behind in education. The UNESCO report also makes it clear that if a fraction of the oil and mineral wealth were spent on education and was not lost to “mismanagement”, the target for universal primary education could be easily achieved.
For more information on education in Nigeria, go to http://www.our-africa.org/nigeria/education-jobs