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Improving chances for young people in Nigeria through education

Nigeria has the largest number of primary-aged children out of school, over 10 million of them in 2010, and accounts for one in six of the world’s out-of-school children.

There is also concern about the number of older children dropping out of education, as the country struggles to cater for its growing number of secondary school pupils; over half of Nigeria’s population is under 25.

In 2010, the lower secondary enrolment ratio in Nigeria was just 47% (according to UNESCO data), a similar ratio to poorer countries such as Ethiopia (and much lower than other West African nations such as Ghana, where 83% of children were enrolled in lower secondary in 2010). The high proportion of children finishing their education early in Nigeria helps explain why the number of illiterate adults has increased by more than 10 million over the past two decades.

In recognition of the problem, the Nigerian government announced an initiative in 2012 to revitalise adult and youth literacy programmes. The aim is to educate up to 5 million illiterate adults over the next three years. The government is also encouraging increasing participation from industry in the education sector.

In a special report on its news website, one of the BBC’s reporters visited a school in Nigeria which was recently in an extremely dilapidated state. A large company helped pay for the school buildings to be renovated, as part of the government’s efforts to get businesses involved in education. The CEO of the company which helped the school affirmed that he didn’t think it was “inappropriate” for businesses to help, since the state sector has such a “massive task on its hands” to improve education and meet Millennium Development Goal targets. Education already receives the second largest allocation of spending from Nigeria’s budget. But many believe that Nigeria needs the involvement of all parts of society – including the public and private enterprises – to help meet development goals.

In further education, links between the commercial sector and places of learning are being fostered. Universities like the Pan-African University in Lagos already benefit from a large number of commercial sponsorships. One of the professors at the academy says such links are vital to create a synergy between business and education and ensure youngsters have the skills and knowledge which private enterprises are looking for. In a tough job market, any initiative which improves the quality of education young people receive and their chances of finding work, has to be encouraged.

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