Alhaji Muntaka Muktar, Field officer, United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), has said that more than 30 per cent of children that should be in school in six states of the north-west are not in the classes.
Muktar spoke on Tuesday in Kano at a Media Dialogue on School-based management committees organised by UNICEF.
He listed the states to include Niger, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi, leaving out Kaduna, one of the states in that geo-political zone.
“Primary education is officially free and compulsory, but the reality is different. Nationwide, about 10.5 million of the country’s children, aged 5-14, are not in school.
“Our records show that only 61 per cent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school, while only 35.6 per cent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.”
Muktar explained that states in the north-east and north-west had a female primary net attendance rate of 47.7 per cent and 47.3 per cent respectively, meaning that more than half of the girls are not in school.
He blamed the education deprivation in northern Nigeria on economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage formal education, especially for girls.
The UN official said that UNICEF had consistently campaigned against situations that deny children the right to education, and regretted that most government-funded schools had practically collapsed over the years because of poor funding.
“Because the public schools have collapsed, children from poor homes with nowhere to go are left on the streets,” he said.
He said that UNICEF’s interventions had gone beyond providing funds and other interventions to providing technical support and the improvement of the capacity of implementing partners in ministries, departments and agencies.
The field officer advised the state governments to tap from UNICEF’s available expertise in different areas affecting the growth, protection and development of children, urging policymakers to come up with a child protection intervention for implementation.
“UNICEF has deployed child protection specialists to the state to assist in that regard; government must take full advantage of that,” he said.