The United Nations Children Fund says Nigeria is losing out on a literate and skilled workforce it needs to grow economically due to a huge number of out-of-school children.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the Deputy Representative, UNICEF Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, stated this on Wednesday in Kaduna, at the opening of a two-day Northern Nigeria Traditional Leaders Conference on Out-of-School Children.
The conference was organised by the Federal Ministry of Education, Universal Basic Education Commission, National Commission for Mass Education and Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development in collaboration with UNICEF.
Ironside said that the Federal Ministry of Education and other government records put the figure of out-of-school children aged between six and 14 at 10.5 million.
“Other sources say the number of out-of-school children is higher, but the focus should not be on the precise number, but on boys and girls in communities who lose out on education and better livelihood.
“The affected children lose out on hope and the future they can have for themselves, their families, their communities and their country.
“Nigeria needs to leapfrog to bring more children into education and into learning through partnerships and collective actions.
“This is why we are here today, so that together we can take the quantum leap to give more children the opportunity to go to and stay in school,” she said.
The UNICEF official noted that more than half of primary school-age girls in the North-East and North-West states of Nigeria were not in school.
“The latest Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey says 69 per cent of out-of-school children in Nigeria are in northern states with Bauchi State at the top with 1.1 million.
“Katsina State is second with 781,500 out-of-school children. These children are in your communities, on your streets, in the households in your council areas,” she added.
Earlier, the UBEC Executive Secretary, Dr Hamid Bobboyi, described the menace of out-of-school children in the North as a catastrophe to the development and survival of the region.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Dr Sa’ad Abububakar III, said children education was the foundation for economic growth and development of any society.