Abuja, Nigeria. January 28th, 2020 – The International Day of Education was observed on 24th January 2020, a day announced by the United Nations General Assembly to honour education and its centrality to human well-being and sustainable development. Education offers children a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future. According to report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), about 258 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school. Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.
In commemoration of the 2020 International Day of Education, NOIPolls reflects on findings from its past survey on Education in Nigeria conducted in 2017. The survey, which highlighted the perception of Nigerians regarding children out of school, revealed that the rate of children dropping out of basic education is high – 15 percent of poll respondents had children in their households drop out of school during the preceding 12 months. Furthermore, the drop-out rates are higher in rural (17 percent) than urban areas (14 percent) and in the North-Central (23 percent) and North-East (24 percent) zones than elsewhere in the country.
The reason for school dropout is dominantly financial (73 percent), followed by other factors including Motivation (7 percent), Occupation (7 percent), Early Marriage (5 percent), Lack of Schools in Community (4 percent) and Insecurity (1 percent). With regard to girl-child education, the most important factors militating against girl child education which include; poverty (35 percent), culture and tradition (18 percent), parental literacy (17percent), child marriage (11percent), gender discrimination (10 percent) and religion (7 percent). Also, the poll indicated that lack of schools, insecurity and to a more limited extent early marriage inhibit continuation in school and completion of basic education in the North than in the South. Lack of personal motivation is more important in the South, particularly in the South-East zone.
The chart below shows the rate of children dropping out of basic education is still high as 15 percent of poll respondents had children in their households drop out of school during the preceding 12 months, and these increase by age of respondents (18 – 35 years (14 percent); 36 – 60 years (17 percent); above 60 years of (25 percent)). The drop-out rates are higher in rural (17 percent) than urban areas (14 percent) and in the North-Central (23 percent) and North-East (24 percent) zones than any other region in the country.
The reasons for dropping out of school are dominantly financial (73 percent) than other factors including motivation (7 percent), occupation (7 percent), early marriage (5 percent), lack of schools in the community (4 percent) and insecurity (1 percent). Lack of schools, insecurity and to a more limited extent early marriage inhibit continuation in school and completion of basic education in the North than in the South. Lack of personal motivation is more important in the South but most importantly in the South-East zone.
The poll also revealed that there is a high level of support for girl child education as 88 percent of sampled respondents agree that girl child education is important in their communities and the support is not substantially different for men and women. Along with age distribution, the support only drops among the older respondents above 60 years of age to 85 percent compared to 88 percent for the rest of the sample. While there is no difference between the North and South in terms of agreement with the benefits of girl child education (although differences exist across geo-political zones), there appears to exist more disagreement with the benefits of the girl child education idea and thus lower support for girl child education in the North (North – 10 percent; South – 7 percent) compared with the South.
In conclusion, the survey has revealed that the rate of children dropping out of basic education in Nigeria is high and this is mainly due to financial reasons. The provision of Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act 2004 mandating parents/guardians to enrol their children within the ages of basic education age in school or face penalties is not enforced. As a result, the demand-side factors that the Act is intended to suppress (broadly socio-economic and cultural factors) continue to undermine basic education, especially girl education. However, the poll highlights some encouragement like the nationwide support for girl child education which raises the possibility that the challenges of out-of-school children are surmountable in Nigeria.
Finally, it is pertinent for full implementation and enforcement of the demand-side provisions of the UBE Act 2004. Also, it is important to intensify advocacy for basic education, especially for girls, among traditional and modern government institutions as well as encouraging private sector and philanthropy to get involved and do more on basic education funding on both demand and supply sides.