Ten states were homes to more than half of Nigeria’s out-of-school children, data published in the 2018 digest of basic education statistics by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) shows.
The data was also published last month by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its 2020 report on women and men. It shows that a quarter of Nigeria’s 40.8 million school-age children were not attending primary education.
The 10 states at the top of the chart had about 5.2 million of the country’s about 10.2 million out-of-school children.
Kano State had the most with 989,234, while Akwa-Ibom (581,800), Katsina (536,122) and Kaduna (524,670) followed closely.
Other states that ranked high on the list are Taraba (499,923), Sokoto (436,570), Yobe (427,230), Zamfara (422,214) and Bauchi (354,373).
The states with the lowest numbers of out-of-school children were Cross River with 97,919, Abia with 91,548, Kwara with 84,247, Enugu with 82,051, Bayelsa with 53,079, FCT with 52,972 and Ekiti with 50,945.
Meanwhile, the national estimate of 10.2 million itself is a quarter of the country’s school-age population at the time – children between six and 11 years – 40.8 million.
Although education minister, Adamu Adamu, said earlier this year that the figure has dropped to 6.9 million, no official data is available to substantiate this.
This means that as of 2018, for every four Nigerian children between the ages of 6 and 11 years, one had no access to primary school education.
Boys were worse affected as they made up 62 per cent of the national total, with girls making up the remaining 38 per cent.
Overall, boys made up 53 per cent (21.5 million) and girls 47 per cent (19.3 million) of the school-age population in the country.
Comparing school-age population with out-of-school children
Relative to their school-age population (children between 6 and 11 years), Yobe, Taraba, Zamfara, Sokoto and Rivers had the highest percentages of out-of-school children.
Of the 983,469 school-age children in Yobe State, 427,230 of them were not in school, representing 43 per cent (or 4 in 10 children).
Taraba State had 42 per cent of its 499,923 school-age children out-of-school.
In banditry-ravaged Zamfara, there were 422,214 out-of-school, about 41 per cent of its school-age children. Its northwest neighbouring state of Sokoto had 436,570 out-of-school children, representing 37 per cent of its 1,170,040 school-age children.
Rivers State completed the top five states with the highest percentage of school-age children not in school in 2018. Of the oil-rich state’s 554,927 school-age children, 34 per cent or 188,590 were not in school.
Of the 37 states, 13 had more out-of-school children than the national average.
At the foot of the log was Lagos State with 254,654 (19 per cent of its school-age population), Imo with 275,890 (17 per cent), Ekiti with 50,945, (17 per cent), Anambra with 118,314 (15 per cent) and Abuja with 52,972 (14 per cent).
Nationally, more boys were out of school than girls, the UBEC data shows.
However, Sokoto (47 per cent), Taraba (43 per cent), Zamfara (41 per cent), Niger (38 per cent) and Edo (35 per cent) had the highest proportion of female out-of-school children.
Ebonyi (six per cent), Imo (four per cent), FCT-Abuja (three per cent), Ondo and Delta each with one per cent had the least proportions of girls not attending schools.
Yobe had 53 per cent, Plateau 48 per cent, Rivers 46 per cent, Borno 45 per cent, Zamfara 41 per cent, and Taraba 40 per cent of their female children out of school.
Adamawa had 19 per cent, Kebbi 17 per cent, Kogi 16 per cent, Niger 7 per cent, and Edo four per cent.
Gender population of out-of-school children
In terms of numbers, the states with the largest out-of-school female children in 2018 were Akwa-Ibom (298,161), Sokoto (270,586), Katsina (267,132), Niger (257,165), and Taraba states (246,123).
The states with the lowest numbers of out-of-school children were Ekiti (15,955), Ebonyi (15,454), Ondo (8,700), FCT-Abuja (4,678) and Delta State (3,668).
On the other hand, the states with highest numbers of out-of-school male children were Kano (748,468), Yobe (334,556), Ondo (309,000) Plateau (297,342) and Akwa-Ibom (283,639).
The states with the lowest numbers of boys not attending schools were Niger (35,535), Ekiti (34,990), Abia (33,761), Bayelsa (24,344), and Edo states (8,061).
With 33 per cent, the North-east had the highest proportion of its school-age children out-of-school. This was followed by North-central with 26 per cent; North-west with 25 per cent; South-south, 24 per cent; South-west with 22; and South-east with 19 per cent.
In terms of volume, the North-west had the highest number with about 3.5 million children out of school, followed by the North-east with above 2 million children.
The South-west, with about 1.5 million children, placed third, while the North-central followed with about 1.3 million.
The South-south had 1.2 million and the South-east 713,176 out-of-school kids.
As Nigeria continues to grapple with terror attacks across the country, there are fears that many out-of-school children could end up in the growing army of terrorists and violent criminals now savaging the country.
With banditry and kidnapping of school children now becoming an albatross around their neck, some North-west states have closed down schools. Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara are the worst-hit.
About 1,000 students (although this figure includes students in secondary and tertiary schools) have been kidnapped by terrorists since December.
What this portends is, more out-of-school children.
There has also been an uptick in cases of school kidnapping in the North-central region, particularly Niger State.
Kidnapping as well as other crimes are also gaining traction in other regions with the authorities struggling to contain the menace.
Menace a function of poverty?
Poor households tend to struggle with basic life needs, especially food, shelter, clothing, health, electricity and security. So education, even when free, is likely to be a luxury for such households.
According to a report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), 27.4 million Nigerians earn less than N100,000 yearly.
Nigerians who spend less than ₦377 daily (or about ₦138,000 yearly) are considered poor, according to the NBS.
While four in ten Nigerians are in this bracket, some states have worse records, according to NBS’s 2019 poverty and inequality report.
Sokoto, Taraba and Jigawa are the states with the worst record, with about nine in ten earning less than N377 daily.
Some out-of-school children queuing for food
They are followed by Ebonyi and Adamawa, with about eight in ten earning that amount; then Zamfara, Yobe and Niger, where seven in ten are poor.
Relatively, states with the poorest population (with the exception of Ebonyi and Adamawa) are also among the top 15 states with the highest number of out-of-school children.
The Buhari administration, as part of its social intervention programme, launched the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), a project domiciled under the ministry of humanitarian affairs, an agency established in 2019.
With it, the government hopes to encourage schooling for poor kids.
This year, the project was projected to spend N145 billion, according to a document submitted to the Senate in October by the National Assembly joint committees on poverty alleviation.
Of the amount, N142.3 billion was to cater to the feeding of 9.86 million children; deworming of seven million primary 1-3 pupils in 35 states and the FCT and 60,000 out-of-school children; enumeration of pupils; and the training of cooks and farmers.
The remaining budget of N2.7 billion is to “purchase … feeding utensils, devices for capturing and aprons for cooks” for the feeding programme, which the ministry said it would expand to target additional five million children in conventional and non-conventional schools under the Alternate School Programme.
The extent to which this has reduced the number of out-of-school children remains unknown.
But a 2018 survey by the News Agency of Nigeria found that about 10.27 million children were enrolled in public primary schools in the North-west and North-central zones of the country in 2017.