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Published On: Wed, Jul 9th, 2014

UNESCO and Nigeria’s out-of -school children

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By Odimegwu Onwumere

Sometimes, as it is now, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) can embarrass a nation with educational information when it goes out to do or permute funny numbers to make a case. Recently, an astonishing revelation was made by Kate Redman, the Communications Specialist, Education, for All Global Monitoring Report (EAGMR) of UNESCO. This officer stated that Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children in the world. And this may have remained unchallenged in a way it is necessary to adjust the statistics of the country’s school going population minus the non-going.

UNESCO claims that 10 million Nigerian children are out from school. How did it come by this figure? It further asserts that Nigeria leads 12 other countries in the ring of lowering the future of its children along the axis of Pakistan to Yemen and Niger. To many local and international observers, the finding as reported was ‘a true expose of the rot in governance in Nigeria’. Many had believed UNESCO in its entirety, but Nigeria has the likes of the National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Mr. Hassan Soweto, disagrees, saying the UNESCo figure is an understatement of the fact.  .

My crosschecking of the Nigerian facts also showed the UNESCO assessment to be significantly untrue. This is owing to the fact that UNESCO didn’t delineate the methodology it used to arrive at the number. Not until a clear explanation of how the number quoted is arrived at, it leaves many and the reporter in doubt with regard to the accuracy and authenticity of the number of Nigerian children who are out of school currently.

Something refreshing has been emerging since the UNESCO made that claim, with educational pundits not agreeing with it for being false. It was the opinion of connoisseurs that UNESCO imposed the figure on Nigeria, perhaps, owing to the fact that the country still operates an incorrect census. The consequences of British colonial legacy of irreconcilable census measures for Nigeria have continued to compound and allow the con-population figures.

Mr. G.E Oti, a public affairs analyst who gave his words during the collation of data for this report, said that Nigeria was at the base of its own confusion and manipulation in the course for others to define her. Thus institutional strangers like the UNESCO had a cause to fill up the gap. To Mr. Oti, the figure was not correct. According to him, unless there is deployment of a trusted sociometric process, only a theoretical figure would suffice.

Oti believed that the census figures of Nigeria are politicized, which have made the stranger’s data thrown at Nigeria to become a suitable point of reference. It is evident that ‘UNESCO gets Nigerian education wrong’ as also one James Stanfield, a data analyst, highlighted that there are many unregistered “low cost private schools that exist across Nigeria”, which Onyeanula had earlier on pinpointed. In such schools, many millions of Nigerian children that attend such schools matter and must be accounted for in any sense of reaching a meaningful population of school going and non-going population categories.

It was superficial on the part of UNESCO to feel it was seeing Nigeria than Nigeria sees herself. The UNESCO’s claim, however, has been alleged as a method with which certain persons or groups have found out an optimum to govern the affairs of Nigeria from afar. Stanfield had said: “But why is this unfortunate? First, the state of the world is better than someone says it is which is good to know. Second, a number of people with a desire to govern, in practice to derange the entire world are ignorant of what is really going on in it.

It is clear that UNESCO cooked up the figures and dished it out for Nigeria to probably embezzle funds, because it believed that the amount of aid to basic education that Nigeria receives in the country was declining. Evident was that the body had said that the education aid that Nigeria received in 2011 was 28 per cent lower than she received in 2010. As if the wrong statistics on Nigeria was not enough, the UNESCO added that 57 million children were out of school globally in 2011. But in 2010 it plummeted two million downward.

Nonetheless, there is no gainsaying the fact that there has been a lacuna in the efforts of government at different levels in Nigeria to deliver qualitative education. But again, the figure by the UNESCO does not add up. It was a mere permutation. Even where there is resistance to western education in the northern part of the country, the children of school age in that region are not out of school because they still attend Arabic schools – except if UNESCO takes education to mean only western form of education.

Since 1999, many Nigerians have been sceptical why the number of out of school Nigerian children has been rising and falling in the statistics of Westerners and their organizations. There was a suspicion by stakeholders that there had been a rising number of “charities” meant for aiding education in Nigeria as well as even prolong the problem they were apparently there to harness. One Paul Marks believed in UNESCO thus, “statists do not fundamentally change” and questions the grounds of compounding figures that upset critical observers.

Analysts have advised that UNESCO’s reports are unessential. But, rather, Nigeria should evaluate her education policies as was initiated in 1954 by the then colonial government of Sir John Macpherson. To rubbish UNESCO’s report out, experts advise that more budgetary allocations should go to education. Facilities to accommodate students should be expanded and basic education should be seen as a priority.

Odimegwu Onwumere is reachable on

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