According to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF, 2007), 40% of Nigerian children aged 6–11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls. Sixty percent (60%) of out-of-school children are girls. Many of those who do enroll drop out early (UNICEF, n.d.). Despite a significant increase in net enrollment rates in recent years, it is estimated that about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school. Out-of-school girls are the focus of this research and it refers to girls who have never attended school or attended school in the past but are not attending in the current school year.
In the Northern part of the country, the number of children out of school is particularly high and the proportion of girls to boys in school ranges from 1 girl to 2 boys and even 1 to 3 in two states. School leaving rates are much higher among older Nigerian children, and relatively infrequent in the age 12–14 range.
For example, as of 2008 only 3.4% of 12-year-olds who had entered school in Nigeria were no longer attending (UNICEF, 2012). Although the gender gap has narrowed from 12 to 10 points, there exist wide variations across the States and zones, with the North Central and North West presenting worst scenarios.
Girls’ education does not only bring the immediate benefit of empowering girls but is seen as the best investment in a country’s development. Educated girls develop essential life skills, including self-confidence, the ability to participate effectively in society, and protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation. Girl’s education also helps cutting children and maternal mortality rates, contributing to national wealth and controlling disease and health status. Children of educated women are more likely to go to school and, consequently, this has exponential positive effects on education and poverty reduction for generations to come.
Poverty and economic issues, early marriage and teenage pregnancy, inadequate school infrastructure and cultural and religious misinterpretation are the main issues that prevent girls from going to school (UNICEF, 2007). Poverty remains a deep-rooted development issue in Nigeria, which ranked 142 out of 169 countries on the 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) with 63.5 % of its population living in poverty (UNICEF, 2012). As such, girls are often sent to work in the markets or hawk wares on the streets. Early marriage and teenage pregnancy also prevent girls from going to school. A lot of girls drop out of school before reaching primary class six.
Southern Nigeria has consistently higher scores for human development, gender development and empowerment. The North East has the lowest human development, followed by the North West. The average poverty level in the three northern zones is 73.8% compared to an average of 63.3% in the South (British Council Nigeria, 2012). Most schools lack adequate classroom space, furniture, and equipment, and are often too remotely located. Water, health and sanitation facilities are usually inadequate while pupil-teacher ratios could be as high as 1:100 in urban slums. Many Nigerian parents, especially in large families with limited resources, enrol their boys in school rather than girls. Some parents also keep their daughters out of school due to misinterpretation of the Islamic religion.
School participation remains a challenge across Nigeria, and obstacles are particularly severe in northern states. In addition to issues of school access, family and school resources, and attitudes towards education, school attendance in northern Nigeria is impeded by the increasingly brazen extremism of Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group, and its targeting of girls’ education (Hatch, 2012). The April 2010 kidnapping of an estimated 276 school girls in Borno state by Boko Haram testifies to the magnitude of risk that girls and young women bear when they attend school. This challenge to safety accompanies great educational need in most parts of Northern Nigeria, where the female secondary school net attendance rate is only 29% in comparison to a national average of 53% (Hatch, 2012).
In summary, the introduction of decentralized finance to schools (grants) through school community committees are a useful modality for raising quality in schools and promoting female inclusion. In addition, addressing the educational needs of young women across northern Nigeria requires an investment that is sensitive to the dangers of this context and helps to ensure safe participation in school. There should be a collaborative approach with the community and religious leaders of the area, if possible they should take the lead in the campaign. funding of the literacy centers and supply of adequate learning/instructional materials.
British Council Nigeria (2012) Gender in Nigeria Report 2012: Improving the lives of girls and women in Nigeria — issues, policies action. Nigeria.
Hatch, R. (2012). Schooling in northern Nigeria: Challenges for girls’ education. Retrieved July 3, 2016, from http://www.epdc.org/epdc-data-points/schooling-northern-nigeria-challenges-girls-education
Nigeria, U. (2007). UNICEF Factsheet on Girl’s Education in Nigeria.
UNICEF. (n.d.). Quality basic education — the situation. Retrieved July 3, 2016, from http://www.unicef.org/nigeria/education_2161.html
UNICEF. (2012). Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children — Nigeria Country Study.