The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has unveiled a sobering assessment of Nigeria’s education infrastructure, revealing a pressing requirement for an additional 20,000 schools and a staggering 907,769 classrooms to accommodate the escalating number of out-of-school children across the nation.
This revelation was conveyed in a statement issued by Ben Goong, the Director of Press at the Federal Ministry of Education.
According to the statement, UBEC’s Executive Secretary, Hammed Boboyi, presented these disconcerting statistics during a briefing to the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, concerning the agency’s ongoing initiatives and activities.
The plight of out-of-school children in Nigeria has been a contentious issue, with varying estimates creating confusion.
While the exact number of out-of-school children as of September 2023 could not be independently verified due to delays in the national census, a 2022 UNESCO report estimated that Nigeria had approximately 20 million out-of-school children.
Minister stresses focus on basic education
However, during the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian government contended that the country only accounted for 12.4% of the total number of out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Experts pointed out that the discrepancy between UNESCO’s figures and the government’s statistics stemmed from the age brackets considered; UNESCO’s data covered out-of-school children aged 6-18 years, while the Federal Government focused solely on those between 6-11 years.
In light of these challenges, Minister of Education Prof. Tahir Mamman expressed a strong commitment to prioritize basic education in the country.
He stressed that the foundational level of education is critical and must be adequately developed to have a positive impact on other levels of the education sector and national development.
Prof. Tahir urged all Nigerian states to show greater dedication in providing counterpart funding to expedite the development of basic education.
He asserted that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration would spare no effort to ensure that every Nigerian child gains access to education, and he anticipated that the forthcoming National Census would resolve controversies surrounding the actual number of out-of-school children.
During his briefing, UBEC’s Executive Secretary, Dr. Hamid Bobo, highlighted the challenges facing the Commission, including infrastructural gaps and a shortage of qualified personnel, in its pursuit of equitable access to quality basic education.