Again, Nigerian minister contradicts government on out-of-school children figures


Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has contradicted the government’s figures claiming gains in reducing the number of out-of-school children in the country.

While speaking on a Channels Television programme, the minister was seen admitting the failure of successive governments to implement the compulsory, free basic education laws in the country.

He was speaking against the backdrop of heightened insecurity situation in the country.

Mr Mohammed heads the ministry in charge of information flows from the government.

This is not the first time a government official would give inaccurate figures about the how many the number of out-of-school children are.

In February, reported that the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba did something similar.

While Mohammed said the figure was 13.2 million, Nwajuiba said it was 10.1 million.

That of Nwajuiba is backed by out-dated data from the education ministry but there is no verifiable details of the other from Mohammed.

But the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu had in January said that the country had achieved some gains in reducing the number of out-of-school children to 6.9 million in 2020.

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This is believed to be the most recent figure on these children who are within the primary schooling age but not enrolled in school, as the United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) defines it.

Mohammed, who serves in the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration blamed the insecurity situation in the country on the inability of late General Murtala Muhammed’s regime to carry on with its policy on compulsory free education for citizens born after 1970.

Murtala Mohammed, who overthrew Yakubu Gowon’s regime, was Nigeria’s military ruler from July 1975 until when he was assassinated on February 13, 1976.

He said, “The fact is that in 1973, we were informed by the lead discussant and that the government of the day they had a retreat and said there must be a national pledge that what is that thing that we must do to ensure that we did not go through another civil war.

“The government of that day came out with a decision that what will prevent another civil war is to ensure that anybody born after January 1970 has free and compulsory primary education.”

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The minister added that the incumbent government is suffering the consequences of the failed compulsory free education for citizens.

He said Buhari’s government is confronted with issues associated with havingchildren out-of-school, who could be easily recruited for terrorism and banditry.

“Regrettably that administration was overthrown two years later and all the lofty ideas and all the preparations that were needed to ensure that every child of school age acquired free and compulsory education were jettisoned.

“And we are paying the price today because if you have 13.2 million children of school-age out of school that is the market which Boko Haram, bandits, IPOB and other militants, that is the market where they recruit people,” he said.

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