The Education Specialist for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Manar Ahmed has decried the staggering learning outcomes in Nigeria with about 70 per cent of school children in the country within the age of 10 years unable to read and write.
Ahmed revealed this during a virtual presentation at a Two-Day Media Dialogue on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as Child Rights organised by UNICEF in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in Kano.
Ahmed attributed the learning crisis to to low public spending on education, inadequate and underprepared workforce, insufficient physical resources and low school readiness, a data she culled from the National Assessment of learning outcomes in 2017.
She also called for an increase to the current 7 per cent budget allocated to the education sector to 26 per cent in subsequent years as recommended for the sector.
The UNICEF Education Specialist, who also cited the 2018 National Personnel Audit, said 27 per cent of teaching staff in Nigerian schools are not qualified while the country has 37 per cent shortage of classrooms at the national level.
She expressed hope that despite challenges bedeviling the sector, UNICEF will work with Nigeria to ensure the country achieves the sustainable Development Goal, SDG, four, which focuses on the provision of inclusive and equitable quality education, and promoting lifelong opportunity for all.
Earlier, the UNICEF Communication Specialist, Geoffery Njoku, who decried the level of low learning outcomes in the basic education subsector, stressed the need to focus on children learning in primary and junior secondary schools.
Njoku noted that UNICEF was also shifting its focus from out-of-school children to children already enrolled in school to ensure that everything is done for them to have quality basic education.
Also speaking, Chief of UNICEF Field Office in Kano, Rahama Rihood Mohammed Farah, represented by Elhadji Diop, noted that education is a fundamental human right well-articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the, CRC, which guides the work of UNICEF, and of course, in other legal instruments, including the Nigerian Constitution.
“In executing its mandate of promoting, protecting, advocating, and collaborating with partners for the realisation of the rights of children, UNICEF has been collaborating with the Government of Nigeria to improve outcomes in the education sector.
“Progress is being made; yet much more needs to be done, hence this dialogue! For instance, as is the case with some countries globally, and in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria faces a learning crisis in which learning is not taking place, even for children that are in school.
“According to the World Bank, Nigeria is experiencing a learning poverty in which 70 per cent of 10-year-olds cannot understand a simple sentence or perform basic numeracy task.
“To address the challenge, achieving basic learning outcomes at the foundational level of education is key. It is clear that to improve learning outcomes in Nigeria, achieving basic foundational skills at that level of learning cannot be overemphasized,’ he advised.