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No new data shows that 10 million children are out of school in Nigeria

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In May 2019, a Nigerian newspaper quoted comments it said were by a former top education official.

The Daily Trust reported that Prof Julius Okojie had urged a revamp of the country’s education system if the economic fortunes of Nigerians were to improve.

Okojie is a former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission, which manages university education in Nigeria.

The current education system was not set up to be an agent of change, Okojie reportedly said.

A startling statistic was then attributed to him: “More than 10.2 million children are out of school, the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa”.


A well travelled claim

We contacted Okojie who directed us to get a copy of the speech from the school. A reporter who attended the event at Salem University in Lokoja shared the text version.

The written speech includes the claim that “the number of out-of-school children is over 10.2 million, [the] highest in sub-Saharan Africa”.

Africa Check has looked into a similar claim before. In August 2017, education activist Malala Yousafzai visited Nigeria, which she said had “the highest number of out-of-school-girls” in the world.

Malala’s team directed us to Unicef, the UN agency that focuses on the well-being of children, as the source of their claim. At the time, Unicef said the figure was “over” 10.5 million. It now says “about” 10.5 million of Nigeria’s children “aged 5-14 years are not in school”.  

In October 2017, in a series on Nigeria’s education crisis, BBC Africa also used the number of 10.5 million.


How Nigeria compares in Africa

Unicef Nigeria said their figure came from the Institute for Statistics database. The institute is the official data agency of Unesco, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and provides internationally comparable data on education.

But in 2014, the data agency revised the figure 10.5 million to 8.7 million, based on new population data.

Friedrich Huebler, who heads the institute’s education standards and methodology section, told Africa Check that the next update of these numbers would be in September 2019.

Would Nigeria’s still be the highest in sub-Saharan Africa? Yes, based on available data. (Note: The UN doesn’t have publishable data for some countries such as DR Congo.)

The data agency’s official definition for out-of-school children refers to children of official primary school age (6 to 11 years) who are not enrolled in either primary or secondary school. But this can vary: in Nigeria it’s 6 to 11 years but in Ethiopia it’s 7 to 12 years.

Institute for Statistics data shows that in 2015, Nigeria’s population of primary school age children was the world’s third largest, after India and China.

But those two countries had fewer out of school children than Nigeria.

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