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Number of out-of-school children in Nigeria didn’t ‘drop’ to 8.7 million under Buhari

This article is more than 6 years old

Keen to show that her boss put more children back in school, an aide to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted an infographic showing the number of out-of-school children in the country.

The infographic from Lauretta Onochie, who is the president’s social media adviser, said that the number had dropped from 10.5 million to 8.6 million.

Onochie referenced a 2013 news report declaring that Nigeria held the “world record” for the number of children who are out of school. At the time, the government was run by ex-president Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party.

To contrast this, she used a January 2018 report in which a speech of education minister Adamu Adamu was quoted.

“When [Buhari] came into power in 2015, Unicef was telling us that the out-of-school children in Nigeria was about 10.5 million, but I want to tell Nigerians that with the effort of this president especially with school feeding programme, it has dropped from 10.5 million to 8.6 million as at last year,” Onochie copied.


Figure revised due to new population estimates

In August 2017, Africa Check traced the figure of 10.5 million to a Unicef country brief on Nigeria.

Unicef told Africa Check that the number came from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics database, using 2010 data. The Institute for Statistics is the official data agency of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, providing internationally-comparable data on education.

UNESCO said it based the figure of 10.5 million on enrollment data from Nigeria’s education ministry. The agency then estimated the ages of these children using data from a 2011 survey by the National Bureau of Statistics. (Note: The agency’s official definition for out-of-school children is those of official primary school age who are not enrolled in either primary or secondary school. Those in in pre-primary schools and non-formal education are excluded and considered out-of-school.)

However, in 2014 the Institute for Statistics revised the 2010 out-of-school figure for Nigeria from 10.5 million to 8.7 million. This, it told Africa Check, was because the UN Population Division had produced new population estimates for that year.

The lower figure - of 8.7 million, not 8.6 million as Onochie has claimed - was thus because newer data had become available to the UN. The revision also took place in 2014 - at least one year before Buhari took power. That figure remains the most recent as at January 2018, according to the data agency.

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