25 schools attacked, 16 killed, 1,440 children abducted in 2021–UNICEF

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From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

No fewer than 25 schools were attacked by Boko Haram or bandits with 1,440 abducted and 16 children in 2021, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said.

In a statement to commemorate the 2022 international day of education, yesterday, the UN agency  said in March 2021, 618 schools were shut in six northern states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Niger and Yobe, over fear of attack and abduction of pupils and members of staff. 

UNICEF expressed concern that the closure of schools in these states had significantly contributed to learning losses for over two months.

Its representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said records revealed that at least 10.5 million children were out of school in Nigeria, being the highest rate in the world, meaning that a full one-third of Nigerian children are not in school, and one in five out-of-school children in the world is Nigerian.

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“While the education crisis in Nigeria is affecting children across the country, some children are more likely to be affected than others. Female children, children with disabilities, children from the poorest households, in street situations, or affected by displacement or emergencies, and children in geographically distant areas are all disproportionately affected by the education crisis,” he said.

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Hawkins said millions of Nigerian children have never set a foot in a classroom, but equally tragic was the high number of children who make it into a classroom but never make the transition from primary to secondary school, thereby cutting off their chances for a secure future. He said an estimated 35 per cent of Nigerian children who attend primary schools do not go on to attend secondary schools, indicating that half of all Nigerian children did not attend secondary schools in 2021.

“As we celebrate the international day of education today amid concerns in much of the world about the impact of COVID-19 on education, we must take a close look at what is happening to our children in Nigeria, and the opportunities they are missing out on when they lack education. We need to look towards community leaders, parents, teachers and caregivers, and together find the best strategies to ensure that all children enroll into school, have access to continuous learning and ensure they emerge with a quality skills that equip them for a prosperous future,” Hawkins said.

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UNICEF, however, commended the Federal Government for the increase in budgetary allocation to education in 2022 budget.

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