Officials Say More 3 Million Children Are Out of School in Nigeria 

Nigeria’s Ministry of Education has said the number of out-of-school children stands at 10.1 million, an increase of more than 3 million from last year. While no reasons were given for the increase announced Friday, experts point at the coronavirus pandemic and insecurities around schools.Abuja resident Florence Ulo is reviewing her five-year-old son’s schoolwork at home and preparing him for an upcoming term examination.When COVID-19 hit last year, Ulo, like many Nigerian parents, withdrew her child from school over fear of exposing him to the coronavirus.Even after the reopening of schools, she says she decided that he’ll remain at home for some months. “When the Covid thing started, once you contract the virus they’ll take you away. So the thought of being away from my child and being in another place and I can’t have access to him was quite frightening, so I couldn’t take the risk, we had to stay back for a while,” she said.Ulo’s son recently returned to class after she said the school’s precautionary measures to keep pupils safe had improved.But now, with many months out of school, he’s trying to catch up. “I was going to the school to see their COVID-19 compliant level, when I was satisfied to an extent, not that I was totally comfortable with the whole thing. Left for me, my child won’t go anywhere,” said Florence Ulo.Nigeria’s Education Ministry last Friday said the country has seen a jump of 3 million students out of school compared to a year ago.  Even though authorities did not give reasons for the increase, the COVID-19 pandemic clearly was a factor.  The Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, says recent attacks on schools in parts of northern Nigeria is also to blame for the increase. A mother reacts as she receives her daughter after she arrived along with other rescued JSS Jangebe schoolgirls in Jangebe, Zamfara, Nigeria, March 3, 2021.Emmanuel Hwande is teachers’ union spokesperson. “The bandit attacks on schools have significantly kept most of our children out of school, considering that most schools are now closed down and the desire for parents to equip their children with formal education will be on the low scale because the fears are still there, the kidnappers are on a rampage,” he said.Around 700 students have been kidnapped from schools since December, of which scores of remain in captivity. Abductions have happened at schools in Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Niger and Kaduna states. Authorities have promised to strengthen security at schools, and last week President Muhammadu Buhari said his government will “take a strong stance” against criminal gangs. 

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