One-quarter of a billion children go to school but do not learn even the most basic skills, like reading. Moreover, 57 million children around the world do not have the opportunity to even go to school.
On our journey to create a World at School and learning by 2015, our campaign takes us to Nigeria. While nearly 1 out of every 5 out-of-school children lives in Nigeria, there is a strong commitment by the President and his ministers to take action. And the global community should be standing by ready to support their ambitions to accelerate progress on education.
While many partners are ready to change this reality, violence has recently erupted, targeting children -- especially girls -- who want to go to school and learn. But it does not have to be this way.
We will focus our first set of activities on mobilizing change in Nigeria alongside the President, the ministers and state governors. There is political will, there are partners ready to help, and there is a critical mass of leaders from the business, faith, youth and civil society constituencies who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.
The scale of the problem:
- Nigeria has the highest out-of-school population in the world. Today, 10.5 million children will not go to school. And the number has been increasing -- not decreasing. Poverty is one of the most significant factors impacting education, and 68% of Nigerians live on less than $1.25 per day.
- The costs of education are out of reach for many. While education is free, parents still need to pay for uniforms, textbooks, and other related school costs. One out of 10 parents still report paying fees, and over half are forced to pay parent teacher association fees. This doesn't help children -- particularly the most marginalized -- to go to school.
- Learning needs to be improved. Over half of those who do end up in school will not learn basic skills because of the poor quality of their education. Research from some regions shows that 65.7% cannot read after several years of school. Moreover, even if a child does go to school, the chances of them continuing on to secondary school and graduating are very small. Only half of all grade six students go on to secondary school, and of those, only 29% will graduate by the age of 17.
- Inequalities must be narrowed. The number of children out of school in the Northeast is 30 times greater than that in the Southeast. Meanwhile, girls in particular, are being subject to educational deprivation.
How the system works:
Nigeria's education system is decentralized and is a responsibility of federal, state and local officials. The central government is the primary provider of university education, whilst state and local governments provide secondary education and basic education.
To make quality education free and available to all children, we need to ensure that plans are drawn up at the state level. This will help to ensure that even for the most marginalized and disadvantaged will have the ability to go to school and learn.
Nigeria is in need of more teachers. Teacher training and professional development must be prioritised if we are all to reach our goal.
We can also encourage the government and development partners to scale-up successful pilot models, such as Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) and school grants. A conditional cash transfer is a payment to a family in return for sending a child to school. Incentives can also be created to ensure parents value girls' education and have a lower opportunity cost if they go to school. One potential plan could enrol 900,000 girls into school for the first time by providing a small stipend to families.
If the government draws up plans and contributes resources, the development partners have pledged to also do their part.