The Vice-Chancellor, Buckingham University, United Kingdom, Prof. James Tooley, has said Nigeria’s out-of- school children figures is not as high as projected by various agencies and he is set to prove it.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, Nigeria has 10.5 million out-of-school children, which is the highest in the world.
However, Tooley, said the figure was not likely accurate based on previous research he had conducted in Lagos.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion with the theme: ‘Out of school children: Who should do what,’ organised by the Global School Forum in conjunction with the Association for Formidable Educational Development in Abuja, the Professor of Education Policy and Research said many of the children not accounted for in public and recognised private primary schools could be found in low-cost private schools serving the poor.
Tooley added that he would prove or disprove his hypothesis in a study he said he had got funding to conduct in northern and eastern Nigeria.
“There is lot of data out there that suggests Nigeria has a really big problem. It is said that Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children in the world. I am not sure it is true. The statistics are based on number of returns to government from registered schools without considering children in low cost private schools,” he said.
Tooley said he was confident the study would yield similar results to the one he did in Lagos about 22 years ago which showed that many of the 30- 35 per cent of children not attending school in Lagos back then were in low cost private schools. He said that the study reduced the number of out-of-school children in Lagos to four to five per cent.
In his remarks, president of AFED, Mr Orji Emmanuel urged governments to recognise the role that low cost private schools played rather than see them as problematic.
He added, “Fresh graduates can be trained to start low-cost schools instead of searching for jobs. It can be seen as a Nigerian solution to address the out-of-school children problem.”
Nasarawa State Education Commissioner, Hajiya Fatu Sabo urged Tooley to choose her state as one of those to be studied in northern Nigeria.