Abuja - The Minister of Education, Prof. Ruquyyatu Rufa'i, said on Thursday in Abuja that the ministry would conduct a school census in 2014.
She disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja at the launch of a report on Nigeria Education and Skill Policy Notes by the World Bank.
Rufa'i said the census, to be conducted in the first quarter of 2014, would ascertain the number of out-of-school children in the country.
"We are not saying that the report from international bodies that about 10.1 million Nigerian children are out of school is not correct, but we want to conduct a census to ascertain this figure.
"By the first quarter of next year, we will conduct education census in our schools,’’ she said.
She said that government was taking measures to ensure that Nigeria does not remain the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
The minister said that the establishment of a one-year Early Childhood Care and Development Education (ECCDE) programme was to address the high number of out-of-school children in the country.
"We believe that we should not have the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. Attention is therefore being given to addressing the situation.
"A total of 125 day and boarding schools are being constructed under the Almajiri Education Programme. Eighty of these have been completed while 45 are in various stages of final completion.
"The programme is aimed at integrating the Almajiri system into the Universal Basic Education programme. A similar programme is also targeting girls’ education.
"In addition, comprehensive attention is being given to the development of new infrastructure and rehabilitation of existing ones to create access for additional pupils,’’ she said.
The minister said that teaching and learning materials were provided to ensure quality education, adding that basic education curriculum was revised to meet the country’s development objectives.
She noted that at the tertiary level, government had established 12 new federal universities.
According to her, nine of them had kicked-off with a N4.7 billion grant given to each of them for infrastructure development.
Rufa'i said that more than N109.4 billion had been released to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in five phases to enhance the application of modern technology in teaching process.
She commended the inputs of the bank and other development partners to improve education sector in the country.
The World Bank Country Director, Marie-Francoise Marie-Nelly, said that there were about 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria "which is more than the population of some countries.’’
She said these children were concentrated in the northern part of the country and that those mostly affected were girls.
She said Nigeria's quality of education was low, adding that about 60 per cent of students are not able to read and write after completing primary education.
"The obstacle that fuels the situation is the issue of poverty. You find out that a number of children do not go to school because of funds, despite the government policy of free education.
"In addition, inadequate nutrition; 40 per cent of children in Nigeria are malnourished and it is affecting their ability to learn.
"It is important to say that culture, religion, gender biases all together also affect the quality of outcome in education.
"But most importantly the lack of teaching materials and quality of teachers among other factors is the cause of this problem,’’ she said.
She advised Nigeria to increase her funding on the education sector, adding that 8.7 per cent allocation to education in the national budget was poor.
According to her, 80 per cent out of the 8.7 per cent budgetary allocation is used to pay teachers salary.
Marie-Nelly said that if this trend was not reversed, it would stunt Nigeria’s growth and hence fail in its plan to become one of the most developed countries by the year 2020.
Also, Senior Education Specialist, World Bank Africa Region, Olatunde Adekola, said that Nigeria must endeavour to make quality education accessible to all, especially at the basic level.
He said that from the statistics, tertiary education in the country was very strong and one of the best in the continent, but that a lot of improvement needed to be done at the primary level.
"Primary education needs to be improved so that if at the very least an individual stops after secondary school, the quality of his life will be enhanced,’’ he said.