In 2019, nearly 1.2 million children in Sokoto State did not have access to primary education. But Aminu Tambuwal, the state governor, said in late 2022 that the state managed cut down the number by nearly half in 2022.
According to UNICEF, in 2022, Nigeria’s out-of-school children were 18.5 million, with the northern region accounting for more than half. Sokoto is one of the states with the lowest enrolments.
UNICEF said 60% of the 18.5 million children were girls, mostly in the north. High incidences of kidnapping, banditry, insurgency, and early marriage in the northwest and northeast make states in those regions, including Sokoto, host the highest share of out-of-school kids.
Sokoto’s reduction of the out-of-school rate was partly due to a UNICEF programme that helped enrol 418,614 girls in school and a state-run non-formal learning system that helped send another 200,000 children back to school.
Children in conflict areas left out
However, it appears efforts to return children to school are concentrated mainly on peaceful locations in the state.
Gangs of bandits have been terrorizing some local government areas in Sokoto since 2017, kidnapping and killing civilians and imposing taxes on communities.
Out of 23 LGAs in Sokoto, 11 have been affected by banditry attacks. The troubled zones include Illela, Rabah, Sabon Birni, Isa, Wurno, Gada, Goronyo, Tangaza, Gudu, Dange Shuni, and Kebbe.
In Goronyo Local Government Area alone, for example, 50 people were abducted and 43 killed in 2022 alone. Some people living in conflict-affected areas avoid sending their kids to school for safety reasons.
Besides, most schools in the affected areas have been closed for over three years, and thousands of children living there, particularly those in the state’s internally displaced persons camps, are no longer attending schools – the reason the state’s out-of-school numbers jumped to 1.2 million.
The National Bureau of Statistics confirmed that 77% of children in the state lack access to education, especially those in conflict areas.
“In Sokoto State here, thousands of attacks are not reported in the media. …people are living in panic in some parts of the rural areas, and nobody would advise them to allow their children to go out to the school in places that are not safe,” said Muhammadu Mubarak, a Sokoto-based educationist.
“I can’t dispute that the government is working to decrease the out-of-school rate in the state, but what are they doing to ensure that children in the conflict-affected areas return to class? There should be a special intervention project for people in those areas, enabling their children to be more hopeful about their future because education is important.”
Mubarak advised the state government to relocate affected kids to safer locations to enable them to access education.
“We all know that the government is trying to restore peace to those areas, but they don’t need to delay the children’s access to education because the insecurity may not end soon,” he said.