In 2016, the Muhammadu Buhari administration introduced the school feeding programme to boost enrolment.
The Nigerian government said, in February this year, that it feeds about 10 million students daily through its National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme. Months earlier, the education minister, Adamu Adamu, also claimed that the number of out-of-school children had dropped from 10 million to six million.
However, the latest global data from UNESCO on out-of-school children says Africa’s largest economy now has 20 million out-of-school children.
According to the report, the new figure is based on a new methodology, which shows that 244 million children between the ages of six and 18 are out of school worldwide.
UNESCO says Nigeria has an estimated “20 million children and youth out of school, Ethiopia 10.5 million, the Democratic Republic of Congo 5.9 million and Kenya 1.8 million.”
However, a spokesman for the federal ministry of education, Ben Gong, tells The Africa Report that the latest figure from UNESCO is unacceptable.
Gong says many students are attending unconventional schools, especially in the north, but are not captured in the survey.
The official adds that billions of dollars have been invested in education by the Nigerian government and the World Bank. He therefore wonders how UNESCO could be right.
“Apart from the school feeding programme, we also have the Better Education Service Delivery for All programme. It is a World Bank programme and Nigeria was given a grant of $500m, [which] was deployed in 17 out of the 36 states,” Gong says.
The spokesman adds that a census that the government organised shows that school enrollment had increased.
“I really don’t know where UNESCO is getting its figures. You need to ask. Nigeria’s population is about 200 million. How many children are in school? How can they say 20 million children are out of school?” Gong says.
UNICEF had warned that the rising insecurity in the country, especially in the northwest where thousands of schools were forced to shut down, could lead to an increase in the number of out-of-school children.