Insight Note

The Problem of Out-of-School Children in Nigeria

Key Points

  • Factors that contribute to the incidence of out of school children include but are not limited to early/child marriage, economic barriers, conflict, socio-cultural norms, and lack of inclusive policies/practices in schools. These ‘demand and supply barriers’ could lead to one or all of these situations: 1) delayed enrolment of an eligible school aged child, 2) a child who will never attend school, 3) a child who will attend school but later drop out. 
  • The combination of demand and supply barriers to educational access has led to and continues to contribute to the large number of out of school children in Nigeria.  
  • Both governmental and non-governmental efforts are necessary to tackle the current situation through the use of education innovations such as the Accelerated Education Programme, combined with other conventional interventions such as rebuilding and expanding of infrastructure, more enrolment sensitisation, economic intervention, improved security, and legal enforcement.


Image of Khalimath Oyekan

Khalimath Oyekan


Image of Ayodotun Ayorinde

Ayodotun Ayorinde

Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA)

Image of Oreoluwa Adenuga

Oreoluwa Adenuga



In 2015, all United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which outlines a blueprint to address global challenges across a broad range of themes including poverty, health, education, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, otherwise referred to as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4, seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Unfortunately, an approximated 263 million children remain out of school around the world. This number includes children who never started formal schooling and children who started school but later dropped out (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2016). Reducing the number of out-of-school children (OOSC) is a key priority for countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria. This is because more than half of children globally that have not enrolled in school live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 85 percent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are not learning the minimum (UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2018). Moreover, education is a fundamental human right, a critical driver for economic advancement and a powerful tool for poverty reduction. Hence, no child of school age should be denied access to quality and equitable education, and an opportunity to acquire skills that guarantee future employability and long-term earning. In the Nigerian context, OOSC are prevalent in both rural and urban settings, but rural areas, and isolated or deprived areas in general, consistently show higher numbers of out-of-school children (World Bank, 2019). These children are spread across the country in varying proportions. This situation is of concern to the Federal Government of Nigeria as noted in the Nigeria Education Ministerial Plan (2018-2022) which outlines several strategies targeted at bringing children back to school. In spite of these strategies, the number of OOSC remains significantly high. This insight note aims to provide an overview of the most recent data on out-of-school children in Nigeria, including breakdowns by socioeconomic and other demographic indicators. This will be followed by suggestions of possible interventions, prime of which is the Accelerated Education Programme (AEP), and other interventions which could serve to strengthen the existing laid out strategies by the government in addressing the OOSC problem in Nigeria.

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Oyekan, K., Ayorinde, A. and Adenuga, O. 2023. The Problem of Out-of-School Children in Nigeria. 2023/058.