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The Federal Government on Monday expressed concerns over the increasing rate of out-of-school children in the country.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said it is even more worrisome that girls in the north accounted for a higher percentage of the 13.5 million out-of-school children in the country.

He attributed this development to poverty, early marriage, teenage pregnancy and illiteracy.

He stated this during a two-day media dialogue on Cash Transfer Programme organised by the United Nations Children Funds in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in Birnin Kebbi, on Monday.

The minister, who was represented by the Assistant Director, Advocate and Gender Desk Officer, CRIB, Uche Chuta, said that the government had introduced various development policies, including the school feeding programme to boost enrollment.

The minister said: “Girl-child education is a major issue of concern in most developing countries of the world today, particularly in Sub-Sahara Africa, where a large number of young girls do not attend school.

“It is however more worrisome that Nigeria is counted to be among the West African countries that have the highest number of girls that are out-of school and that more than 75 percent of the 13.5 million children out-of-school are girls.

“Barriers to girls’ education in Nigeria, particularly in the northern parts, have been identified to include a wide range of causes. They include poverty, early marriage, illiteracy and teenage pregnancy, all of which have grave consequences for both the girl child and the society at large.

“The Federal Government is in the forefront of enhancing massive school enrollment attendance and completion by school-aged children through various child development policies including the National School Feeding Programme.”

Earlier, the State Project Coordinator, Educate-A-Child/UNICEF, Kebbi state, Isah Usman said the goal of the EAC/CTP project is to expand access to basic education to 501, 749 children out of the 13.5 million that are out-of-school in Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states by 2020.

He said 41, 391 children had so far benefited from the intervention programme by UNICEF in Kebbi state.

According to him, Kebbi and Zamfara states are considered as educationally disadvantaged states in the country, thus the various interventions by UNICEF.

“To change this ugly situation, UNICEF has contributed to the expansion of girl education through its Girls Education Project (GEP-Phase 3) 1, 2 and 3 projects.

“This is done through reduction in the poverty level by expanding the education level of the girl child as many parents cannot afford the education of their children.

“The overall goal of EAC is to expand access to quality basic education for 501,749 out-of-school children by 2020 in Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara state.

“The cash transfer intervention under the EAC aims to reach 41, 391 child beneficiaries and their female caregivers in four years, 31, 044 in Kebbi state and 10, 347 in Zamfara state.

“Cash Transfer Programme addresses some of the underlying causes of inequalities in education outcomes, such as poverty, social exclusion and malnutrition.”

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