Nigeria leads the world in uneducated children, according to the country’s government. Adamu Hussaini, Nigeria’s Education Ministry permanent secretary, said in a statement to BBC news on Tuesday that he was “sad to note” that some 10.5 million children living in the country were not currently in school.
Hussaini blamed the severe number of uneducated children in Nigeria on cultural factors, including traditions and religions followed by various nomadic groups that prevented girls from attending school. The majority of children who aren’t in school in Nigeria are girls.
Hussaini also said the high number of kids living on the streets was a factor in poor education rates across the country. Only 5 percent of the primary school–aged kids in Nigeria are dropouts, while about three-quarters of those who aren’t receiving education are likely to never even step foot inside of a classroom.
However, the biggest cause of the lack of education across the country may be limited funding for public schools.
In 2016, only 9 percent of Nigeria’s $12.2 trillion federal budget was spent on education, according to All Africa. The majority of the funding that went toward schooling was spent on education ministries, teacher recruitment efforts and salaries.
Just a week before Hussaini acknowledged the widespread lack of education in Nigeria, marking the first time a senior official ever admitted to the scope of the problem, education activist Malala Yousafzai pleaded for President Yemi Osinbajo to call an “education state of emergency.” Yousafzai met with the president and schoolchildren at a displaced family camp on July 18 and advocated for the government to dedicate more funding toward schooling for girls.
“Nigeria is the richest country in Africa but has more girls out of school than any country in the world,” Yousafzai said. “Studies are clear—educating girls grows economies, reduces conflict and improves public health. For these girls and for their country’s future, Nigeria’s leaders must immediately prioritize education.”
Nearly 60 percent of the children who aren’t receiving education live in the northern areas of the country. In the northeast alone, where the country is being ravaged by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, some 3 million children do not have access to education. Since the group’s insurgency in 2009, more than 2,285 teachers have been killed, while 19,000 others have been displaced, according to UNICEF. The group also has destroyed more than 1,400 schools since the insurgency began.