“There is a very high number of out-of-school in Nigeria, 10 million and according to our study, that translates to a loss of one per cent of GDP,” Milan Thomas, Programme Associate at the Results for Development Institute told CNBC Africa.
Nigeria currently holds the world record for the country with the most children out of school and a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) showed that one in every five Nigerian children, is out of school.
“Although one per cent may not seem significant, in a huge economy like Nigeria, this translates to three billion dollars,” he said.
Out-of-school children earn significantly lower than their counterparts who complete their education when they enter the labour market and are therefore a huge untapped source of economic growth.
“In our study we quantify the cost of out-of-school children by estimating how much higher GDP would be in 20 countries if all the children of those countries completed basic education relative to a counter factual,” he explained.
According to Thomas, across their samples of 20 countries, all the estimates agree that it is inexpensive to achieve universal primary education however many of the 57 million remaining out-of-school children in the world are the hardest to reach.
“This could involve a variety of reasons. Economic deprivation, environmental catastrophe, political conflict, and because of that, in many countries, especially in Sub- Saharan Africa, what may be required are new innovative non-traditional approaches to education,” he said.
Thomas believes that non-traditional approaches to education such as open distance learning and low cost private schools are ways in which the government could step in to try to get the children back into the system.
“On the one hand, domestic commitment to basic education has remained steady in most developing countries, but on the other hand, foreign aid declined by seven per cent in January 2011. Foreign aid for basic education that is.”
While it might not seem like much, in certain Sub-Saharan countries, foreign aids accounts for as much as 25 per cent of primary education spending.
“Thus, it’s critical that both domestic policy makers and foreign aid donor’s work together to ensure that critical investments in basic education are not neglected going forward” he added.