Causes of School Dropout Among Students in Nigeria

Factors Contributing to School Dropout among Boys and Girls in Nigeria

Summary: In this article, we examine the causes of increasing dropout rate of children (both boys and girls) in Nigeria. In other words, this article identifies the factors that contribute to the high rate of children dropout from school in the country. Furthermore, we make a few recommendations, which policy planners may adopt in reducing children’s dropout from schools. According to the World Conference on Education report in 2011, it was projected that all children must have access to and complete quality education by the year 2015. It is the fundamental right of children to receive qualitative and functional education. Thus, the aim of this article is to identify factors that contribute to the increase in the dropout rate of school children in Nigeria.

Factors Contributing to School Dropout among Students in Nigeria

These factors fall under four categories: economic factors, household level factors, school level factors and cultural factors.

Economic Factors

1. Parental Investment:

The level of parental investment for children’s well-being can sometimes become be responsible for the child’s eventual dropout from school. Although primary education is free in Nigeria, parents still have to buy textbooks and provide food for their wards. When the parents fail to make adequate provision, the children are more likely to dropout from school.

This parental neglect occurs particularly when parents have limited income and resource, causing their children to leave school earlier. There is a strong relationship between a family’s financial strength and the likelihood of the child dropout in Nigeria.

2. Schooling Costs:

Direct and indirect schooling costs are important factors for the education of children. Schooling costs especially school fees, are a central reason for early dropout from schools for some children in Nigeria.

Household Level Factors

1. Household Work:

A child’s household work has significant impacts on educational outcome for the child. Children in the rural areas sometimes begin working at an earlier age than their counterparts in the cities.

Sometimes, children have to drop out of school to take care of their younger siblings. This is especially true where the mother works and get wage outside of the home. In such instances, children take some responsibilities of the household, which causes them to drop out.

School Level Factors

1. Feminine Facilities in Schools (for girls):

Inadequate sanitation facilities in schools massively affect girls’ dropout because this inadequacy indicates that schools are not safe for girls. Though lack of facilities and poor hygiene affect both girls and boys, sanitation in schools has a strong negative impact on girls. Parents expect safe and separate sanitation for their daughters in schools. In fact, especially for girls entering adulthood, they need to have separate and adequate facilities for their menstruation time in school; without proper facilities it would discourage them from being in school and consequently they tend to drop out.

Girls’ privacy issue in schools is foremost a factor which forces girls to drop out from schools. UNICEF further notice that separate hygienic toilets should be made available for boys and girls when designing the facilities of a school.

UNICEF observes that in Nigeria and the whole of Africa, the lack of basic sanitation is the cause decreasing enrollment of girls in secondary schools but girls spend more time in schools when sanitation facilities are adequate.

If the toilets are shared by girls and boys or are closely located in schools a significant number of girls drop out because of lack of privacy.

2. Teachers’ Attitude:

Teachers attitude toward students contributes significantly to school dropout. Teachers’ attitude and their teaching practices have foremost impact in sustaining students in schools.

Teachers should be encouraged to pay more attention to their students; furthermore, they ought to be conscious of the language they use with students in the classroom.

3. School Distance:

School distance is an important determinant of school dropout for students. If school distance is considered too far from home, students tend to drop out. Parents are afraid for the safety of their young children when they have to travel longer distances to school. Indeed, the likelihood of attending secondary school decreases with the greater the distance compared to the nearer secondary schools.

School distance is the foremost obstacle for education particularly in Northern Nigeria. In fact, a large number of studies in African regions report that school distance can discourage students from being educated for two major problems. One of them is the length of time and energy needed to cover the distance for children with empty stomachs.

Another is parental anxiety about safety of their children. Close proximity to schools has a positive motivating impact on students.

Cultural Factors

1. Early Marriage (especially for girls):

Girls in rural areas of the country (particularly Northern part) have a high dropout rate because parents consider girls’ schooling as of no benefit when they leave their own family after getting married. Early marriage is the foremost cause of early school dropout of girls in Nigeria.

It is unfortunate that when girls reach puberty, some parents consider it is time for them to be married and tend to arrange the marriage instead of continuing schooling. Early marriage of girls results in dropouts form school in Nigeria. Although education might give girls better preparation for marriage, parents sometimes are reluctant to let their daughters have their education.

2. Teenage (Early) Pregnancy (for girls):

Teenage pregnancy is a significant cause of school dropout for girls. Some unexpected circumstances for girls such as lack of economic support for their education lead to early motherhood and consequent dropout from schools.

The dropout rate of girls is higher than the dropout rate of boys and the foremost cause for girls to drop out is pregnancy.

3. Cultural Beliefs (for girls)

Cultural norms and beliefs constrain girls’ education in Nigeria and other developing countries of the world. Particularly in the Northern region of the country, traditional values and some religious beliefs constrain girls from making their own decisions and expressing their own opinions.

In these settings, parents tend to be more concerned about the role for girls at home as in this role, girls do not need education since they are supposed to take care of the children and prepare meals.

Consequently, girls are restricted to only religious classes which provide relevant skills for future married life as skilled wives. These traditional values are stronger in rural areas of the country compared to urban areas and people often do not allow girls to leave homes even for schools.


This article reveals that though several inter-related social, economic, school and cultural factors affect school dropout outcome regardless of the students, some particular factors increase the dropout rate particularly for girls. In general, these factors lower educational outcomes for boys and girls. The financial factors constrain parents more especially those who have lower socioeconomic status compared to those who have higher status. Parents with lower socio-economic status face difficulties to bear the expenses of their children’s education.


Based on the above findings, this article provides a few recommendations, which policy planners may adopt for future intervention.

There is the need for governments to plan some special polices to improve basic education. Thanks to the Buhari-led administration for introducing school feeding program for public schools across the federation.

There is also the need for governments and private other stakeholders in the education sector to invest in infrastructure in schools to ensure a favourable environment for learning.

Research Cyber Team hopes this article was helpful. For your research project (both under-graduate and post-graduate), term-paper, report, or article; kindly call Thompson – 0703 022 8325. Regards!

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