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Nigeria wants its children back in school despite a resurgence of coronavirus cases that threatens to overwhelm the health-care system.

Infections have jumped more than sixfold since December, forcing the government to reopen isolation centers that closed last year as the disease appeared to ebb. But federal and state authorities insist that students return to school to avoid further dropouts.

Only 59% of school-age children went to school in October, compared to 74% in January 2019, according to Nigeria’s statistical agency. More than half of those who stayed at home said it was because schools were closed due to virus restrictions. Overall, since the lockdown was imposed in March, 45% of children haven’t received any learning activities at all, the agency said.

The West African nation already has the highest number of children in the world who aren’t in school — more than 10 million, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Reopening schools was a “difficult decision” but “the best decision for our children’s safety and long-term development, especially our most vulnerable children,” Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said this week. In Lagos, a city of more than 22 million people, at least 24,000 children haven’t resumed their education since the lockdown, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has put many of Nigeria’s children at risk, Sanwo-Olu said.

“Their parents or guardians now turn them to other things instead of ensuring that they have time to come back for learning — even if it is twice or thrice a week.”


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