OPINION: The Poor State Of Nigeria’s Education Sector And Its Remedy

OPINION: The Poor State Of Nigeria’s Education Sector And Its Remedy


Out-of-school children, as defined by UNESCO, refers to school-age kids who are not enrolled in either primary or secondary school to obtain formal education. And Nigeria, in a recent survey by UNICEF, has an alarming figure of 10.5 million children out-of-school. The northern part of the country accounts for 60% of the number with about 6.3 million children, while other regions accounts for the rest with an average of 253,000 children per state.
For context, the entire population of Portugal, a South-European country, is 10.32 million. In other words, the number of children out of school in Nigeria is greater than the entire population of Portugal. If this picture isn’t grim enough, let us consider the fate of those who manage to get into schools.
Without a deep probe, one of the obvious challenges facing Nigeria’s education sector is the regulation, or the lack of it, of schools, especially those established by private individuals. While those owned by government are handicapped by funds for equipment and payment of salaries, a crucial source of motivation for teachers and other staff; private school owners, in a bid to increase revenue, cut down on running cost and compromise quality of education offered. It is not a surprise to see a fresh secondary school graduate who is awaiting admission into a tertiary institution, and with little or no training/experience, placed in charge of a class in most private schools in the country.
These two factors give the country a deadly combination of a large number of kids out of school, and an equally large number of children receiving poor education in below-par schools and institutions.
The fact that the 2006 population census revealed that children between ages 0-14 account for over 40% of the country’s population, and the importance of educating children in safeguarding an informed workforce and brighter future for the country, these problems must be urgently addressed. Just as visiting Malala Yousafsai opined, a state of emergency must be declared in the education sector.
In solving the problems, what are the things we must do? I don’t have all the answers but to start with, I think we need to depoliticize the sector, especially in the formation and implementation of policies. The sector must be immune to policy somersaults that come with change in government, as witnessed in other sectors. We must adopt the 6-3-3-4 system, which gives us a 23-year blueprint, and stick with it. This, of course, means that the country is willing to invest in an individual for 23 years, during he/she must have acquired adequate knowledge and in turn contribute to the growth and development of the nation.
In the same vein, to reduce the alarming figures of children who are not enrolled in school, the government must build new schools and refurbish old ones – as this would help it save cost and cut down the numbers rapidly. In many states across the country, several publicly-owned schools are lying fallow. These buildings can be renovated and open to children who are in desperate need of education and social integration.
Finally, the government must commit more to the funding of education nationally. The standard recommendation, according to UNESCO, is that education must account for at least 26% of every country’s annual national budget and that, sadly, is not the case in the country. There has been a reduction in the allocation to the sector in the past few years, especially the funds set aside for capital projects which cater for equipment and infrastructure that enhance learning.
If we shy away from spending on education, we would ultimately spend even more to feed delinquents, who contribute nothing to the country, in prisons and other correctional facilities. Education does not only safeguards the future of a country by ensuring that it has a strong workforce to tap in, it also secures it as well-formed minds are more likely to shun crime and illegal activities.
Just as oil ruled the world decades ago, brain power is presently the greatest resource of most powerful nations. To avoid being left behind, especially at the time when the entire world is shifting away from our major source of revenue, we must make serious moves to grow our economy and secure our country by investing – adequately – in the education of our children and young adults. To quote the old Chinese proverb; “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

By Ademuyiwa Adebola Taofeek

@iam_ademuyiwa

Ademuyiwa Adebola Taofeek is the Founder of Discuss Nigeria, a Child Advocate and  Writer.

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