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Saving Nigeria's Education

By Mercy Faleyimu

A broad overview of the state of education in Nigeria is likely to result in very dismal conclusions. In fact, it could be quite depressing. This is especially because when we compare the state of things with what is ideally obtainable in other parts of the world, even small nations, one begins to wonder why Nigeria never seems to be able to get things right.

It sounds like I have already made a judgement call before considering the facts and figures but indeed I believe that public opinion is a big indicator of the state of anything. If we consider the inclination of the international community when it comes to education in Nigeria, it becomes obvious that it’s a case of heading to hell in a hand-basket. Even an average Nigerian discountenances the education obtainable here. Every young person (and quite recently, even senior citizens) would give anything to experience education in some other place but Nigeria. In fact, many would rather study in another African country, no matter how small, than study in Nigeria.

This piece not a tirade about the state of education in Nigeria. It is an attempt to discuss the operational and structural realities of education in Nigeria. We want to try to objectively and briefly ask ourselves, “What is obtainable?”

What picture does education in Nigeria paint? What is the trajectory of education in Nigeria and how can everybody contribute in one way or the other to what happens and what will happen with education in the country.

Education in Nigeria is overseen by the Ministry of Education at Federal and State levels which, though not a lost cause, absolutely needs some major reshuffling. You don’t need to look too far to understand why this is the reality. Every ministry in Nigeria needs a reshuffling because the civil service system in Nigeria is a dead-weight that needs either of two things - a revival or a burial. The fundamental issues in education hang around the need for review of policies, effective implementation of existing, good policies and the standardisation of practices.

It is impossible to talk about the administration of education without touching on funding. When the 2018 national budgetary allocation finally came through, it was again a disappointment to note that the total percentage allocated to education was a miserly 7%. This is a far cry from the UN recommended benchmark of 26%. How will development be achieved if one of its most important vehicles cannot run?

In terms of structural realities, one of the most daunting issues that education seems to face here is the problem of regularisation coupled with the huge disparity between the public school system and privately owned institutions in terms of finances and quality. This brings us right back to funding. Privately owned institutions at all educational levels seem to thrive better because of the injection of private funds. The downside of this is that it becomes exclusive, making access nearly impossible for a vast majority of Nigerians.

This is quite worrisome – the percentage of the population that needs education the most are those that cannot access it.

In terms of trajectory, the prognosis is not looking too good for education in Nigeria. The really cerebral people are constantly searching for an opportunity to jump ship and go to a place where their intellects can be better challenged and where there are better resources.

Nigerians abroad do a number of amazing things and it is quite depressing that many of those achievements would likely have been impossible if they had stayed back home. This is not to say that education in Nigeria has absolutely no merit. It just goes to reiterate that there is a huge gap between where education is on an International scale and what is obtainable in Nigeria. There is too much disparity between where we can be as a nation education-wise, what degree of ingenuity and development can be unleashed in the nation and where we are right now. Nigeria still has about 13 million out-of-school children. For those in school, the quality of education they get does not compare favourably with what is obtainable internationally.

I personally think that doing a lot of informal sensitisation at the grass-roots might help this dismal picture a little bit even though it might not reflect significantly when the metrics are examined. What this means is: if community-wide mobilisations can be done to encourage literate and forward-thinking members of the community to own the problem of literacy in their own local community, we might begin to make progress. The possibilities in this would be an encouragement of locally sponsored formal and informal literacy drive. We can have situations where local houses of worship provide free literacy classes for children and adult on weekends; mentorship programmes where literate adults create time to get personally involved in the betterment of a couple of out-of-school or disadvantaged children and teens around them and so on. The idea is to get those who are educated into hands-on engagement in their communities to drive improvements. Exposing disadvantaged children to some level of literacy is likely to result in significant interest in self-improvement and pursuit of a better life.

Education is so key yet Nigeria is still quite far from getting it right.


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