Dialectics Of Education In Nigeria By Mustapha Hassan
“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” Malcolm X
Some time ago, while having tea with co workers, and discussing socio economic manifestations around the country; usually everyone proffered solution to the numerous problems ravaging our dear nation, with every one posing as some sort of development expert in one sector or the other; and we would all listen to brilliant ideas been exchanged. In one of such conversations; been that ministers were been screened your guess is as good as mine; we began discussing the ministerial screening and somehow our conversation took an unusual turn we suddenly started discussing government priority in relation of course to the president’s assumption as the minister of petroleum.
Many of my co workers supported the move of the president, However few argued that his ‘’body language’’ gave preference to the sector over similar critical sectors. We suggested that areas like mining and steel, agriculture and education were more crucial than the oil sector and should be given adequate if not more attention; trust our colleagues to rubbish our suggestions stating vehemently that attention should be given primarily to the sector that milks the nation.
Alas they have never heard the Yoruba saying “Ogun agbotele ki I pa aro”. Which translates to
A long foreseen war does not kill a cripple. In this vein another popular Yoruba saying comes to mind which says “Onimonii, etu-u jinfin olamola, etu-u jinfin; eran miiran o si nigbo ni?” Meaning today, the antelope falls into a ditch; tomorrow, the antelope falls into the ditch; is there no other animal in the forest?
The crisis Nigeria has in her educational sector is beyond compression; Africa largest economy has a large number of out-of-school children and young adults with limited literacy and numeracy skills who have little hope of ever joining the formal workforce
Just recently the United States embassy in Nigeria education fact sheet puts Non-school attendance been highest among states in the Northeast and Northwest zones, with 72% of primary age children never attended school in Borno state. This compares with less than 3% in most southern zones. The almajirai constitute the largest group of out-of school children in Nigeria. The Ministry of Education estimated that there were 9.5 million almajiri children in the northern part of the country in 2010.
The Education Fact Sheet in 2010 also shows that even when children enroll in schools, many do not complete the primary cycle. According to current data, 30% of pupils drop out of primary school and only 54% transit to Junior Secondary Schools and for the very minute percentage that would make it to the final stage 80% of students failed the SSCE because they had no credit pass in English, Mathematics, and three other subjects.
According to a published report by premium times reporter Abdulrahman Abdulmalik in June 11, 2013 with the headline ‘’ SHOCKING: Nigeria holds world record in number of children out of school” the report stated that the UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EAGMR) says Nigeria holds the world record of having the highest number of its young people out of school. One in five Nigerian children is out of school, giving it the largest population of out-of-school children in the world at 10.5 million in 2010, a figure that has risen almost three million since 1999.
These figures are scary and the comatose the sector faces is cause for serious alarm, the question to ask becomes what is the value of education in Nigeria?
The challenges in the Nigerian educational sector is multi faceted at the tertiary level alone, the number of students has grown from under 15,000 in 1970 to approximately 1.8 million today. As a result of the huge surge in demand, thousands of aspiring tertiary students are annually missing out from simply obtaining admissions to study in tertiary institutions, The figures of students applying into various institutions and the admitting capacity despite been stretched to its limits is not only alarming but gives serious cause for worry.
Nigeria’s institutions and lecture halls are severely overcrowded, student to teacher ratios have skyrocketed thereby meaning that these learning institutions are currently unstaffed.
According to a 2012 report from the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) Committee, established by the federal government to look into the problems of universities, just 43 percent of Nigeria’s 37,504 university lecturers have PhDs. The report also notes that Nigeria has one of the worst lecturers to student ratios in the world, with the National Open University, University of Abuja and Lagos State University having a ratio of 1:363; 1:122; 1:114 respectively.
Little wonder why it would take graduate students four and half years trying to obtain a masters degree that was supposed to take half of the time. With all this problems how then can our universities be in top 1000 University ratings in either the shanghai ranking or center for world university rankings.
After Morocco, Nigeria sends the most students overseas of any country on the African continent, according to data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS). The UIS pegged the total number of Nigerian students abroad in 2010 at 39,000, although anecdotal evidence from education watchers in Nigeria would suggest that the number is considerably higher, According to data from the UIS, the number of Nigerian students at overseas institutions of education grew 71 percent between 2007 and 2010. Thus risking brain drain a recently published Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) research suggests that the emigration of highly skilled workers may in fact prevent poor countries from actualizing long term development due to the mass exodus of required human resources
The United Arab Emirates, education spending makes up 22.5 percent of the country’s annual budget. Morocco spends 26.4 percent of its annual budget on education expenditures. The education of South Africa is 18.5 percent of its budget. On the average NIGERIA budgets less than 50% (i.e. 10%) of the recommended 20% of national budget to education, a cumulative of less than 2% of GDP budgeted since 1999 that the country returned to democracy.
Stakeholders in the nation’s education sector say government’s 15 percent hike in the 2014 budget proposal over that of 2013 shows promise and is capable of bringing some relief to the troubled sector, despite falling short of the UNESCO 26 percent recommendation for significant impact. But is funding really the problem? With the incessant problem of corruption; just recently beer parlor rumor had it that the Kaduna government discovered ghost public schools. Although there is the money problem, it isn’t necessarily a money problem. Although our government have a commitment to follow the Dakar framework that recommended at least 20% of national budget.
If indeed education is a tool for instilling moral values in the citizen then making political relevant free education and free meals promises at campaign rallies isn’t the answer.
With the crisis at hand we need proper funding of the sector we then need to assess the situation holistically and make provisions for expansion considering our population would also continue to expand, we would have to also find a mechanism to develop academics to also meet the gap. Similarly we have to upgrade our curriculums and reviewing what is actually been taught in school.
Most important is a shift to special schools and/or programs; something entire different from the horrible technical schools around; unfortunately skills training are depicted as second-class education. What many don not know is to actualize true development we need Technical and Vocational Higher Education; our polytechnics, monotechnics, vocational institutions and colleges of education, school of midwifery and schools of hygiene and medical laboratory Technology must be given equal if not more attention and a mechanism should be created in upgrading their certification.
With this type of education within vocational schools our young people would be trained for a specific trade, directly developing their expertise in techniques related to technology, and scientific technique to span all aspects of the trade.
Vocational education would prepare people our young trades, crafts and careers at various levels with a high professional practitioner position in careers such as engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, architecture, fashion e.t.c
This would enable us to have professionals who clearly understand the practical aspects as against all the theories students are required to memorize to pass examinations.
Education is very important for sustaining and developing people. With education, people are able to endure, mature. Acquire experience, wisdom and the capability to fend for themselves as well as serve their communities and nation.
Education is said to be both an instrument of stability and of change: stability in the sense that good traditions are documented, taught, imbibed and practiced, and change because it equips people to meet new challenges.
So its importance is not negotiable nobody sums it better than Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum when he said “Developing individuals is the secret of developing societies, because when you train an individual, you are training a society. The important thing is that we should not despair, but rather start from some point in a well planned manner. This is not an impossible mission because we have already done it here and everybody else can do it.”
In all of this wealthy Nigerians would rather send their kids overseas than help salvage the mess as Tolu Ogunlesi puts it in his article A Spending Guide for Wealthy Nigerians; ’’It’s not that Nigerians are not technologically inventive, it’s that there’s no support system around that inventiveness, to hone it from crudeness into sophistication. This is where private individuals ought to come in, funding researchers and research institutes, sponsoring competitions (similar to what the NLNG is doing in Science), endowing University chairs, creating platforms that support mentoring and role-modeling. It’s fascinating that some of the most exciting stuff happening in space technology in America is being funded by private visionaries like Elon Musk, who have not yet figured out how they will make the money back, but realize that every society that takes progress seriously requires healthy doses of ambitious private interventions like theirs’’
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