Education sector: Still a long, bumpy ride

Nigeria marked her 61st independence anniversary on October 1, 2021, some stakeholders took a critical look at the progress made so far in the education sector .

THERE is no doubt that some meaningful progress has been made in the education sector when one thinks about the expansion of the number of institutions at all levels of education in Nigeria.

For instance, at independence in the 60s, Nigeria had only five universities: University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo, established in 1948, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Enugu-1960, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun-1961, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna-1962 and University of Lagos, Lagos State-1962.

The number of universities has grown exponentially now to 43 Federal Universities, 48 state-owned and 78 private universities. Also, polytechnics, colleges of education and other tertiary institutions have continued to multiply almost on a daily basis while the primary and secondary schools are not left out with a lot of reforms also taking place.

The growth of the institutions notwithstanding, stakeholders have observed that the sector is beset with numerous challenges ranging from poor funding, shortage of qualified teachers, poor teaching and learning infrastructure, non-payment of salaries of teachers, industrial unrest, cultism, examination malpractice, corruption and maladministration and in some cases outright neglect of the sector at different levels of governance.

All these, according to stakeholders, have a negative impact on the products of the systems and as such cannot support the production of the manpower needed to drive the nation’s economy to a glorious end.

At 61, one of the major challenges being faced in the country is the burden of the over 10.1 million out-of-school children, according to statistics by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This is in addition to the over 78 million adults that are illiterates in the country.

However, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, disclosed that the number of out-of-school children had reduced from 10.1 million in 2019 to 6.95 million in 2020, saying this was made possible through the implementation of Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) initiative.

Adamu noted that the BESDA initiative in 17 states had been responsible for an additional enrolment of 1,053,422 children, saying his ministry was working closely with the National Association of Proprietors and School Owners of Nigeria to reduce the number of out-of-school children.

He said that the association had taken over one million out-of-school children off the street, with each private school sponsoring five pupils.

He said: “Under the initiative of BESDA, the Federal Government secured a World Bank credit facility of 611 million dollars to support 17 states in strengthening Universal Basic Education (UBE).

“The facility will also address the first pillar of the Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP) on out-of-school children. So far, we have launched BESDA in 10 states namely: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Ebonyi, Kano, Oyo, Yobe, Niger and Zamfara States.”

As of today, we have recorded impressive school enrolment figures in 17 states of the federation, where BESDA is being implemented.

“I can, however, tell you that through the BESDA initiative, we have reduced the figure of out-of-school children from 10.1 million since May 2020 to 6,946,328 million.”

Stakeholders were also unanimous that billions of naira allocated to the education sector at different tiers of government hardly trickled down to the classrooms, where it would have positively affected the pupils and students in terms of quality outcome.

They, however, believed that the performance of the education sector could not be different from the performance of other sectors of the economy, insisting that as the “giant of Africa” is still crawling at 61, education would also necessarily not do better.

Secretary-general of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr Mike Ene, stated categorically that Nigeria at 61 is still crawling not only in the  aspect of education, but in almost every facet of life. According to him, the government policy on employment considers a worker to retire from service at age 60 and 65. That means a person in that age range is considered economically less-productive and so should leave the service for younger people.

“So, if we are to apply the same calculation to Nigeria’s development as a country in terms of education, it means we are a total failure,” he stressed.

He said it was not as if there were no positive things that had happened in the sector when compared to the early years of independence up to the 80s, such as growing number of schools and students at all levels, as many do not need to trek long distances but that those things had not translated to significant development expected of the sector.

He listed part of the major challenges the sector is  facing to include inadequate funding on the part of the government at all levels, examination malpractice with teachers and parents aiding the practice, poor staff welfare, policy inconsistency, poor teaching and learning environment and high level of insecurity, among others.

The poor state of education in Nigeria has been recently made worse by the growing insecurity in the country. The incessant attacks on schools and kidnapping of students for ransom have led to the shutdown of many schools in some northern parts of the country.

Plan International Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation, revealed that at least 1,409 students had been kidnapped from their schools in the country in the last one year as 16 were reported to have died or been murdered by the gangs.

The director of Plan International Interim Country, Robert Komakech, who made this known, said as primary and secondary schools across Nigeria reopened for a new academic session, many children were unable to return to their classes due to “the unacceptable level of insecurity and abduction of students.”

He called on the Federal Government to take concrete actions to end school abduction and make schooing safe for all as Nigeria prepares to host the fourth international conference on safe schools’ declaration this month.

The immediate past vice chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, Professor Isaac Adeyemi, noted that poor funding, uncoordinated management of the education sector, the recent insecurity issues across the country and COVID-19 pandemic have all contributed to the present low rating of the education sector.

According to him, the management of the economy equally has a crucial role to play and has its ripple effect  on the education sector as well.

He noted that the education sector has not performed excellently well as expected. There is no doubt there are other contending issues such as incessant industrial actions by workers, the government not playing its expected role due mainly to the state of the economy plus the approach to governance in this country where some, if not most, at the helm of affairs see themselves as ‘emperors.’

Speaking in a similar manner, the national president, All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), Mr Anselm Isuagie, said there is nothing to celebrate about as far as Nigeria’s education is concerned.

He said Nigeria  is not getting it right as a country in the aspect of education considering its age, noting that there has been a complete neglect of the sector by the government.

He said as long as various levels of government continue to allocate less than 26 per cent of their annual budgets to education, the sector would not produce the desirable results.

The immediate past head of National Office, West African Examinations Council (WAEC), Nigeria, Mr Olu Adenipekun, however, said that Nigeria’s education had actually moved forward over the  years after independence in terms of quantity which he listed to include number of available schools, students in schools, and subjects being offered and so forth, but is still far behind in terms of quality.

He said that many people were trained in the early period of independence and up to the 80s and they could do clerical and governmental jobs, as well as teaching and all the jobs required at those times, but that as the country and its people advanced in developmental stages, the education being provided could no longer adequately meet the requirements to move the country forward appreciably.

According to him, the quality of education in Nigeria after 61 years of political independence has not been able to respond at the expected rate to meet the needs of the times as a country.

Similarly, the national president, League of Muslim School Proprietors (LEAMSP), Mr AbdulWaheed Obalakun, also believes that though the country is making progress in education, it is still far from where it should be.

For him, the major problem facing the country, which is not only witnessed in the education sector but in every other sector, is at the level of policy implementation.

Speaking in the same vein, president of National Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, also said that the country is actually making progress, especially in the production of professionals across fields, but the progress is very slow.

He said it is worrisome that many qualified admission-seekers could not get admission because of space constraints, particularly in the government schools, and that the number of out- of school-children, including Almajiri, are still high, especially in the northern part of the country where insecurity is also driving many children away from schools.

 

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Stakeholders assess progress in education sector | Stakeholders assess progress in education sector | Stakeholders assess progress in education sector | Stakeholders assess progress in education sector

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