An earthquake is about to hit the whole of Nigeria; not the sort of physical tremor which devastates buildings, breaks up bridges and brings down power lines–while destroying lives. Ours will be a social upheaval never experienced in this country for as long as the oldest of us can remember and its repercussions will last longer than ten earth tremors and be more devastating. In fact, the decline in manufacturing, banking and services, as well as non-oil exports will appear like child’s play compared to this one single crisis. For some inexplicable reasons, neither the Federal Government, nor the Ministries of Education (Federal and States) nor even the parents of school age children paid attention to the tsunami unfolding in the educational sector. Most Nigerians are not aware of the fact that for more than ten years, over ten million school age Nigerian kids are known to be out of school according to statistics by the United Nations Educational Scientific Organization[UNESCO]. That figure represents about twenty per cent of our kids – and they constitute the vast army of losers of tomorrow. As a matter of fact, they have already lost today and might never recover lost ground. When we bother to think about it at all, we shrug our shoulders and probably expect government to do something about it. What governments should do is usually left undefined and there is no pressure on governments to actually do anything. This devastating situation in which we find ourselves calls for sober reflection by all particularly the hoodoo that bedevils the progress of our nation and estranged it in a state of comatose. Thus, there is a collective need for us all to save education so as to save the future of these kids who are invariably the future of Nigeria.
The role of education in the development of any nation cannot but be overemphasized but it is quite disheartening that over the years, the budgetary allocation for education in Nigeria is meagre compared to the standard 26% budgetary allocation for education set up by the United Nations Organization. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, budgetary allocation for education in Nigeria has been less than 12% of our national budget and less than 1% of our Gross Domestic Product for over a decade, were we have the budgetary allocation for education to be 11.12% in 1999, 8.36% in 2000, 7% in 2001, 8.77% in 2006, 10.02% in 2008, 8.01% in 2009, 8.43% in 2012, 8.7% in 2013 and 2015. This low budgetary allocation had led to inadequate funding of the educational sector leading to poor infrastructures in our universities, secondary schools and primary schools. Our underfunded educational sector had led to the churning out of ‘half-baked graduates’ or rather poor students; even teachers who are not adequately remunerated will not be able to perform their duties effectively. The underfunding of our educational sector explains the reason why pupils and students in the school system sit on bare floors and shades of tress to receive lessons. How pathetic! Even our higher institutions are not left out of this quagmire; most of our higher institutions of learning lack proper infrastructures and facilities that can improve learning. How do you expect students under such hostile conditions to be able to efficiently develop themselves so as to develop our nation?
More so, lack of funding in our educational sector also results in industrial actions by union bodies such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities [ASUU], National Union of Teachers [NUT] among others which in a way forestall academic activities in schools [the just concluded ASUU strike comes to mind]. These lack of funding in our educational system has made our educational system to be quantitative [whereby students are admitted year in year out] and not qualitative. No wonder most of our students find it difficult to compete favourably with students from universities in other countries.
Is the lack of funding of our educational system the only problem? No! The incessant change of educational policies has affected the educational sector of our nation. Successive governments have always evolved different policies and programs to promote education and develop the nation’s human resources in their administration but we are kept in awe on how effective these policies have been. The big question which we have to ask ourselves is how effective has been the implementation of these policies? A policy requires sufficient time to mature from the planning phase to implementation phase and finally review phase but this has never been the case in our educational system. Educational policies are manipulated to suit the whims and caprices of policy formulators instead of the need of the nation. Just recently, a policy was made as regards the admission of students into the university through a Post-UTME exercise. It must be noted that this policy was scrapped earlier for best reasons known to the policy makers and as such, resulted in mass failure of students admitted into the university without the Post-UTME exercise.
More so, our educational system is set up in such a way that instead of allowing our students to be innovators, it has made them imitators. This is as a result of our educational system in which all what the students practice is the ‘la cram, la pour, la pass, la forget’ and which has not only killed the innate potentials of our students to become great thinker, it has also lead to churning out of students who cannot think in a developmental manner to solve the problems of our nation. In the words of Bill Beattie, ‘The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think; rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men.’
All these and many more are the problems militating against educational system in Nigeria but now is the time to take actions to save our educational system from this deep mess. All hands should be on deck as we unite together to combat these challenges together. In the words of Jack Sparrow, ‘the problem is not the problem; the problem is our attitude towards the problem.’ Now is the time for us all to be retrospective, introspective and proactive and save our educational system.
Despite the sabotage in the quality of education, the following ways can help to salvage this crucial sector:
- The Federal Government should increase her budgetary allocation for educational development.
- A need for reformation in the educational sector with a view to making it more qualitative and responsive to global issues.
- Nigerian education should be marked by a continuous search for excellence supported by the political will for governance and transparency in the educational sector. Stakeholders in the same educational sector should strive to ensure that the standard of education is not compromised. Leaders at all levels must realize that education remains a golden asset for Nigeria and everything should be done to protect its standard.
- Research and creative thinking should be encouraged in our educational system so as to create innovators rather than imitators.
In conclusion, every Nigerian child has the right to education and not just education; but quality education. Education plays a big role in national development but this is impossible with the state of our education. Allowing our educational system to wallow in this state is like digging the grave for innovation and building of great minds that will uplift Nigeria. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world’. Also, according to the United Nations Millennium Report 2014, ‘Education is the key to the new global economy, from primary school on up to life-long learning; it is central to development, social progress and human freedom and all round development of a nation.’ No investment in education is as important as the saving of our nation because a nation can never rise above the level of its education.
- Kingdom E., Orgji Maekae et al, ‘Role of education in national development: Nigerian experience.’
- Abdulrahman Bambazau (5th November 2014), ‘Education, Security and National Development: The Case of Nigeria.’ A paper presented for the 61st Interdisciplinary Research Discourse, The Post Graduate School, UI.
- Vanguard Newspaper (20th June 2013), ‘Nigeria’s Out of School Children.’ https://www.google.com.ng/amp/s/www.vanguardngr.com/2013/06/nigerias-out-of-school-children/amp/?espv=1