Nige­ria driv­ing big econ­omy with poor ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor

Business Day (Nigeria) - - NIGERIA@60 - MARK MAYAH & KELECHI EWUZIE

Between 1960s and 80s, Nige­ria ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was of high qual­ity com­pet­ing favourably with other na­tions in the world. In those years, teach­ers were re­spected;stan­dard­swerevery­high such that a stan­dard six prod­uct had good skills for the work­place.

Within that pe­riod, the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion to a teacher was about 15 stu­dents to one teacher. The teach­ers were able to mon­i­tor the stu­dents and im­part­ing knowl­edge was a bit easy. In­fra­struc­ture was ad­e­quate that en­hanced learn­ing. The sys­tem also at­tracted fund­ing from both the gov­ern­ment and the mis­sion­ary in­sti­tu­tions and dis­ci­pline was also high among schools. Gov­ern­ment schools ran si­mul­ta­ne­ously with mis­sion­ary schools.

Peter Oke­bukola, former ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary, Na­tional Uni­ver­si­ties Com­mis­sion (NUC), opines that between 1960 and 1975 that the sys­tem at­tracted re­spectable fund­ing and the qual­ity of de­liv­ery was com­pa­ra­ble to what ob­tained in in­sti­tu­tions all over the world. “The sys­tem ben­e­fit­ted from a high dose of highly qual­i­fied lo­cal and ex­pa­tri­ate staff”.

But from the late 1980s, the sys­tem started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing enor­mous chal­lenges as the gov­ern­ment failed to match in­vest­ment in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor with the growth in pop­u­la­tion. For in­stance, from less than 3,000 pupils’ en­rol­ment back in 1960, the fig­ure sky­rock­eted to over 102,000 and to 32 mil­lion in 2020 in both pub­lic and pri­vate schools. Sec­ondary school num­ber and en­rol­ment went from 1,227 and 24,640 re­spec­tively in 1960 to over 35,000 pub­lic and pri­vate sec­ondary schools in 2018 with 12.4 mil­lion stu­dents.

To com­pound the chal­lenge this piv­otal sec­tor was fac­ing, the gov­ern­ment took over the mis­sion­ary schools with­out a plan for ad­e­quate­fundin­gand­mon­i­tor­ing.

Ex­am­in­ing the sec­tor, Oke­bukola, said the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, there­fore, found it­self in deep cri­sis. “Chal­lenges in ed­u­ca­tion are too nu­mer­ous. They in­clude Poor qual­ity train­ing with many hav­ing low con­tent knowl­edge of their teach­ing sub­jects.

Low level of re­mu­ner­a­tion lead­ing to low en­thu­si­asm for teach­ing and dis­cour­ag­ing op­ti­mal per­for­mance on the job. Mis­match of teach­ing sub­ject with the sub­ject as­signed to teach in school, lack of in­ter­est in teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion, Weak ca­pac­ity in us­ing ex­cit­ing teach­ing strate­gies to boost the aca­demic per­for­mance of stu­dents.

Other chal­lenges, he said in­clude “Poor at­ti­tude to school­work as they look for­ward to cut­ting cor­ners to pass, Neg­a­tive mind-set about the value of ed­u­ca­tion owing to em­ploy­ment dif­fi­cul­ties af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

Other in­cludes par­ents shame­fully aid­ing and abet­ting their chil­dren to com­mit ex­am­i­na­tion mal­prac­tice, some par­ents have too many chil­dren that they can­not af­ford to give qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. En­gag­ing their chil­dren in child labour prac­tices like hawk­ing when they are sup­posed to be in school. Low in­vest­ment in ed­u­ca­tion and pay­ing lip ser­vice to fund­ing ed­u­ca­tion, Poor in­cen­tive struc­ture for teach­ers and min­i­mal schol­ar­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents, In­ad­e­quate pro­vi­sion of school fa­cil­i­ties. Poor im­ple­men­ta­tion of ed­u­ca­tional poli­cies and pol­icy in­con­sis­tency, Po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in the day-to-day ad­min­is­tra­tion of ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. Fail­ure to plan for the ed­u­ca­tion needs of the ris­ing pop­u­la­tion and Weak qual­ity as­sur­ance es­pe­cially at the ba­sic ed­u­ca­tional level among oth­ers”.

Oke­bukola fur­ther ex­plained that by the year 2000, the uni­ver­si­ties were short of ev­ery­thing but stu­dents. There was an acute short­age of staff to cope with the much-ex­panded sys­tem. Fund­ing in­ad­e­qua­cies per­sisted. Qual­ity of in­struc­tional de­liv­ery was poor. Fre­quent strikes lead­ing to clo­sures ex­erted a toll on the qual­ity of grad­u­ates. In­ci­dences of ex­am­i­na­tion mal­prac­tice, cultism and “sort­ing” did not abate.

On his part, Felix Salako, vice chan­cel­lor, Fed­eral Univer­sity of Agri­cul­ture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), noted that a pop­u­la­tion of about 205 mil­lion peo­ple with about 55% of youths who are mostly un­em­ployed even with dif­fer­ent lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion is de­mor­al­is­ing for the youths, many of the so-called em­ployed are un­der-em­ployed. Un­like the first 20-30 years af­ter in­de­pen­dence, ed­u­ca­tion pro­vided meal tick­ets that pro­vided ad­e­quate sus­te­nance of fam­i­lies. The fall­out of the cur­rent de­mor­al­is­ing sit­u­a­tion of un­em­ploy­ment is that many do not see the need to pur­sue ed­u­ca­tion vig­or­ously again.

As coun­tries across the world in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor to fa­cil­i­tate hu­man cap­i­tal de­vel­op­ment to help push fron­tiers of learn­ing across sec­tors, Nige­ria is yet to find its feet af­ter 60 years of in­de­pen­dence, as it has failed to lever­age its pop­u­la­tion and ge­o­graph­i­cal ad­van­tages to de­velop this piv­otal sec­tor to stem huge brain drain and for­eign ex­change loss.

For Nige­ria to leapfrog these chal­lenges as it cel­e­brates 60 years in­de­pen­dence, Oke­bukola, opines that man­agers of the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor must build and re­source our schools to meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and be learner friendly.

“Train a new breed of 21st-cen­tury teach­ers who are steeped in the use of mod­ern meth­ods of in­struc­tion and are at the cut­ting edge of knowl­edge in their sub­ject mat­ter”.

“Pro­vide a cur­ricu­lum run­ning from ba­sic through higher ed­u­ca­tion that will lead stu­dents to de­velop 21st-cen­tury skills and make them ac­quire val­ues of good cit­i­zen­ship”.

Im­prove fund­ing to ed­u­ca­tion and en­force trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity in the fi­nanc­ing of ed­u­ca­tion; set up a na­tional net­work of qual­ity as­sur­ance sys­tem for ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion with state in­spec­torates of ed­u­ca­tion as nodes.

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