Monday, 6 May 2013

Education In Nigeria On A Steady Decline

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela

A cursory glance on the quality of education in Nigeria today reveals that Nigeria is a long way from reaching neither the promised land of Education for All by 2015 nor its wide dream of being one of the 20 best world economies by 2020.The Nigerian education system which produced notable scholars in the past such as the late Professor Chinua Achebe, Professor Wole Soyinka and the current Governor of the Nigerian central bank Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanisu, to mention but a few is now a shadow of its glorious past.  Having read and heard a lot about the glorious past of our educational system during the 60's, 70's and the early 80's, one can't but wonder  where we got it all wrong.According to the latest  4 international colleges and universities( 2013 world university  web ranking, university of Ibadan was the 23rd in Africa and first in Nigeria. As expected, none of our universities made it to the world stage.

The latest ranking once again brings to the fore the aged long question:
Are Nigerian youths(graduates) unemployed or unemployable?

Education is a holistic concept, so in tracing the rot in the Nigerian education sector with a view to finding a lasting solution; we must trace it right from the grass root.We are still running the 6-3-3-4 educational system, and every child is expected to spend six years in primary school, three years in the junior secondary and another three years in the senior secondary school after which the student is expected to sit for and pass the Senior School Certificate Examinations(SSCE).Then the student is expected to spend four(or five) years in the university after a successful Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination(UTME).
Most public primary and secondary schools in Nigeria are in pitiable condition -- with leaking roofs, cracked walls, no writing desks, no writing materials, no libraries, no laboratories, not even chairs and tables for students and teachers.In the remote areas, pupils still study under the shade of trees and in open fields. In most cases, the buildings we refer to as class rooms are not fit for the pets of few rich individuals among us or buildings for zoos abroad.One can't but wonder the  quality of  education which will be accessible to the students of these schools which account for almost 70 percent of candidates seeking admission into our(public) tertiary institutions.
Hence, at the tertiary level, the students begin to manifest lack of proper education.  A mix of ill educated, uncultured, impoverished, frustration, unfavorable environmental/social factors as well as the  nonchalant attitudes of the tertiary institution's workforce combine to  produce a perfect opposite of an employable graduate.

But how did we get here?
Over the years, analysts have argued that poor funding is the bane in the education sector; but a closer look at the problem reveal other factors such as corruption, poor government policies, ethnicity/tribalism etc to mention but a few.The current government of President Goodluck Jonathan proposed an allocation of N426.53billion to the education sector  which is  only about  8.67percent of the proposed total budget of N4.92trillion, whereas the UNESCO recommended for the allocation of 26percent of the total budget to the sector which is very vital to national development.What remains to seen is if the mere N426.53billion budgeted will be spent judiciously or if a bulk of the money will find its way to the account numbers of some few individuals.Poor government policies such as poor remuneration for teachers/lecturers, lack(delay) of promotion, poor working conditions etc has led to the exodus of most competent teachers/lectures in a bid to seek greener pastures else where; hence, leaving the students at the mercy of some ill trained teaching staffs.According to the Nigerian policy on education, for effective teaching and learning, the teacher pupil ratio shall be 1:35 (Nigerian policy on education, 4th edition, 2004). But in practice, this is far from the reality on ground in most parts of the country.
As a youth corp member serving in one of the secondary schools in Asaba the Delta state capital, I teach an average of about 80 students  per class.Such high number of students limits instructional time as most of the time goes into class management.Just like the current government, previous governments both at federal and state levels have perfected the act of politicizing education.Some governments have in the name of providing/creating employment, conduct mass recruitment of both teaching and non teaching staffs whose technical knowledge of the field are highly questionable.
Appointments into the offices of Vice Chancellor, Provosts, governing councils and other related posts have been tailored through religious, ethnic or tribal lines; relegating competence to the background.
All these and more has resulted to the corrupt, incompetent, nonchalant and ill mannered workforce we have in most government owned schools today.

The federal government must show some political will in fighting corruption, as it is expected that when this is done, the state governments will follow suit.
Merit and competence must be placed above religious, ethnic/tribal and personal interests as that is the only way to create the perfect workforce we all dream of.And most importantly, the dignity of the teaching profession must be re-established in Nigeria if the profession will continue to attract qualified youths who will be dedicated and ready to impact students' academic achievement in a positive way. But in a country where the salary of a local government councilor is high than that of a university professor, how do you expect the young generation to go into teaching let alone in the public primary and secondary schools where salaries are even lower and irregular. Government must through grants, scholarships, better remunerations and conditions of service attract more university students into doing Education and consequently entering into teaching profession upon the completion of their degrees.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” , the Nigerian government must as a matter of urgency, fix the education sector; else, the Nigerian youths will remain unemployed.
And as the old saying goes, an idle mind is the devil's workshop

Written by MaZI Joe

Follow me @FemiShine


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