Essentially, this recurrent mismanagement manifests itself in acts opposed to demands of the modern educational sector. And its work impedes lecturers from carrying out scholarly researches, leads to fallen standard of education, brings about policy inconsistency and somersaults, truncates academic calendar with strike actions, lace Nigerian schools (primary, colleges and universities) with dilapidated and overstretched learning facilities- with the universities producing graduates devoid of linkage with the manpower demand by the nation’s industrial sector. Majorly, the consequences of this malady can be spotted in two major areas; the high unemployment rate in the country, which going by the National Bureau Statistics (NBS), 2021, is at 33.5 percent, with an under-employment rate 26.6 percent.
The second is the high rate of illiteracy found everywhere in our country. For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of education. But this high rate of illiteracy which has its root in thoughtless demand for fees of varying amounts/ proposed by the school authorities to cater for the gap created by the perennial underfunding is but, financially squeezing life out of the innocent students and sent many out of school.
Regardless of what others may say, this failure/failing partly accounts for the low level of development in Nigeria because the growth and development of any nation depends largely on the quantity and quality of all segments of its population. And given the huge population of out-of-school children which currently stand at over 13million, it is understandable that the overall literacy level will be low in the country.
No wonder, Akinola Aguda in his book; Nigeria’s march towards perdition, among other comments noted that our economy is ill, very ill from a time dating back to only a few years after its birth; doses of poisonous matters continue to be introduced almost on continuous basis by successive administrations. Although, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the New Year broadcast on the January 1, 2020 told whoever that cares to listen that this “democratic government will guarantee peace and security to realise the full potential of our ingenious, entrepreneurial and hard-working people; that his policies are designed to promote genuine, balanced growth that delivers jobs and rewards industry. But in my opinion, looking at the deplorable state of the nation’s educational sector that will drive such vision/policies, achieving the promised feat will be difficult if not impossible.”
The reason(s) for these voiced opinions stems from other inherent challenges discussed in the following paragraphs. And one of the most alarming is the challenge of responsibility and control. For instance, stakeholders are worried that the control of the primary sector is neither fully in the hands of the Federal Government nor in that of the state or the local government.
This is a great barrier to effective educational development at the basic level. This challenge is closely followed by the faulty methods of recruiting teachers. Because most of the teachers were not qualified but hired via favouritism, they could not be trusted to impact the right knowledge and values in the pupils and students. So what this all means to us is that in this 2021 and in the years to come, we may forgive other government’s inactions. But we must not fail to ask the government at all levels to rejig the education sector.
We have a responsibility to return our education sector to the part where it can build a free and democratic society, promote a just and egalitarian society, encourage a united strong and self-reliant nation and a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens. To reverse this trend, we must first recognize that the problem associated with the nation’s education stems from the fact that as a nation, we have not applied what we learned from the national education policy. We obviously and urgently need a new vision for education in the country-‘vision that will go beyond ideology to experiment and be equal with the latest reforms at the global level’. It is not only our patriotic duty to provide this care, it’s our moral duty at the most fundamental level –and we must rise to that challenge.
To this end, apart from developing the political will to, and ‘culture’ of funding education in compliance with the United Nation Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s [UNESCO] budgetary recommendation, government at all levels must start considering education as a human right that promote science and eradicate illiteracy, and should be implemented in such a way that promotes free, compulsory and universal primary, secondary, tertiary education, and free adult literacy programs.
Part of that effort to guarantee adequate funds for the sector is by ensuring that every kobo budgeted for education would be properly accounted for and would reach the beneficiaries, without being siphoned off along the way.
Special attention should be given to the areas where discretionary powers are presently being exploited for personal gain and sharpen the instruments that could prevent, detect or deter such practices. Other efforts expected from the government that should by no means be considered less important include- revival of the adult literacy programme to boost the quality of education in the country is worthwhile. As this going by reports would cater for the educational needs of over 50 million Nigerians who must have missed first opportunities to be educated.
While the programme would use existing facilities across the country and as such there would be no need to waste money in building new schools.
Like Barack Obama once noted, I believe we have a mutual responsibility to make sure our schools are properly funded, our teachers are properly paid, and our students have access to an affordable college education. And if we don’t do something about all that, then, nothing else matters.
Finally, whatever may be the true situation, it must be stated that our teachers need support and encouragement. Missionary/private schools need to be monitored for quality assurance purposes and supported also by the government. Above all, the nation urgently needs to reform its education sector substantially. If we do, most of the ills of society will reduce dramatically.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;email@example.com/08032725374.