Nigeria’s education sector & UNESCO’s report
By Odimegwu Onwumere
The Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, in Nigeria, Professor Hassana Alidou at a recent launch of the Education For All, EFA, Global Monitoring Report, GMR, said that Nigeria has some of the worst education indicators in the world.
In ‘Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all’, an account by the UNESCO launched 29 Jan 2014, Nigeria is among the 37 countries that are losing money being spent in education, because children are not learning. UNESCO disclosed that the menace is already costing governments $129 billion a year. The report stressed that despite the money being spent, the rejuvenation of the primary education is not in the near future because of poor quality education that is failing to ensure that children learn.
But speaking in Abuja as at June 2013, when he granted audience to the Director of the Bureau for the Development of Education in Africa, BREDA, an arm of UNESCO, Dr. Ann-Therese Ndog-Jatta, the supervising Minister for Education, Barr. Nyesom Wike declared that President Goodluck Jonathan was fully committed to the elimination of all forms of illiteracy from the country, stressing that there is no way significant development can take place in the face of illiteracy. Extolling President Jonathan’s giant stride in education, Wike blamed past governments for the challenges being faced in the country’s education sector.
“If previous administrations had worked towards eradicating illiteracy the way President Goodluck Jonathan has done in the past two years, we would substantially have tackled this challenge. However, I am happy we are making serious progress with our direct partnership with UNESCO and we shall continue to build on the successes already recorded,” said Wike.
Ten per cent of the global spending is on primary education, yet, hardly a child out of four children can read a single sentence or solve a simple mathematics. UNESCO feared that it would take poorest young women in developing countries of Asia until 2072, for all to be literate. On sub-Saharan Africa, UNESCO bemoaned that it would take about the next century for all girls to finish lower secondary school.
With the development, pundits on education in the country decried the supposition by the Federal Government in 2000, boasting of meeting the 2015 Millennium Development Goal in education, whereas the UNESCO said that it would take more than 70 years for all children to have access to at least, primary education. UNESCO tailored the number of children who did not even get basic schooling to 57 million, of which a huge portion was from Nigeria. The number of Nigerian children out of primary school was given as 10.5 million. The number of children in poorer countries who remain illiterate, notwithstanding having been in school, was given as 130 million.
These worrisome figures by UNESCO, however, did not go down well with the stakeholders in the sector. Mr. Lambert Oparah, the Special Assistant to the Supervising Minister of Education, Wike, disagreed with these figures saying, “I don’t know where UNESCO got the statistics from, but I am particular about Nigeria, especially what the Supervising Minister of Education is doing. Apart from the various restructuring programmes he is undertaking to ensure that our education system is uplifted, he has also ensured that those managing the education system, particularly teachers, are properly trained so that they can effectively impart their knowledge to the students.
“In the next couple of years, Nigeria will begin to see improved quality of education in Nigeria, given the efforts of the Federal Government towards this effect presently.”
Oparah concluded that of late, the federal government demanded that teachers be upgraded and, this is being done in collaboration with the Nigeria Teachers’ Institute, Kaduna.
Nevertheless, UNESCO was not alone in its position about the poor state of education in Nigeria. Contrary to Oparah’s position, Mr. Hassan Soweto who is the National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign, ERC, was of the view that the education sector in the country is nothing to write home about.
He contended that there are 10.5 million out of school children in 2013 as compared to 2004, when there were 7.3 million.
Soweto revealed that there is less corresponding increase in number of schools compared to the number of applicants to the universities in the country.
At the 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report by UNESCO, the bleak future that Nigeria’s education sector faces means that it would not be able to meet EFA’s Goals 1, 2 and 4 by the year 2015. According to UNESCO’s report, Nigeria is one of the only 15 countries that the report projects will have fewer than 80 per cent of its primary school age children enrolled by 2015. Nigeria’s out-of-school population not only grew the most in terms of any country in the world since 2004-2005 by 3.4 million, but also had the 4th highest growth rate. It was revealed by analysts that while huge sums of money are yearly budgeted for the education sector in the country, the 2014 budgetary allocation to education in particular, cannot sufficiently address its numerous woes.
There are challenges and prospects of achieving the six goals of EFA, adopted in Dakar in 2000, according to Professor Alidou, but inequality and inequity are very pronounced in certain parts of the country, as she noted in an EFA global monitoring report.
As UNESCO seemingly promised to give-a-hand to the federal government in education, developmental agenda and security challenges, hope has been raised in the Nigeria’s education sector.
Speaking at the lunch of Opo Imo by the Osun state government last year, Senator Sola Adeyeye, the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, challenged the leaders of Nigeria to integrate technology into Nigeria’s education system.
“Nigeria could raise nearly half a billion dollars per year for education if 20 per cent of its oil revenue was invested in the sector. The amount raised would be almost three times what the country currently receives in aid to education,” he said.
Also Bar Wike, promised that the government would continue to work to eradicate illiteracy. “We still appeal to UNESCO to continue to extend more technical support to us in the area of elimination of illiteracy in our nation. By next year, we shall increase the level of funding for literacy programmes and all mass literacy agencies will be galvanized to take the efforts of the administration to improve our literacy to the next level.”
Findings are that for the education sector in the country to move forward, corruption must be stemmed and the flagrant mismanagement of the country’s human and natural resources should be properly utilised.
Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’I, former education minister is of the view that Nigeria has a need to amplify public awareness among learners, families and all other stakeholders on the potential for succession, employment and self-fulfillment that Technical Vocational Education and Training could offer.