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Opinion: Salvaging The Poor State Of Nigeria’s Education Sector By Adebola Taofeek Ademuyiwa | The Precision

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Out of school children. Photo Credit: The Nation
Out-of-school
children, as defined by UNESCO, refers to school-age kids who are not
enrolled in either primary or secondary school to obtain formal
education. And Nigeria, in a recent survey by UNICEF, has an alarming
figure of 10.5 million children out-of-school. The northern part of the
country accounts for 60% of the number with about 6.3 million children,
while other regions accounts for the rest with an average of 253,000
children per state.

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For
context, the entire population of Portugal, a South-European country, is
10.32 million. In other words, the number of children out of school in
Nigeria is greater than the entire population of Portugal. If this
picture isn’t grim enough, let us consider the fate of those who manage
to get into schools.
Without
a deep probe, one of the obvious challenges facing Nigeria’s education
sector is the regulation, or the lack of it, of schools, especially
those established by private individuals. While those owned by
government are handicapped by funds for equipment and payment of
salaries, a crucial source of motivation for teachers and other staff;
private school owners, in a bid to increase revenue, cut down on running
cost and compromise quality of education offered. It is not a surprise
to see a fresh secondary school graduate who is awaiting admission into a
tertiary institution, and with little or no training/experience, placed
in charge of a class in most private schools in the country.
These
two factors give the country a deadly combination of a large number of
kids out of school, and an equally large number of children receiving
poor education in below-par schools and institutions.
The
fact that the 2006 population census revealed that children between
ages 0-14 account for over 40% of the country’s population, and the
importance of educating children in safeguarding an informed workforce
and brighter future for the country, these problems must be urgently
addressed. Just as visiting Malala Yousafsai opined, a state of
emergency must be declared in the education sector.
In
solving the problems, what are the things we must do? I don’t have all
the answers but to start with, I think we need to depoliticize the
sector, especially in the formation and implementation of policies. The
sector must be immune to policy somersaults that come with change in
government, as witnessed in other sectors. We must adopt the 6-3-3-4
system, which gives us a 23-year blueprint, and stick with it. This, of
course, means that the country is willing to invest in an individual for
23 years, during he/she must have acquired adequate knowledge and in
turn contribute to the growth and development of the nation.

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In
the same vein, to reduce the alarming figures of children who are not
enrolled in school, the government must build new schools and refurbish
old ones – as this would help it save cost and cut down the numbers
rapidly. In many states across the country, several publicly-owned
schools are lying fallow. These buildings can be renovated and open to
children who are in desperate need of education and social integration.
Finally,
the government must commit more to the funding of education nationally.
The standard recommendation, according to UNESCO, is that education
must account for at least 26% of every country’s annual national budget
and that, sadly, is not the case in the country. There has been a
reduction in the allocation to the sector in the past few years,
especially the funds set aside for capital projects which cater for
equipment and infrastructure that enhance learning.
If
we shy away from spending on education, we would ultimately spend even
more to feed delinquents, who contribute nothing to the country, in
prisons and other correctional facilities. Education does not only
safeguards the future of a country by ensuring that it has a strong
workforce to tap in, it also secures it as well-formed minds are more
likely to shun crime and illegal activities.
Just
as oil ruled the world decades ago, brain power is presently the
greatest resource of most powerful nations. To avoid being left behind,
especially at the time when the entire world is shifting away from our
major source of revenue, we must make serious moves to grow our economy
and secure our country by investing – adequately – in the education of
our children and young adults. To quote the old Chinese proverb; “The
best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is
now.”

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Adebola Taofeek Ademuyiwa is the Founder of Discuss Nigeria, a Child Advocate and  Writer. Contact via @iam_ademuyiwa 

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