Connect with us


Nigeria’s tearful education sector


“Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave”– Henry Peter Brougham (1828)

Last Monday, January 24, 2022 was the commemoration of the International Day of Education. According to an internet source, it was celebrated under the theme, “Changing Course, Transforming Education.” The event, led by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, showcased the most important transformations that have to be nurtured to realise everyone’s fundamental right to education and build a more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful futures. On December 3, 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (resolution 73/25) proclaiming 24 January as International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education for peace and development.

How has my dear native land, Nigeria fared in this respect? Poorly, I dare say. One of the popular reading texts while I was in secondary school between 1980 and 1985 was “English Without Tears” authored by Pryse, B. Elizabeth. Unfortunately, for Nigerians, it is education with tears. How else can one describe an education system characterised by dilapidating infrastructure, unqualified manpower, cultism, industrial unrest, mass abduction of students and staff, ill equipped schools, corruption and examination fraud, to mention but a few.

Nigeria’s education sector has undergone a lot of reforms over the decades. The sector has long been privatised and commercialised. Just like in the health sector, there have been private schools existing alongside the public ones since the 1960s. There has been adoption of different educational curriculum. There was a time we had six years of primary school, five years of secondary school and minimum of four years of university education. Thereafter came the 6-3-3-4 educational system when the secondary education was broken into junior and senior secondary schools. There are also specialised schools such as those for the deaf, the blind and other persons with disabilities. There are also technical schools for vocational studies, schools for nomadic education, for adult learning and other specialised fields such as Petroleum Training Institute, School of Marine and Oceanography, catering schools, etcetera.

It should interest you that education is on the concurrent legislative list with the three tiers of government sharing responsibilities on it. There is a Federal Ministry of Education just as all the Nigeria’s 36 states have ministries of education while local government areas similarly has education secretariat. My research shows that the Federal Ministry of Education, aside from having two ministers, also have the highest number of agencies in Nigeria which is put at 24. They are National Universities Commission, National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies, National Board for Technical Education, National Commission for Colleges of Education, Universal Basic Education Commission, National Commission for Nomadic Education and National Commission for Adult Education Mass Literacy and Non-Formal Education.

Others include: Nigerian Educational Research Development Council, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, West African Examination Council, National Examination Council, National Business and Technical Examinations Board, National Institute for Educational Planning & Administration, National Teachers Institute, Nigerian Mathematical Centre, Nigerian French Language Village, Nigerian Arabic Language Village, and National Institute for Nigerian Languages. The remaining are Tertiary Education Trust Fund, National Library of Nigeria, Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria, Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria, Federal Scholarship Board and lastly, Librarians’ Registration Council of Nigeria. Despite this plethora of agencies under the education ministry, their impact on education development has been minimal, if any. This is because many of them are mere white elephants that were established for political reasons and are therefore not well resourced to be impactful.

There are complaints of Nigeria’s education sector being starved of funds, however, the Federal Government of Nigeria did well to establish two interventionist agencies to shore up funding for the country’s education sector. They are the Universal Basic Education Commission and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund. The UBEC is a Federal Government agency saddled with the responsibility for coordinating all aspects of universal basic education programme implementation.

UBE was introduced in 1999 by the Federal Government of Nigeria as a reform programme aimed at providing greater access to, and ensuring quality of, basic education throughout Nigeria. TETFund on the other hand was originally established as Education Trust Fund by the Act No 7 of 1993 as amended by Act No 40 of 1998 (now repealed and replaced with Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act 2011). It is an intervention agency set up to provide supplementary support to all levels of public tertiary institutions with the main objective of using funding alongside project management for the rehabilitation, restoration and consolidation of Tertiary Education in Nigeria.

Could you believe that despite the noise about lack of sufficient funds to run Nigeria’s education sector, information gleaned from the website of UBEC shows that between 2005 and 2019 there is an unaccessed matching grant of N51,612,874,700.70 by states as of July 22, 2019. The principle is that to claim the dividend each state must bring equal amount of the sum of money due to it as a matching grant before the one by the Federal Government is released to it. A state like Ekiti as of 2019 has N4,477,470,982.05 unaccessed fund with UBEC while Enugu has N3,464,873,598.26. I do hope the situation has changed by now with all the states drawing down on their UBEC grants. On August 24, 2021, the TETFund approved the sum of N292.7 billion for disbursement to select public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education across the country this was according to the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Prof Suleiman Elias Bogoro.

Despite all these interventions, Nigeria’s education sector is still plagued with industrial unrest with many of the unions in the sector going on protracted strikes to demand better funding and welfare for their members. The strike action which is limited to public schools has led to mass withdrawal of pupils and students from public schools to private schools within and outside of the country. Nigerian Tribune of January 18, 2018 quoted a former Vice Chancellor of the Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, Professor Charles Ayo, as saying that Nigeria loses a minimum of N1 trillion to education tourism with about 75,000 Nigerians as at then studying in Ghana, Benin Republic and Egypt.

Report in the Vanguard Newspaper of August 10, 2020 said Nigeria’s universities are not in the reckoning of countries benefiting from the International Students’ Market, whose value has been put at over $100 billion annually. Nigeria, which was once a choice of such students in the past, is now completely out of the list, realising almost nothing from the international students’ market. Investigation by Vanguard Newspaper showed that poor infrastructure and unstable academic calendar are the main reasons for the development and that rather than drawing international students to the country, Nigeria has become a major exporter of students to foreign institutions. According to a research conducted by Studyportals, a company based in The Netherlands and which specialises in linking students who want to study in foreign countries with their preferred universities, the top 10 countries of international students are China, India, Korea, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Mexico, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

A June 22, 2021 report in Premium Times says the mass kidnapping of students from their schools is becoming a norm in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern part of the country. The country has witnessed (as of then) at least 11 cases of kidnapping of pupils and students from their schools since 2014. Over 700 students and pupils have been kidnapped since December, 2020. However, after the publication of that report, there have been several other mass abductions of students and lecturers. It was after that that the kidnapping of 140 students of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State took place on July 5, 2021. These unrelenting spate of abductions has led to shutdown of schools and high level of withdrawal from schools making the aim of Homegrown School Feeding programme of Federal Government as well as Education for All to become unattainable.

Aside all these, the recent unwarranted deaths of Premiere Academy student, Karen-Happuch Akpagher, Sylvester Oromoni of Dowen College and that of five-year-old Hanifa Abubakar from molestation at their respective schools leave a sour taste in the mouth as schools which used to be safe spaces for pupils and students have now turned to havens of tears, blood and sorrow.

It is imperative to reset Nigeria’s education sector if we ever intend to meet SDG Goal 4, which aims to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Truth be told, Nigeria’s education sector is in shambles and need to be salvaged by government regulatory agencies and system operators.