BY LAJU ARENYEKA
As the Nigerian Education sector grapples with what many have termed the implausible task of education for all by 2015, with a budget that lags far behind when compared to UNESCO’s stipulation, mass failure in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, combined with limited admission spaces into the nation’s institutions of higher learning, as well as the President’s steps towards Almajirai education, will Nigerian education have cause for celebration come October 1st? Or will she like the proverbial child who has a report sheet full of failure, bow her head in shame? Vanguard Learning’s Laju Arenyeka reports.
Not many can state when exactly the rot in the Nigerian education sector began, but the vicious cycle of crisis in the sector is obvious to all. With about 10 million out-of- school children, complaints of half baked graduates, juggling between and lack of application of curricula, corruption and incessant strikes, Nigeria is likely to remain in the league of E-9 countries with the highest number of illiterates.
Education for all by 2015
Nigeria, alongside Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Pakistan, are the nine most highly-populated countries of the south. They represent more than 60 per cent of the world’s illiterate adults and over half of the world’s out of school children. Without a doubt, Nigeria’s 52nd year of independence will mark a race against the ticking clock set up by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to achieve education for all by 2015. With barely three years to go, the Minister of Information, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’I recently said that “Nigeria is at risk of being unable to meet the Educatio for All (EFA) goal especially goal 4 of halving literacyby 2015 unless urgent and augmented action is taken.” Although according to the minister, literacy rate has gone up 3% from its previous 57% the sector is still a long way off course.
Almajirai and the 400 schools
The decision by the Federal Government to build 400 modern schools to cater for the estimates 9.5 million Almajirai children in nineteen northerh states heralded mixed feelings. The misiter of state for education, Chief Nyesom Wike, had said in February this year, that the Federal Government would hand over 100 of such schools by June. However, recent reports indicate that only 27 of such school projects have been duly completed.
Nigerian Education Budget
If money does indeed answer all things, it should not come as a surprise that the Nigerian education sector is short of answers. According to a breakdown of the 2012 education budget, the sum of N400.15 Bn, representing 8.43% was allocated to education; A far cry from the 26% recommendation for education by UNESCO. Even with the most judicious use of such funds, calculations imply that the sector’s peak performance will be one third that of its counterparts in advantaged countries.
WAEC, NECO, JAMB & Admission Crisis
‘One third’ seems to be the lkey word on the nation’s report sheet as it also represents the available admission spaces in the nations institutions of higher learning when compared with the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) applicants for the year 2012. The 1.5 million students who sat for the examinations had to battle for 500,000 admission spaces into institutions of higher learning. According to the Registrat, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the figure is the highest since UTME started three years ago with a marginal increase of 10,338 over the 1,493,603 candidates for 2011 while the 2010 figure was 1,375,641. Reports say that the board made about seven billion naira from the sale of entry forms this year, getting nearly 67% of the money from students who may have to buy the form again next year.
JAMB’s mercantilism aside, the UTME 2012 results were nothing to write home about. Out of the 1, 503, 931 candidates who sat for this year’s UTME, only three schored 300 and above compared to the 2,892 that scored above scored above 300 in 2011 exam. 72, 243 scored 250 and above, while 336,330 scored below 170.
Results of the examinations conducted by the NATIONAL Examination Council of Nigeria (NECO) were not left out in the shameful ruckus. A breakdown of the results showed that 110, 724 candidates registered for English Language while 104, 187 sat for it. 15, 669 representing 14.15 percent recorded pass while 75, 355 or 68.06 percent failed. In mathematics, of the 110,590 that registered, 101, 793 sat for the paper with 45, 547 or 41.19 percent having credit and above and 10,328 or 9.34 percent with ordinary pass. Of the 1, 672, 224 candidates who sat for this year’s May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Nigeria, only 649,156 (38.81 percent) obtained credit level passes in five subjects, including Mathematics and English.
Higher Institutions, Higher Troubles
The nation’s citadels of higher learning have in recent times witnessed their own fair share of rocky times. Many of the lucky 500,000 who have gained admission into the university will have to wait longer than usual to resume due to delay in many university calendars due to incessant strikes late last year, and this year. The National Universities Commission(NUC) has also made its name in the news recently, suspending part time programmes, as well as licenses of seven private varsities.. As the Government makes the move to build more universities, questions arise as to the management of already existing varsities.
Exporting students abroad
With all the drama in the sector, it is only natural that wealthy Nigerians have moved to find educational succor for their children abroad. Neighbouring Ghana alone is responsible for the school of over 71,000 Nigerian citizens who spend over N160 million (about 40 percent of Nigeria’s 2012 education budget) on tuition alone.
Back to the Basics
All sorts of curricula have come to play on the field of education, with policy makers ignoring he wide disparity between theory and practice. A messy blend of 9-3-4, 6-3-3-4, 1-6-3-4, British, American, and other curricula defines the education system. Meanwhile, many primary and secondary schools, including those owned by government lack basic infrastructure, but seem to abound in cultism. The ongoing strike by the Nigerian Union of Teachers in some states is barely icing on the cake.
With the unending crisis that prevails the sector, it is quite unlikely that the education system is good enough reason to say: “Happy Independence Day Nigeria.” And if it isn’t, then what is?