BY AMAKA ABAYOMI & LAJU ARENYEKA
DESPITE the allocation of over N237 billion for basic education between 2009 and 2013, recent data shows that only about three million more students were admitted into the nation’s primary schools. With the population growth witnessed over the past four years, it is no wonder Nigeria’s 10.5 million out-of- school children are still unaccounted for.
Supervising Minister of Education, Barr. Nyesom Wike at the Nigerian Economic Summit held recently, pin-pointed the challenges facing basic education in Nigeria. At the summit tagged: Transforming education through partnerships for global competitiveness, Wike said that primary school enrolment had increased from 21,857, 011 in 2009 to 24,071,559 in 2013.
Unaccessed UBE funds
The reasons for this, Wike said, include: “Huge amount of unaccessed UBE funds to the tune of about N44bn; large number of unqualified teachers in the system in many states despite the fact that about N19bn was spent on training about 825,035 teachers; non-response from states to their responsibility of recruiting and paying of facilitators’ allowances based on minimum standard of N7,500 per month as agreed for the Mass and Adult literacy Programmes; Lack of willingness by end-users to adopt the implementation procedure for the new school curriculum, low girl-child enrolment and boy-child drop-out, conflict between public policies in education at the federal level and implementation trends at state and local levels in the primary and secondary education sub-sector,” among others.
Secondary school enrolment has faced a far worse fate; while enrolment in 2009 was 3, 107, 287, the 2013 figure is 4,219,679. The acting education minister blamed this poor improvement on “inadequate facilities and infrastructure to cater for some of the newly introduced subjects which include trade/entrepreneurship studies despite the fact that the new curriculum was approved by NCE since 2007 and implementation commenced in 2011, inadequate number of qualified teachers as well as subject officers in examination bodies for the newly introduced trade/entrepreneurship subjects; Ineffective supervision and inspection of schools continue to hinder quality assurance, conflict between public policies in education at the federal level and implementation trends at state and local levels in senior secondary education sub-sector.”
Concerning tertiary education, Wike argued that there remains a wide gap between the extant programmes of “tertiary institutions and the requirements in the world of work,” adding that “another challenge is the epileptic academic calendar in tertiary institutions occasioned by the industrial strike actions by staff unions.
Some tertiary institutions have not been able to fully access the funds allocated to them through TETFund due to their inability to meet the laid down conditionalities and that on its own part, TETFund does not have all the human resources required to effectively monitor the projects being executed in the institutions.”
One time Minister of Education, Prof. Oby Ezekwesili was also a speaker at the conference. In her presentation entitled: Education: For what purpose?, she argued that the “tertiary educational model is ridden with what is technically known as the funnel syndrome.” She said:‘We are assimilating and educating only a fraction of the critical mass of society – the youth – while neglecting a larger uneducated mass. In essence, we are producing less and less of the leaders of tomorrow: the managers, the entrepreneurial class, the teachers, the doctors, the policy makers, the law enforcement officers, the professionals. By 2020, we may have a significant population of highly trained, skilled and motivated criminals.”
She therefore called upon the government to create jobs, eradicate poverty, increase access to education and grow the economy through innovation using its human capital.
Her words: “Industries need new ideas, creativity, innovation and people with skills, talent and entrepreneurship to produce goods and services sold for a profit in the market. Partnerships between government monitoring and regulating the innovative institutions developing these skills and the employers, will create a powerful network for centres of excellence.”