BY LADIPO JOHNSON
LEST we forget, one of the main, and dare I say, initial reasons for the Boko Haram insurgency is the fact that the sect wishes to ensure that “western” education is stopped in the country. As was stated by the leader of the sect, girls should not even be seen in schools. They should be at home just to be prepared for marriage!
However, all over the world, education has been proven to be an instrument for economic growth and national development. Indeed, the most developed and prosperous countries of the world achieved significant economic growth by opening the doors of their schools to as many of their citizens as possible.
It has become quite evident that in places where good qualitative education is provided to the majority of the population, the country or society goes ahead to achieve significant economic growth unlike in countries and societies where the illiteracy level is very high.
In 2010, a British Council study reported that Nigeria stood, and still stands, on the threshold of what could be the greatest transformation in its history. By 2030, it will be one of the few countries in the world that has young workers in plentiful supply. Youth, not oil, will be the country’s most valuable resource in the twenty-first century and beyond!
Today, over 40% of Nigerians are under fifteen, while 3% are over retirement age. With the current level of poverty, youth restiveness, crime and terrorism in the country, it is simple to deduce that a large population of youths, if not carefully catered for, could quite easily become a dangerous liability rather than an asset.
Education is thus the important catalyst in converting Nigeria’s teeming youth population into a national asset! With the national illiteracy level in Nigeria currently at about 61%, sustained economic growth cannot be achieved. The reason is simple enough; in nations where citizens lack access to good quality education, there is always a dearth of quality manpower to man industries and businesses that would power economic growth for the efficient delivery of services such as healthcare, transportation, communication and community welfare; all of which are considered basic ingredients of a developed society.
The essence and importance of education, whether formal or informal, is to produce persons who will be useful members of the society; Young men and women that can contribute to economic development rather than making themselves available to be used as agents of violence and other crimes. According to Jane F. Dogle, education engenders in the individual a disposition of personal autonomy, responsibility and relevant forms of life thought and action needed for self-reliance, social reconstruction and economic development.
Despite the foregoing undeniable evidence and link between education and national economic and social development, the educational sector in Nigeria, in the past few years, has suffered great distress as the federal government has continually failed to provide the needed funding priority and policy consistency that would ensure a stable growth progression.
The prolonged strike of 2013 to 2014 brought to light the cancerous status of poor funding of Nigeria’s education sector. In 2013, the federal government’s allocation went down to about 8.7% where the global benchmark for budget allocation to education is 20%. Apart from this, even the funds allocated were not utilized as budget performance was at best disappointing.
With this level of allocation and performance, no significant development can take place let alone any transformation as promised by the present administration; as a matter of fact, things are deteriorating as lecturers in Polytechnics and Colleges of Education are still on industrial strike as of this writing.
The general underfunding, infrastructural decay, poor discipline, low level of achievement and of course, incessant lecturers strike has unfortunately further damaged the development of our educational system; thereby expanding the wide gap that exists in access, equality and equity in education in Nigeria, leaving several millions of poor Nigerians and their children excluded from the processes and beneficial outcomes of education.
If Nigeria continues to march on to economic relevance and power play in Africa and indeed the global stage without an educated youth population, then terrorism, crime and skills importation will bring it to its knees!
For any individual looking towards a brighter future for our country, the clear lesson and warning signals from the abduction of the girls of Chibok is that the government must see it as a wakeup call and ensure in the medium to long term, that it significantly increases its investment in the education sector, amongst other sectors like security.
like Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (who are willing to think outside the box) to enhance what will be Nigeria’s greatest transformation catalyst in this new millennium; youth and educational empowerment.
They will build for us a new Nigeria that has a strong population of millions of educated young men and women that would serve as pillars to enable our beloved country restore its pride, and take full advantage of our true position as giants of Africa!
Johnson is a Legal Practitioner& Public Analyst