By Laju Iren
As the curtains drew on 2014, and the lights shone on 2015, it became obvious to Nigeria and the international comity that the world’s most populous black nation would not meet quite a number of the Millennium Development Goals postulated by the United Nations in 2000. At least, not the Education For All goal.
The country still holds the highest record for Out of School Children, accounting for a staggering 10.5 million of the 57 million in the world. With such a poor record, it is no wonder that stakeholders doubt whether Nigeria will be able to meet up with the Sustainable Development Goal four recently adopted by the UN to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
In detail, world leaders are working to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes; that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
SDG 4 also seeks to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university; Substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship; Eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.
Governments at various levels are not acquainted enough with the global urgency and exigency for meeting the SDG Goal 4; there does not appear to be any concerted focus on the part of governments to take the SDGs seriously. As at yet the efforts made in that direction are so feeble they can only pass for lip service.
Mr. Chizo Aomugha, President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics told Saturday School Life that Governments at various levels are not acquainted enough with the global urgency and exigency for meeting the SDG Goal 4. His words: “There does not appear to be any concerted focus on the part of governments to take the SDGs seriously. As at yet the efforts made in that direction are so feeble they can only pass for lip service.”
Continuing he said: “There are enduring deep systemic ruptures that have serially hindered the country’s achievement of global targets, not only in education, but in all spheres. These intense fissures are manifest in the endemic corruption, lukewarm patriotism, poor service delivery, abnegation of rule of law, disregard of justice, dearth of accountability, generally the dysfunctional national system. Unless and until the government in power musters the will to put the nation on course for national rebirth, the half-hearted efforts at achieving the SDG Goal 4 will continue to return sub average results.”
National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign, ERC, Mr. Hassan Soweto is also not to hopeful about Nigeria’s chances in this regard. “On the basis of current trend of pro-capitalist education policies and the lackluster attitude to funding,” he said, “I do not think it is feasible for Nigeria to achieve the SDG goal 4.
Every bit of Nigeria’s education policies contravenes the spirit and aims of the SDG goals. Our education policies promote exclusion instead of inclusion. The economic system of Nigeria is still capitalism which means social services including education are seen not as government responsibility but as business and students are seen as customers.” Continuing, he said, “I see no reason for optimism.
However, If the Buhari government is serious, the first step is to declare free education at all levels and devote public resources to providing the required facilities needed to ensure that education is not only free but also qualitative. How do we accommodate all of the 10.5 million out-of-school children in the same number of schools available now?
That is impossible! The available schools are already overcrowded. So we need a public works programme funded by the state to build new classrooms and establish new schools equipped with all of the latest modern gadgets and facilities to make learning an educative and fun-filled experience children would love to have again and again.All over the country, at least 220, 000 additional teachers are needed to bridge the yawning teacher-pupil ratio. If the government is serious, there must be a provision to employ more teachers and also see to the improvement in teacher training through the improved funding of the colleges of education and provision for regular in-service training.”