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Education 2015: One step forward, two steps backward

*As 10m children continue to be out of school

By Amaka Abayomi & Tare Youdeowei

WITH a couple of hours to 2016, we at Vanguard Learning bring you a collection of stories that shaped 2015.

N492,034bn education budget: Tagged ‘A Budget of Transition and Hope’ the immediate past Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, presented to the National Assembly the N4.3 trillion 2015 budget.

Of this amount, N492,034 billion (less than 12% of the annual budget) was allocated to the education sector, an amount which stakeholders have said ought to be increased for there to be any meaningful impact on the sector.

Meaningful impact

This is a far cry from the 26% recommended by UNESCO, and if education in Nigeria were better funded, Nigeria would parade the best statistics in the world in health, education, security, economy, environment, agriculture,and in other sectors. We will have a country which the Chairman of the NUC Board, Alhaji Maitama Sule, envisions to be paradise on earth. A country that will lead Africa to claim the 21st century.

EFA by 2015? When the Education for All by 2015 Millennium Development Goal was postulated in 2000, skeptics doubted the ability of countries like Nigeria to live up to that goal in a 15-year time frame. With a few hours to 2016, Nigeria’s hope of overcoming its educational challenges are more bleak as UNESCO, in a report titled ’70 Year- Wait for Primary School’, says it would take more than 70 years before all children will have access to primary education.

Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu

According to the report, 57 million children, over 10.5 million of whom are Nigerians, remain without schools and at the current rate, it will be 2086 before poor, rural African girls have access to primary education. In poor countries, one in four young people is unable to read a single sentence. The study also raises concerns about the quality of education in many poorer countries.

Performance in WAEC: Of the 1,593,442 that sat for the examination, 616,370 (38.68%) obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics, a trend that has continued from 2013. According to the Head of National Office, WAEC, Dr. Charles Eguridu, 118,101 results of candidates, (7.41%) were withheld due to exam malpractice.

The poor performance has been put down to a lack of preparation and teaching facilities, and an inadequate number of quality teachers. To defeat the menace and also curb examination malpractice, Eguridu said proper technology had been deployed.

Chibok girls still missing: 573 days after over 200 school girls were taken from their school hostels in Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram militants, they are yet to be found despite a global social media campaign and pleas from international leaders.

This led to closure of schools in the state for several months, thereby increasing the number of school children who are out of school.

In May, it was reported that the Nigerian military had reclaimed most of the areas previously controlled by Boko Haram, including many of the camps in the Sambisa forest where it was suspected the girls had been kept. Although many women had been freed, none of the Chibok girls have been found.

It was reported that some of the girls had been sold into slavery for N2,000 each, others had been forcibly married to Boko Haram fighters and they may have been killed, though the state government said it suspected the girls were being kept in underground bunkers.

Stakeholders react

Pointing out that no real
progress occurred in the education sector in the course of the year, the National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign, Mr. Hassan Soweto, said rather, the sector witnessed reverses and alarming regression hallmarked by the failure to meet any of the EFA goals.

He said “over 10 million children continue to be out of school partly as a result of Boko Haram insurgency but also due to the inability of many poor working class families to afford the cost of tuition.

“But even this figure hides the alarming fate of the girl-child as over 6 million of the 36 million girls out of school globally are Nigerians.

“There still remains a yawning gap in the teacher:pupil ratio such that average classroom sizes in Nigeria has about 80 pupils to a teacher and the average Nigerian teacher is still poorly paid and unmotivated.

“All of these have contributed to the annual mass failure being recorded in examinations conducted by WAEC and NECO.

“At the tertiary level, the sordid conditions remain unchanged. In some ways, they have worsened as hundreds of thousands are still unable to gain admission.

“Over 50 years after independence, Nigeria is still unable to provide enough public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to cater for its teeming youth population in search of education and skills. Despite Post-UTME and other gimmicks being employed to extract more and more money from the pockets of parents, admission remains a racket where only those who know who or can pay the heavy price gets admitted.

“Fees are soaring and welfare conditions of students are dropping fast. In UNILAG, students live like pigs on bed-bug infested mattresses. Same for OAU and UI where undergraduate students, female students inclusive, now have to take their bath and defecate in surrounding bushes because of the unsightly condition of the toilets and bathrooms. These are top varsities and if they are this bad, then imagine what happens in the state-owned varsities!

This year alone, about four undergraduate students died as a result of the inadequacies of their varsities’ health centres. Not only is education a ‘debt’ sentence, it has equally become a ‘death’ sentence.

“To cap it all, at the tertiary level especially, education has been turned into a business and students into customers. There is hardly any public academic institution where average fee is not twice or thrice the national minimum wage.

“This situation continues to force many students out of school. So bad is the situation now that many educated parents now stand the chance of having illiterate children who can neither read nor write.

“This is especially more so given the low wages many working class families have to survive on and the gale of job losses now ravaging the country.”

Agreeing, the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Federal Wing, Comrade Emeka Okonta, stressed that nothing fantastic happened in the sector but is optimistic that 2016 would be better.

Giving kudos to the former Minister of Education, Professor Rukayat Rufai, for her achievements, Dr. Shinaayomi Akintolure Education consultant at A-Z Royal Consult, said though there were some improvements compared to what it was in 2014, but not enough to make the desired impact.

He said “primary schools are basically the responsibility of the local government. States like Lagos, Cross River, Ondo, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo recorded some improvement, but in Osun State, education in 2015 was zero. This is because the governor of the state is crumbling education by mixing public, private, Muslim and Christian schools together.

“I commend the Lagos State government for the mass recruitment of teachers for primary schools, but in terms of infrastructure, though government built additional classroom, students still sit on the floor due to inadequate seats.

“The cost of building classrooms and adequately furnishing them is very minimal compared to what the government has in its coffers, and if they can meet the UNESCO benchmark for the annual budget for education, we would move on.

“At the secondary level, the only improvement I can point at is the WAEC result which was better than last year’s because they still face the problem of inadequate infrastructure as they build classrooms and laboratories without chairs or facilities.

“For instance, a school with a population of 3,000 students is given 10 computers, and you begin to wonder what would that do? Nevertheless, it is better than nothing and that is still a step in the right direction.

“For tertiary level, kudos has to be given to Tertiary Education Intervention Fund, TETFUND for doing wonderfully well in most of our tertiary institutions in 2015. Initially they give the funds to the Vice Chancellors, Provosts and Rectors and that gave room for corruption.

“Now TETFUND tells the schools how much is allotted to them for the year and asks them what they want to use it for, then goes ahead to provide such.

“However, the admission policy in 2015 was bad as JAMB narrowed the choice of two varsities to one, thereby putting students in a tight corner as they were forced to pick one varsity, college of education and one polytechnic with the aim of decongesting the varsities and giving the colleges of education and polytechnics the opportunity to admit more students.

“One of the worst things that happened in 2015 was picking Mallam Adamu Adamu for minister for education and putting a Professor, Tony Onwuka, under him.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.