The late American philosopher, Allan Bloom, once described education as the movement from darkness to light! This statement has proven to be true over the years. Without education, a people are easily brainwashed; they cannot apply critical thinking skills so they easily believe what the few evil-minded ‘smart’ ones want them to believe; they are easily convinced to do evil and because most of them are poverty-stricken, they commit the most atrocious things for a ridiculously small amount of money.
It may not be far from the truth to say that Nigeria is plagued by so many evils today due to her comatose Education sector. It’s high time we all stopped apportioning blames as to who did what to bring Nigeria’s education sector to her knees. Having enumerated the problems to include poor teacher training, low quality education, poor funding, high teacher/students ratio, inadequate schools, curriculum, wrong policies, poor teachers’ remuneration, poor infrastructure etc., this is the time to get to work.
We already know the problems so no need flogging a dead horse. We need workable, practical solutions. Any nation that fails to get it right in this sector is done for. In this report, Vanguard Learning presents the way forward as posited by stakeholders.
By Ebele Orakpo
EARLY years/Primary level: Early years/Primary education is the foundation so if the foundation is wrong, every other thing will be wrong. As John F. Kennedy, former US president said, ‘a child mis-educated is a child lost,’ so Nigeria is toying with her future. For Nigeria’s Education sector to get back on track, there is absolute need to pay attention to the Early years and primary levels.
At a recent conference organised by Concerned Parents & Educators Network (CPEN) tagged The Gathering, aimed at birthing a new generation of education reformers, Mrs Debola Atoyebi, CEO/Director of Studies, Heritage House Montessori Center, while speaking on The Crucial Early Years (0-6 years), noted that without proper work at the early stage, nothing done at other levels will stand.
“A new born baby has 100 billion brain cells. By age one, a child has developed 50% of adult brain functions; age 3 – 80% and at age 5, it is 90%. It is a very crucial period for a child.
A good early years teacher must have sound knowledge of child development,” she said, adding: “Government has to be more involved in early child education seeing that it is the foundation of every level of education.”
Out-of-school children: Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children (over 10.5m) in the world followed by Pakistan (5.4m) and Ethiopia (1.7m).
In a paper entitled The Future of Education in Nigeria – Using Digital Technology Effectively and Wisely, written by Dr. Margee Ensign, President of American University of Nigeria (AUN) and Dr William Bertrand of Tulane University, USA and member, AUN Board, noted that Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children as it accounts for almost one out of five out-of-school children worldwide, according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2013.
“As UNESCO puts it, ‘Nigeria has some of the worst education indicators globally.’ Its primary net-enrollment ratio fell from 61% in 1999 to 58% in 2010. Equally alarming, the number of out-of-school children increased from 7.4m in 1999 to 10.5m in 2010 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2013).”
This could have increased with the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.
Speaking on the topic, Where we are today – General Overview, at the CPEN conference, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, Principal Consultant/CEO at Leading Learning Ltd., said the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria is growing everyday due to terrorism. “The North-East alone has over 1.4 billion internally displaced persons, many are children of school age. That should frighten us. We are raising a generation of illiterates.”
Quality education: Teachers can only give what they have. A parent, Mrs Helen Essien while sharing the desires of parents at the CPEN conference stated that teachers have a great influence on children, hence, the need for quality teachers. “Nigeria needs a knowledge-based and knowledge-driven economy and that can only be achieved through quality education.
“Poor quality of education is another issue. 58.3 per cent of children in school are not learning. Many secondary school leavers cannot read. We must get the right teachers and build the system to develop the teachers. A school is as good as the weakest teacher in the school. The children are Nigeria’s treasures and teachers are the nurturers,” said Adefisayo, regretting that the education budget benefits adults and not the children.
Teacher training: Many Nigerian students are taught by untrained or inadequately trained teachers, hence the poor outcome.
“The poor outcomes of the education system are strongly linked to quantitative and qualitative shortcomings in Nigeria’s teacher stock. According to the World Development Indicators Database (World Bank 2012), in 2010, only 66.15% of primary education teachers were properly trained.
The database has no information on the training level of secondary teachers, but we would assume the ratios to be about the same. Other sources (World Bank 2008; Idoko 2010) say 57% and more than 50%, respectively, of basic education teachers are unqualified or under-qualified.
“Given these numbers, it seems safe to conclude that as many as one third of the current population of primary and secondary teachers are under-prepared or unprepared for their jobs. This would mean that out of Nigeria’s 574,078 primary and 273,781 secondary education teachers in 2010, only about 550,000 were properly trained while about 300,000 were not.
Given that other estimates classify as many as 50% of the teacher population as untrained, we believe that our estimate of 300,000 primary and secondary teachers needing training is conservative,” said Ensign and Bertrand.
“Primary school teachers are not adequately equipped to train the young minds. When you have a weak mind from primary go into an ill-equipped secondary school, they then struggle into the university and become what I call half-baked,” said Prof. MacDonald Idu of the Dept of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University of Benin.
Mr. Sola Okuneye, an educationist with over 30 years experience believes that Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs) should be re-introduced for Nigeria to get it right. “We used to have Grades III, II and I teachers but they were phased out and the National Certificate in Education (NCE) was made the lowest qualification to teach in primary schools as part of the National Policy on Education.
Now, if you want me to teach in the primary school, are you training me for that? Most of the NCE teachers cannot cope in primary school because the curriculum is not tailored towards the primary school. NCE holders can only teach in secondary schools.
“Most of the colleges of education have their curriculum not on primary education but on secondary education and that is where the problem is.”
“How many people have been trained in early childhood education? Many of the teachers in nursery and primary schools need to go to school. They teach not because of passion or that they are trained for it, they are teaching because there is nobody to do it,” stated Idu.
Remuneration: “Primary school teachers in many developed countries are well paid because they recognise the fact that it is the foundation for any development. You don’t expect good fruits from the top when the root is decayed,” said Idu.
Mrs Yinka Ogunde, CEO of Edumark Consult and founder of CPEN said Finland’s educational model is the best today because they “developed a model built on getting the best of their best to be teachers and pay them very well. You have to be very good to teach in their schools so why won’t the outcome be good?”
Curriculum: According to Prof. Idu, “Our curriculum is too vague and nobody wants to admit that the reason we are having high unemployment is because of our curriculum. We don’t prepare students towards specific industries. So many things are not relevant to the industry in our curriculum. When you leave out the applied aspect of a subject, how do you expect the students to cope at the end of the day?
“The curriculum should be designed to meet national needs,” he said. “We need a working curriculum. What we have now is not workable, it is still way behind and incomplete. When it comes to Early Childhood, we need to restructure the curriculum and be able to adequately train Early Childhood teachers,” said Atoyebi.
Rev. Chris Ugorji, Director/Principal, Federal Science and Technical College, Lagos said that for Nigeria to produce quality graduates from the education sector, proper attention must be paid to technical/vocational education instead of traditional schools with little or no hands-on training.
Government Policies: Dr. Omadeli Boyo, Medical Director at Pinecrest Specialist Hospitals, Lagos says policy somersaults by government have been an issue in Nigeria’s education sector. “I don’t know if the 6-3-3-4 system of education introduced some years ago, is being followed to the letter.” He believes that the constant change in government policies is adversely affecting outcome.
Functional education: “Our educational system must be functional. We now have graduates that cannot write job applications,” said Prof. Abdu Sajo, Dean, School of Agriculture, Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola.
Boyo, an employer of labour said there is a need for government to overhaul the Education system. “Most of our secondary school leavers cannot write; they cannot spell; they are poor in literary and numeracy skills.”
Corroborating this assertion, Dr. Ensign said that many of the children who make it into school do not receive a good basic education. “According to UNESCO, in 2008, 28% of young men aged 15-29 who had left school after six years of schooling were illiterate, and a further 39% were semi-literate. Among young women, these figures were 32% and 52%, respectively.”
Funding: “Funding is important but it is not all about money, it is more about ideas, vision, planning, strategy and implementation. We can spend billions of naira in education without achieving results,” said Ogunde.
Speaking on the budget of the sector between 2011 and 2016, Mr Omole Ibukun, Secretary, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), OAU, Ile-Ife said: “From N306.3bn in 2011, to N400.15bn in 2012, to N426.53bn in 2013, to N493bn in 2014, to 492bn in 2015, to N369bn in 2016, Nigeria’s most important sector remains underfunded.
While this budget is for the federal level alone, it is still less than adequate for the essential development needed in this sector. With over 10m out-of-school children, Nigeria needs to expend this fund on 40 federal universities, 21 federal polytechnics, 22 federal colleges of education and 104 unity colleges.” Sajo says government needs to abide by UNESCO’s provision that 26 per cent of a country’s budget must be given to education.”
Shortage of teachers: “The overwhelming need for recruiting, training and retraining is confronted with the current supply issue of around 68,000 new trained teachers a year (National Bureau of Statistics 2013).
Thus, to resolve the current problem would take almost 20 years by which time the population of young Nigerians would have doubled requiring yet another doubling of teaching resources. In short, the current structure and system cannot solve the problem. Drastic action is needed if Nigeria is going to just cover its current need,” said Ensign.
Mr. Amed Demirhan, GM/Director at Barzani National Memorial in Kurdistan, believes that the solution lies in the use of information and communications technology. Citing a recent study comparing faculty pay in 28 countries by Center for International Higher Education, at Boston College, and Laboratory for Institutional Analysis at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, in Moscow, he said Nigeria ranked above 15 of the 28 countries including Russia, China, Mexico, Japan and Brazil.
“This is good, so if Nigeria starts implementing serious ICT with video/audio media teaching in real-time, she can recruit faculty from around the world especially those countries where the faculty salary is lower than Nigeria’s. It will be easier to find more qualified people and a larger pool for selection. It costs a lot to bring people from other countries but if you can hire people and they don’t have to come here, it will be cheaper. By deploying ICT, Nigeria can widen education opportunities, making it more affordable.”
Leveraging on Technology
In order to meet the need for adequate teachers in the system, stakeholders say Nigeria needs to leverage on technology. Dr. Ensign said that as Nigeria’s population is projected to be the third largest in the world by 2025, the best solution is to deploy technology as Nigeria may not have enough time or resources to build more schools to meet the need.
“ Nigeria needs a revolutionary new approach to education in order to tackle the challenges posed by demographic dynamics and an outdated, overstrained schooling system. Digital technologies can provide what it takes to set the nation’s youth on the right path to collectively unfold Nigeria’s full potentials, and to lead them to the point of complete world participation,” noted Ensign and Bertrand.
Amed says that if institutions can get the libraries right (building e-libraries for instance), education would become more accessible and affordable to a larger number of people.
Higher education: “Nigeria faces an equally stark challenge in higher education. The same demographic bomb that is driving disaster in primary and secondary education is marching forward here as well. Already, the capacity of Nigeria’s higher education system is insufficient: each year from 2002 to 2007, only between 5.2% and 14.7% of university applicants could be admitted for want of seats (National Bureau of Statistics 2013; Olakulehin 2008).