Nigeria And The Education Sector Reforms

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Nigeria’s educational sector is in a comatose state or for lack of better words a failed sector. Right from the tertiary, secondary and even primary level, you have a system that does not work. Our so-called graduates even from the ivory towers can hardly read and write properly or express themselves effectively in their chosen fields or on contemporcy issues.

In recent times and to the chagrin of this writer, most National Youth Service Corps members find it difficult to enter normal mandatory data or information required by the authorities, even as graduates of tertiary institutions. This speaks volumes of the extent of rot in our education system. Nowadays our higher institutions are usually on strike for most parts of the session. They lack adequate lecture, theaters, teaching staff, hostel facilities, libraries or research materials. Imagine in modern times a lot of these institutions don’t have computers or internet facilities. Indeed a lot has to be done on the part of government, the parents and students as well as the institutions to regulate entry and exit of graduands and maintain best standards at all times.

The rot in our education sector is most evident in our secondary or post-primary level, especially in the performance of students in major external examinations like the SSCE/GCE and JAMB examinations or the NECO examinations. Recent statistics of the Ministry of Education show that out of 1,184,907 secondary school candidates who wrote NECO Exam in May/June 2009, only a few 126,500 or about 10.53% (percent) passed the minimum number of credits required to earn them a place in a tertiary institution.

For the SSCE/GCE or WAEC (which is an exam body for the entire West African sub-region) 1,373,009 secondary school candidates sat for the exam and only 356,981 or 25.99% (percent) made the required credits. Then last year 2010 Nov/Dec NECO Exam shows that out of 256,827 secondary school candidates entered for the exams, only about 51,781 succeeded in making the mandatory requirements of five (5) credits representing a mere 20% (percent) of the over all number that sat for it. The same story is the case for JAMB. This explains why most universities insist on post-UME or JAMB aptitude test since a lot of students can not defend their results.

The million naira question is how and why did things get to this state or level since it has not always been like this. Really, in time past Nigerian secondary schools and even universities were among the best in Africa and comparable to those in other parts of the world, especially in terms of the quality of graduands. Times were when products of Nigerian schools including tertiary institutions would leave our shores for Britain, Germany, Russia, France or the United States and get direct admission and be among the top best in such schools. Both at the post-graduate and under-graduate levels, particularly in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. But the effect of brain drain-mass-exodus of quality teaching staff and professionals in various fields to foreign land more than any factor dealt the most fatal blow to our education system.

Of course, this was occasioned by the long neglect, poor funding and decay that became the lot of our educational sector, Governments both at the federal, state and local level failed to meet their obligations and responsibility to the citizenry and the nation. Agreements reached with universities or teachers unions like ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) ASUP (Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics) or NUT (Nigerian Union of Teachers) were often discarded and not implemented by governments, even till date. A lot of the times government’s inconsistency in policy and program implementation also help to worsen matters too. For instance a situation where the government is trying to change the 6-3-3-4 system of education after about two decades of introduction from the 6-5-4 system, when it has not been allowed to function properly indicates the fact that education administration is faced with huge challenges.

The Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme which makes primary education up to junior secondary school compulsory and free for all Nigerian school age children is suffering from inadequate funding and poor implementation in most parts of the country. As you can see a lot of children of school age not attending school. This situation is unacceptable and things have to change.

Most of our public schools have  dilapidated infrastructure, poorly motivated teachers, lack of well equipped science laboratories, no libraries for pupils. Also there is a lot of unseriousness and lack of discipline on the parts of students in these schools. Nowadays there’s cultism even in primary schools.

There are cases of pupils bringing dangerous weapons to schools to fight fellow students or threaten their teachers because they were failed or reprimanded for wrong acts committed. I advocate that government should make legislation and take steps to protect teachers from these ugly incidents as failure to do so will leave our youths lawless and irresponsible citizens who grow up to be miscreants. Parents on their part should watch and monitor their children and wards and instill discipline in them from home as charity begins at home.

Also the Ministry of Education in the various states should do more in regulating the many private pre-primary and primary schools that flood our towns particularly the mushroom ones to ensure they conform to best set standards, so that those that do not meet required standards should be closed down and its owners made to face the full weight of the law to maintain sanity and ensure standards and quality.

However all hope is not lost for us to  redress the trend. There’s need for a holistic approach and a total overhaul of the educational system in Nigeria at all levels, restore moral rectitude, fallen values/moves like respect for teachers and constituted authorities, instill discipline in our schools and students. It is fundamental to know that the foundation of anything matters, so from our pre-primary and primary level we need to get things right and straight. Let us evaluate and go back to the drawing board and see where we went wrong and make amend. Yes the world has moved on and fast with civilisation and modernisation tied to globalisation but knowledge will continue to rule the world.

Education is hinged on the peoples culture and tradition, you don’t build a super structure without as sound sub structure. What made our schools the envy of all in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s. We need to go back to so as to imbibe latest changes, innovations and improve on it. If a student is disciplined and has respect for teachers and constituted authorities, he will be diligent in his chosen field of specialisation and be a responsible law abiding citizen which will help reduce crime.

One of the cardinal points of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is access to quality and better education to all children of school age. And Nigeria really needs to improve to meet these set goals all stakeholders must be involved and the government should not be left alone in this. The Organised Private Sector (OPS), parents, wealthy individuals, corporate bodies various religious bodies, civil based organisations can do much by building or renovating schools and hostel facilities, endowing scholarships and awards for teachers and students, building capacity and collaborative efforts between students and industry concerns as well as informed career guidance indeed our children/youths and future generation of Nigerians deserve the best this country can give.

Ayooso  is a public affairs analyst.

Sampson Ayooso