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Published On: Sun, Sep 21st, 2014

Education and problem of non-learning

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By Rasheedat Daibu

The Nigerian basic school enrollment has improved over the years. Unfortunately, behind this progress, lies a bigger problem which grows as an additional child walks through the classroom door. The problem of non-learning.

There has been no encouraging learning outcomes despite the drastic increase in school enrollment and education expenditure. Government has been focusing on getting children to school for basic education but rarely do they focus on whether the pupils are actually learning.

Parents enroll their children in school with hope that they learn basic lessons ranging from basic literacy, numeracy, good manners and patriotism. Its deplorable however, that most of these children are actually learning nothing. They are merely wonderers in classrooms. These children complete the primary education without being able to read or write a simple paragraph, or even worse, tell the time and then, with the little learning that has been beaten into them, proceeds to the secondary school where that learning is gradually taken out of them.This is a problem not just for those children but for the nation as a whole because, those children finally leave school believing they are failures as they cannot get any good formal employment with their performance because economic analysis suggests that it’s not the time spent in school but what workers know that makes them more productive.

The impediment to learning in Nigeria however, is not mainly infrastructure or resources as we often propose. Rather, it deals with broader factors which we often overlook. Learning requires not just a child’s physical presence in class or his willingness to learn. Non-school factors such as a child’s socioeconomic background or his parents literacy level can interfere with a child’s learning as much as school factors like teachers absenteeism and lack of teaching materials. According to a report of the Center for Global Development study on Measuring Learning Outcomes, “several factors must coalesce for students to learn. Schools are needed, so are teaching materials, utility services and other inputs. Students must be present, motivated and able to learn. Teachers must be present, motivated and able to instruct”.

Article iv of the World Declaration on Education emphasizes that actual learning should be the focus of basic education. It states that “Whether or not expanded educational opportunities will translate into meaningful development – for an individual or for society – depends ultimately on whether people actually learn as a result of those opportunities, i.e., whether they incorporate useful knowledge, reasoning ability, skills, and values. The focus of basic education must, therefore, be on actual learning acquisition and outcome, rather than exclusively upon enrolment, continued participation in organized programmes and completion of certification requirements”.

For this reason, if schooling cannot assure, deliver and maintain qualitative learning, all expenses spent on schools can hardly be justified. And until the government and education ministries can guarantee that students will learn in class, it can be counterproductive to encourage longer periods of universal education.

However, to achieve better learning outcomes, government should employ only teachers who love to teach and are willing to teach, as well as those who have better knowledge of the subject(s) they will be teaching and those who are ready to spend reasonable time of the school hour with the pupils, TEACHING! It makes a difference when teachers shows up for work.  Even when teachers are present, they should make efforts to create friendly environment for the pupils. Teachers should be able to understand and develop children’s inclination for play and child-like desire for recognition. They should display their works, encourage them to work in groups and guide them to important fields of the society in such a way that they don’t confuse good with restriction and evil with activity.

More importantly, if we are to catch up with and surpass the advanced countries like we all hope for, we must not only improve the quality of our higher education but, first of all, that of our primary and secondary education. Qualitative education must begin at the scratch. We can’t build a great nation with timid foundation.


Rasheedat Daibu, Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano

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