By Otive Igbuzor
Over the years, Nigeria has expressed a commitment to education, in the belief that overcoming illiteracy and ignorance will form a basis for accelerated national development. However, regardless of the incontrovertible evidence that education is crucial to the development of the community and the nation, there are a lot of challenges to education which has deprived citizens and the country the benefit of relevant and quality education.
As we approach the 2015 elections, one issue that is of great interest to the electorate is the educational system. Over the years, the educational sector in Nigeria has faced a lot of challenges making it difficult for good quality education that is empowering and capable of bringing about sustainable development to be provided. The challenges include low girl child enrolment, poor completion rates, unqualified teachers, inadequate funding, inadequate facilities, ineffective supervision and inspection, problem of relevance and coherent and co-ordinated policy planning and implementation by the three tiers of government (Federal, State and Local Governments).
The challenges in the educational sector has led to poor educational outcomes. In the May/June 2014 West African Examination Council for instance, only 5259,425 candidates representing 31.28 percent obtained credits in five subjects and above including English Language and Mathematics out of a total of 1, 692, 435 candidates. In addition, a whopping 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria which is one of the highest in the world.
Despite the poor state of educational infrastructure, State and tertiary educational institutions have failed to access over N44 billion and N65 billion from Universal Basic Education and Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) respectively.
The challenges in the education sector has been compounded by the insurgency in the country especially in the North East zone. Students are discouraged from going to school especially with the abduction of over 200 female students from Chibok Secondary School in Borno State and the killing of scores of students at Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State and other schools across the North east zone and other parts of the country. Teachers are not left out as it is reported that at least 170 teachers have been murdered in Borno State and an estimated 300 educational institutions destroyed in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, including 80 primary schools in Borno State alone. There is no doubt that there is the need to focus on school safety which should include increasing security consciousness among the citizens, removing circumstances that can jeopardise security in schools and securing the school through adequate infrastructure, technology, intelligence and effective security arrangement by school authorities and security agencies.
In the recent past, there has been some intervention in the education sector including building of 150 Almajiri schools across the Northern States, out of school children programme, Girl Child education programme, establishment of 14 new universities, increased funding, review of school curriculum and training of teachers. But the challenges still remain and the educational outcome still not satisfactory.
As we approach the elections in 2015, political parties and candidates need to tell us how they will address these challenges. It is no longer enough to promise to improve education and improve quality. We need to know the strategy that they will utilize and what they would do differently. Experience has shown that it is more than just throwing money at the problem. It is crucial to know what public administration reform will be carried out in the education sector to address the challenges. In particular, we need to know the strategy that will be utilized to ensure that girl child enrolment will be improved. Concrete strategies are required to deal with the poverty, cultural and religious barrier to girl child education. Concrete plans and programmes are required to upgrade the present unqualified teachers and ensure that qualified teachers are produced and motivated to deliver.
A clear plan and programme of supervision and inspection is urgently needed. The issue of relevance must be addressed holistically with the participation of citizens, the industry and professionals. A clear capacity building strategy is required for the bureaucrats and managers of educational institutions. We need to know what will be done to prevent un-accessed funds from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund) going into private pockets – one form of insanity to do the same thing again and again and expect a different outcome.
Dr. Otive Igbuzor is a pharmacist and holds a doctorate degree in public administration.