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The politics of education in Nigeria

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On September 2, 2018, I was contacted for an interview by Social Innovations Academy, the first fully digital academy for social entrepreneurs in Europe and based in Luxemburg. Although Africa is not a part of their primary targets for obvious reasons they thought after looking through the work we are doing, they can learn from individuals in Africa in the social space.

After the interview, I kept asking myself if it was a dream and maybe I would soon wake up and be back to reality. How possible was that? A European Academy is getting insights from a boy that was educated in the village.

Then I realised that to build more global ambassadors for Nigeria, children of the poor must, as a priority, have access to quality education at our public educational institutions at all levels. Government much deliberately be interested in education and development of young people especially in vulnerable communities across the 36 states including FCT.

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For so long now, the governments at the three tiers have relegated education while promoting mediocrity in the name of youth empowerment to score political points. The most rewarding empowerment any government can give to her people is a deliberate investment into their future through proper funding and monitoring of education policies and their implementations. According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children in the world and of course, our university system is also one of the worsts in the world and not even near top five in Africa.

Also, a joint research By Ikediashi and Amaechi (2011) on Teacher Ratio: Implication For Quality Education In Nigerian Primary Schools published in International Journal Of Arts & Humanities revealed that for effective learning system, the teacher to pupil ratio should be 1:30 for theory course; 1:20 for both theory and practical courses and 1:30 for practical courses.

Unfortunately, according to a 2010 report by the Universal Basic Education (UBE), the ratio in Nigeria is 1:40 and it is even worse for disciplines like Home Economics, Computer Studies and Vocational courses. These are fundamental issues that need to be addressed if the children of the low in the society will have access to quality education and become global shapers.

The solution is not in creating ‘Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES)” that breeds a sense of entitlement in young people to be dependent on the government for N20,000 monthly stipend. It is not in conditional cash transfer of N10,000 to run a business that depends on electricity, fuel and energy which collects N30,000 from them.

Let me jump a bit and talk about our university system. I grew up to know that the best universities you can attend are the federal institutions; OAU, UI, FUNAAB, UNILAG etc. In fact, a line in the OAU anthem says ‘Africa’s most beautiful campus’. Even if private schools were appealing to me then, where on earth would I raise hundreds of thousands to pay for tuition let alone upkeep?

Right now, the tables are turning and private universities are leading the so-called ‘Africa’s most beautiful campuses’ in aesthetics, infrastructure and quality. I wish one day we have a young, brilliant and vibrant education minister that can dedicate a week or two annually just to visit student hostels in these federal universities. I also wish that one day, we have a young, brilliant and vibrant president who can sacrifice a week or two annually to meet with Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities to review and question how funds are appropriated.

We cannot do this until we have a bold leader who would make education his top priority. It is a big shame that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are indicting our so-called erudite scholars in the universities for misappropriation. These are people entrusted with moulding the future of this country.

On May 22, 2016, I wrote a piece titled “Who is Adamu Adamu?” the article was as a result of the frustration I encountered each time our team visited local communities in the south-west and witness the dearth in education. I agree that we have commissioners of education in these states but the policy drafting and implementation are being controlled from the centre. And these make the commissioners more or less political figureheads assigned to those posts so to amass resources for the next election cycle. Every institution in Nigeria including education; NIPOST, NPF, NRC, NABTEB, NIT, UBE etc are being controlled and directed from the centre. This sort of system leaves no room for accountability at the state or local government level.

The Federal Government in February 2018 promised to declare a ‘state of emergency in education’ by March 2018 but seven months had gone now and not a single word from the federal ministry. After several pressures from interest groups, the ministry began what it called “Mass Literacy Campaign” to be enabled by IT. I wonder what that means in this century and the objective of such an endless initiative. It’s already less than seven months to the end of this administration (if not re-elected) and no significant capacity investment had been made by the ministry.

Lastly, it would be an injustice on my part if I don’t recognize the individual efforts of some states like Oyo, Osun and Kaduna contributing positively to this sphere. Oyo State government for example initiated the first intervention scheme tagged ‘OYOMESI’ led by Dr Akin-Alabi, Special Adviser on Education; the initiative has received commendations from UNESCO and DAWN commission thereby recommending same for other states in the west. The Osun States, on the other hand, inaugurated a committee led by Prof Wole Soyinka in 2010 and has followed through with the committee’s recommendation on infrastructures for public schools. Kaduna State is doing a whole lot on teacher capacity development and ensuring only qualified teachers are teaching in public schools.

While it is understandable that the children of rich politicians and public servants don’t attend our public schools, I would, therefore, appeal to government and policymakers to rethink and start investing in the lives of pupils and students in our public institutions. They are our ambassadors and tomorrow’s global leaders.

Adetunji Adeniran is the Founder Hopefield Network

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