Nigeria joins the rest of the global community in commemorating this year’s International Day of Education. The solemnity is compelled by the current morass in which Nigeria’s education system has found itself.
The statistics presented on the decadence of Nigeria’s educational sector last year now threaten to induce an eerie nostalgia as the nation’s education sector has further plunged into abysmal conditions since then.
From 10.5 million out-of-school children in 2020, 1 in 12 of all out-of-school children globally, Nigeria has over 20 million. These latest numbers have made the World Bank believe that the crisis in Nigeria’s education sector means that 70 percent of 10-year-olds are incapable of understanding a simple sentence or solving basic numeracy tasks.
This theme was selected after thorough deliberations on the increasing inequities that frustrate national and international efforts to achieve inclusive and equitable education and convert verbal commitments and aspirations into tangible outcomes.
The National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity, has continued to express grave concern about the state of child education in Nigeria that a country of almost 200 million people has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
The out-of-school astronomical numbers in Nigeria can be said to be a result of multiple factors. Firstly, the adverse impact of terrorism and banditry on education, especially in northern Nigeria, and the cavalier attitude with which governments across the board have handled issues about education.
We are aware that many issues bedeviling education in Nigeria persist because of a disturbing lack of political strategy and will. Governments, over the years, have continued to allocate an inadequate percentage of the yearly national budget to education, despite the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) ‘s persistent recommendation of at least 15 – 20%. In the last eight years, Nigeria’s education budget has hovered between a meager 5.68% and 8.8% of the national budget. Allocating 8.8% of this year’s budget to education may look like an improvement on previous years, but it can best be described as perfunctory in the face of the odds that continue to mount.
In the wake of the devastation caused by lockdowns and lost school time occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, crippling insecurity, a chronic absence of infrastructure, declining quality of curriculum and teaching, and worsening out-of-school statistics, we urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to immediately declare a state of emergency in the education sector.
We strongly recommend that the Better Education Service Delivery For All, rolled out by the Federal Government in 2018 and reportedly ensured the enrolment of over 1 million out-of-school children, be re-evaluated and primed for improved results.
The Alternative School Programme, which came on stream in January 2021 as a federal government education and social welfare programme for pupils, has not quite made a much-needed impact beyond the pageantry of its inauguration day.
The Federal Government of Nigeria should lead from the front in ensuring qualitative, affordable, and compulsory education for a young demographic bursting at the seams and upon whose frail shoulders the country’s very future rests.
The rankling dishonesty that characterised the government’s handling of the recent industrial action by public university lecturers does not present much hope.
The International Day of Education is another opportune moment for all stakeholders to reflect and redouble their efforts to ensure that the future of present and future generations is secured. The approach has to be holistic and sincere, or else we run a grave risk of contending with tens of millions of young people, bereft of formal education, unable to compete with peers across the world, and cannon fodder for all sorts of social vices. Anything short of a concerted effort hinged on increased funding and a collective will to see plans to fruition will come back to bite one and all.