There is urgent need for all stakeholders to invest heavily in education

The revelation credited to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, that while Lagos State has the highest number of candidates (24,816) for the 2017 Common Entrance Examination, Kebbi State has just 63 candidates, should ordinarily be a matter of great concern. The greater challenge lies in the fact that it is not an isolated issue as it falls into what is fast becoming a dangerous pattern. The minister’s revelation came at a time other stakeholders in the North have been painting a picture of socio-economic condition that could come back to haunt the nation.

At a recent Kaduna State Investment and Economic Summit (KADINVEST), Governor Nasir el-Rufai, after a brutal assessment, said the north has been pulling Nigeria backwards, warning that unless the leaders from the region came together to address common challenges, the future would remain bleak for a vast majority of the people. But it was the speech by the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II which assessed the prevailing situation within the region that attracted the most attention.

In his keynote address titled ‘Promoting Investment Amidst Economic Challenges’, the emir said the abhorrence of Western education in the name of practicing Islam has made the northern part of Nigeria to become the poorest region in the country. He advocated the embracement of western education while urging the people to stop using religion and culture to set the region backward. “We are fighting culture, we are fighting civilisation. You tell me that you should not write love books in northern Nigerian… What is the crime of those books?” he asked.

While there seems to be a subtle attempt to muscle the emir for saying the inconvenient truth, we believe it would be more productive if the authorities within the region took into account the message even if they don’t like the messenger. As we have consistently reiterated on this page, education remains the strongest weapon for the north to tackle many of the socio-political and economic challenges confronting the region today. And until leaders within the region begin to fix the challenges within the sector by getting the millions of children who are out of schools back to the classrooms and putting in place the necessary infrastructure, the index of misery will not change.

For sure, we understand that the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram, has undermined the progress made in the region in the past few years, especially in the area of education. But the growing disparity between the region and its southern counterpart is a serious national security threat that needs to be addressed by all critical stakeholders in the country. The low level of enrolment in primary, secondary and post education levels is strong evidence of that threat.

However, it must be stated that the north is not a region that could be labelled as “illiterate” as some ignorant commentators have been doing. It has a large number of people‎ who can read and write, even if it is not English. And they are probably more informed than their counterparts in other regions given the popularity of the radio among them. The real challenge is in western education without which progress is difficult in the world in which we live in today. That is where there should be investment by many of the states with support from the federal government through deliberate and consistent efforts.

Apart from lack of commitment, weak implementation of policy, inadequate political will, budgetary allocation for basic education must be addressed urgently. But such a root and branch reform cannot succeed unless all the strategic stakeholders take clear ownership.