The country could do more to prop the quality of education

Predictably, nothing came out of the bill by Senator Baheer Garba Muhammad to alter the Nigerian Constitution to discourage public officials from sending their children and wards to schools abroad except for specialisation at postgraduate levels or for courses not offered by our educational institutions. His futile intervention was predicated on the fact that the standard of education in Nigeria, especially in the public schools, has continued to fall despite huge investments in the sector.

We are all familiar with the state of affairs that engendered Senator Muhammad’s bill while the picture he has painted is all too glaring. Nothing perhaps exemplifies this today more than the failure profile of our children at senior secondary school certificate examinations, and the now common knowledge that many of our university graduates are unemployable. Yet, as we have reiterated several times on this page, for as long as education is in the doldrums, for so long shall the future of the country be there with it.

Meanwhile, we agree that the desire of many public officials to educate their children overseas constitutes a major drain of foreign exchange on the economy as Nigeria has one of the highest student populations in the Diaspora. Hundreds of billions of Naira are spent by Nigerian students in the United Kingdom alone. The figure is about the same in the United States even when many Asian countries have also become new destinations. The number of Nigerian students in the Malaysian public and private institutions is well over 5,000. The number is also rising in China, Singapore and India.

Sadly, even former unknown destinations like Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan are becoming popular with some of their nationals coming to our country to set up shops for enticing our children to study in their countries. The pattern is also increasingly common in some African countries with Ghana clearly in the lead. Put simply, Nigeria has become a major catchment market for the world because of her inability to provide good education for the citizenry. While their economy is boosted, ours is withering.

There is a consensus that the deplorable state of education in the country is traceable to the fact that politicians do not care about fixing the sector because they can afford to ship their children overseas. Yet the provision of quality and affordable education is one of the sacred duties of government since they provide the needed human capital necessary for development.

We recall with dismay that in the 1960s, up till the late 80s, our education sector was able to turn out products from primary to tertiary schools who could hold their own. Unfortunately, for quite some time, huge sums of money are annually budgeted by federal and state governments for education yet much of it end up in some private pockets. Ironically, the same people who share the money that ought to be invested in quality education in the country (in form of getting adequate teaching materials, equipping the schools, providing conducive environment and in motivating the staff) often turn around to bemoan the rot in the system.

All said, even though Senator Muhammad’s bill was misdirected, the fact remains that there is need for a return to those neglected details that make for a credible educational system. Pre-primary school education, for instance, should be made to function within a well -articulated and enforceable policy framework. A modern testing instrument should be developed and administered to potential/existing proprietors and staff of early childhood educational facilities to audit the system. All these can be done through a sustainable partnership arrangement with pro-child organisations and affiliate non-governmental organisations of development partners.