MAXIMISING THE POWER OF EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

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Education plays a major role in the growth and progress of a society. It is a process of continuous learning which can be acquired anywhere at any time and any age. It is the fundamental right of every citizen because it promotes empowerment and ensures development benefits.

It is one of the key components that can make or break the advancement of any society. If citizens of a society are educated, they can provide significant contributions in the fields of arts, literature, science, technology, and others, and help establish a well-rounded and stimulating community.

Education makes us better citizens by teaching us how to conduct ourselves through life, by following rules and regulations and giving us a sense of conscience. It makes us more confident to go out there and achieve things. Many governments across the world have recognized the importance of education as a tool to enhance progress and make the world a better place. It helps us stand up against wrong and for the right; education helps lower crime rate. That is because the educated are often more conscious of their environment.

Nigeria has a federal system of government with 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Within the states, there are 774 local governments. Education is administered by the federal, state and local governments. The Federal Ministry of Education is responsible for overall policy formation and ensuring quality control, but is primarily involved with tertiary education. School education is largely the responsibility of state secondary and local elementary governments.

The country is multilingual, and home to more than 250 different ethnic groups. The languages of the three largest groups, the Yoruba, the Igbo, and the Hausa, are the language of instruction in the earliest years of basic instruction; they are replaced by English in Grade four. No doubt, Nigeria experienced significant progress in expanding access to school under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the domestic Universal Basic Education (UBE) Scheme. However, this expansion has not resulted in improved learning.

The flat learning curve in Nigeria is proof that getting children to school does not automatically translate to frequent attendance, grade progression, effective classroom governance, and more importantly, learning. Additionally, Nigeria faces challenges in ensuring equitable education and learning outcomes across gender, ethnic and regional lines. The country’s quality of education is very unlikely to experience significant progress because of several factors that hinder improvement. Teacher absence, student attendance and irrelevant and culturally unresponsive curricula are some of the reasons.

But also, poor pedagogical content knowledge, dilapidated structures, insecurity (especially in the Northeast region) and inadequate funding are issues that need to be addressed. Quality education is necessary for the preparation of a skilled workforce and lasting socioeconomic development of a country. Hence, the development and implementation of policies aimed towards increasing the quality of education are vital.

To achieve the ambitious goal of providing quality education for all by 2030, a UNESCO report suggests that countries would have to allocate at least 20 per cent of national budget to education. This seems like a far reality for Nigeria with its 2018 budgetary education allocation of mere 7.04 %. There is, therefore, a crucial need for the Nigerian government to prioritize the education budget for quality education and better education outcomes. In addition, international donors and multilateral corporations need to support domestic public spending on education.

A 2015 report by the Brookings Institution revealed that while aid to education increased substantially under the MDGs, it is currently declining. Going forward, education should be prioritized in global policy discussions. It needs to gain attention and pool in corresponding resources. Spending has to match education needs to translate to better education outcomes.

Technology has the dual benefit of expanding access and improving quality of education. The mobility of technology implies that learning opportunities can exist everywhere. This is particularly important as physical spaces for learning will not be able to keep up with Nigeria’s population surge, which is expected to double by 2045. Technology also facilitates access to education content, exchange of skills and experiences, as well as knowledge transfer.

In Rwanda for instance, initiatives such as Information and Communication Technology for everyone (ICT4E) and ‘One Laptop per Child’ project, have enriched quality of teaching and improved the ease of transfer of knowledge to children in rural areas. The education curriculum in Nigeria has to go beyond basic computer literacy. Technology has to be incorporated in all aspects of learning, including the creation of and access to e-learning applications with audio-visual content for teachers and students.

The government needs to initiate and implement better education policies in order to improve the quality of learning of its citizens.

Kehinde Ajanaku, Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja