Nigeria’s Education Problem: Economic Ambition, But Weak Education

Chapter II of Nigeria’s Constitution guarantees an education for every child, but over 10 million children in the country have been left wanting.

A UNESCO release called the 2012 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report shows that ~61 million childen worldwide are denied the opportunity to receive a basic education. Approximately 1 out of 6 of those children are Nigerian.

At AllAfrica.com, Kayode Komolafe writes that this should be a source of national shame, as it’s an unacceptable statistic for as advanced a year as 2013. Komolafe is worried that Nigeria’s struggles could be for naught if the populace is unable to take advantage of improvements, and that the country’s political leaders’ aggressive goal of being a Top 20 economy by 2020 is a pipe dream given the state of public education:

How will the army of 10.5 million illiterates be players in such an illusory political economy? Development theorists tell us that we are in the age of knowledge economy, yet policy-makers of a country that aspires to be among the most developed are not losing their sleep that 10 million children are denied basic education.

Nigeria has a developing economy rich in resources — it provides ~11% of the United States’ oil imports — and is an emerging player in telecommunications.

As the rest of the developed world talks constantly about an education relevant to the needs of the 21st century, and as Nigeria’s economy increases its share of that economy, it’s a valid concern that a populace denied any education at all will hinder development — or worse.

The Education for All initiative would see countries eliminating the access gap by 2015 — but Komolafe writes that Nigeria has a long way to go.

Nigeria’s education minister seems not to take on the responsibility of fixing the system, though. She’d like to see Nigerian society take the burden upon themselves, from families to community organizations to businesses:

In responding to this report, the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’i, said the responsibility for education should not be that of government alone. She challenged stakeholders- the civil society and development partners – to enlist in the war against ignorance. And that is where the officialdom often misses the point at issue. The best the “stakeholders” can do in the circumstance is to nudge the government to wake up to its responsibility of ridding this land of the scourge of illiteracy.

The most pressing issue, says Komolafe, is funding — and the interplay between national and local governments — and the current model of passing the financial torch on to families further broadens Nigeria’s gap between the education haves and have nots:

There should be a policy rethink; the official mentality that government cannot fund basic education for the poor must change. When you leave a parent on the minimum wage at the mercy of a private school entrepreneur who charges many times the income of the parent as fees, you are sentencing that child to illiteracy. That is not the path to development.

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at www.matthewktabor.com , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.