Education is the bedrock of a society, a wise man once said. Although that statement may seem simplistic, it’s one with substance.
Nigeria has a myriad of social issues formed into a cog in the wheel of progress to Nation-Statehood. Most of these issues such as insecurity, religious fundamentalism, regional insularity, corruption, ethnic parochialism, nepotism, unchecked population growth, just to highlight a few, can be traced to the quality of Education we offer to our kids and young people.
Successive governments have failed to declare a state of emergency in the Education sector and the result is the massive insecurity we have on our hands today from Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri, from Sokoto to Abakaliki the story isn’t different anywhere.
Over the last few years, the government has made huge budgetary allocations amounting to billions of dollars in combating the security challenges particularly in Northern Nigeria. While this isn’t entirely a bad idea, some of us are of the opinion that similar budgetary allocations be made to the education sector to address the root causes of these social issues. Usually, the Nigerian way of addressing social issues is throwing money at it while ignoring the fundamentals (This isn’t what we are advocating for). We have seen that happen several times, such as paying militants huge sums of money while ignoring the Niger Delta Environment, paying herdsmen while ignoring the root cause of the farmers-herders clash etc. Such method of addressing sectoral issues is socially polluting and amounts to treating the symptoms while ignoring the disease itself.
The government has incentivized school attendance by initiating the school feeding programme; the previous Government’s approach was building of more schools. As laudable as these steps are, they might only solve the problem of access to education not its quality. Greater attention should be given to quality education as well.
For instance, as noticed during my tour to selected government owned schools, with an Educational Non-Profit Organisation ThinkBIGdoBIGGER, most of the government owned primary schools in Southern Nigeria can boast of wonderful architectural aesthetic but then have teachers who are barely coherent and are absent from their place of duty most of the time. While in less glamorous private owned primary schools, we noticed more qualified teachers who are always in their classrooms.
In Northern Nigeria, girl child education is still a big issue, although small progress has been made within the last two decades, I believe government can do more in terms of legislation and implementation. For instance, Kano has a religious police outfit (HISBAH) that helps in enforcing religious legislation. Something similar should be done to implement free and compulsory girl child education. Let’s take a random 16-year old for instance, who is uneducated, married off at the age of 13, gave birth at the age of 15 and got divorced at the age of 16. With no education, no money to feed or put her kid in school. What do you think the future holds for this child? There are millions like that.
So these are the fundamental issues the Government should look at and find solutions for. The incoming Education Minister has his work cut out. These are the problem solving dimensions the Senate should focus on during its ministerial screening process, not the traditional take a bow approach we are used to.
The Government should create a new public private partnership model for our primary schools; while Government through The Universal Basic Education Scheme builds, the private sector should provide the know how and supervisory channel. This to a large extent will address the problem of quality and supervision. Such an approach will yield positive results taking a cue from Norway and Singapore.