No doubt, education develops the mind.
With it, people acquire knowledge, experience and the capability to
conquer poverty, ignorance and diseases.
However, the sector in the country has
undergone many changes since the attainment of political freedom from
the British colonialists exactly 54 years ago today.
The period shortly after independence
marked the glorious years in the sector. The prevalent indices then
pointed to a bright future for the country as it produced well-rounded
manpower, which the country’s socio-economic and technological
advancement relied on.
The period witnessed a strong school
system, adequate funding of the few available public schools,
well-equipped science laboratories and libraries, as well as an
environment conducive for learning and teaching.
The system also enjoyed steady academic
calendar at all levels just as the few tertiary institutions around
enjoyed reasonable level of academic freedom and robust students’
unionism.
The decade that followed the first
military rule signaled the beginning of the decay in the sector. The
period marked one of the deciding factors that led to the destruction of
the legacies of the independence years.
The policy changes and disregard for
intellectualism by the successive regimes, especially during the
military era led largely to various social ills that are still
confronting the sector today.
“That is true, especially after the
Civil War, when there was so much money circulating and people could get
much of it without working hard,” said Professor Olaoye Tomori, the
President of Nigerian Academy of Science. “From there, education began
to suffer neglect.”
Consequently, according to observers,
the country started experiencing brain drain, interrupted academic
calendar, decaying infrastructures, mass failure in public exams,
workers’ strikes, disregard for teaching job, destruction of public
school system, parents’ neglect and cultism.
However, the importance of quality
education has pointed to the fact that no country can grow beyond its
literacy level. Sadly, Nigeria’s literacy level is far below the
international standard, which UNESCO puts at 81 per cent of the
country’s total population. As at 2010, the adults’ literacy rate,
according to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, was 57 per cent.
The situation is worse in the northern part and some eastern states of
the country, where fewer school age girls enrol in schools compared to
their male counterparts due to social-cultural beliefs and economic
limitation.
Similarly, school age children generally
flood the streets, especially in the cities, during school hours
engaging in one menial jobs or trading.
Although, Nigeria, just like many other
countries around the world, considers education to be a fundamental
right of every child, the implementation of such law by appropriate
authorities has remained a challenge.
Another problem is about the quality of
school teachers. Experts believe that quality of graduates produced is a
direct function of quality of their teachers. A good teacher for
instance, must be able to simplify every aspect of the language for his
students to perform well in an exam and other areas of life, but this is
lacking in most of our schools.
The declaration by President Goodluck
Jonathan at a public forum sometime ago that more than half of all the
lecturers in the nation’s universities were not qualified to be there is
a pointer to this fact..
This situation is similar at lower
levels. Some primary and secondary schools, especially those owned by
individuals employ people who never trained to be teachers. The
implication of this is that many of the students who come out under
their tutelage could neither speak nor write simple and correct grammar.
The sector is also known for poor
funding. Over the years, government’s investment on education is below
the one that can drive the system to appreciable heights.
While the Federal Government’s yearly
allocation is below 20 per cent of the total budget against the
international standard, which requires for more percentage, it is lower
for many state governments, the situation that has been pitching the
various school workers’ unions against the government.
Even unlike before when tertiary
institutions relied on government subvention, the current situation is
that many of them would have closed down if not for the intervention of
the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). This practice is contrary
to the original complimentary financial role the agency was meant to
perform at inception.
Another serious challenge is the poor
infrastructural facilities in terms of physical structure and
instructional materials most of the schools at all levels. There are
situations where students, especially in the north, still have their
lessons under trees just because of the inadequacy of classrooms. Where
there are classrooms, they are overcrowded and stuffy and this prevents
free movement of teachers and students when the need arises.
There is a world standard on this, which
UNESCO puts at ratio one teacher to 40 students maximum for effective
communication in class. But there are many schools even in Lagos, which
prides itself a model for others, including the Federal Government, that
parade more than 80 students in a classroom.
The situation is not better off at the
tertiary level. Lectures are still holding at sport arenas. Students are
not only queuing for water for several hours, they experience blackouts
for days. In some hostels especially those of the first generation
universities, more than 10 students are stayed in a room officially
meant four occupants. Most libraries and laboratories are also
poorly-equipped even as corruption and examination malpractice thrive in
campuses.
These are just a few of the problems that are still staying with the sector 54 years after independence.
However, there are still some achievements recorded in the sector.
“But this was more mostly in the first
two decades after independence,” as Professor Tomori, who is also a
former Vice-Chancellor of the Redeemers’ University, Mowe, Ogun State,
pointed out.
According to him, the government then
had a defined purpose for education, the teachers had a calling for
teaching, the parents appreciated it while the students showed
commensurable diligence.
There some other achievements recorded
in the sector, according to the South-West Coordinator, National
Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria, NPAN, Deacon Olusoji Adams “but
generally, the progress is not commensurable to the age of the country
as an independent nation.”
While Olusoji scored the sector 54 per
cent with one per cent representing each year, he explained that when
the system viewed on a global perspective, the country does not present
the worst case scenario in terms of quality.
Similarly, just last week, the National
Bureau of Statistics came up with a shocking report that education
sector accounts for 50 per cent of the total work force in the formal
sector in the first half of the year.
The implication of this is that half of
the economically engaged Nigerians are absorbed by the sector. This is a
sterling achievement in the face of high unemployment and poverty level
in the country.
At independence, there was only the
University College (now University of Ibadan) in the entire country but
as at today, the country has 129 universities and several polytechnics
and colleges of education spread across the country. This development
has greatly increased access to tertiary education in the land.
The nation’s literacy level has also
improved significantly. School enrollment at independent was around two
million children but the figure has jumped to over 20 million, including
those in the Almajiri schools in the northern part.
“This is not where we should be by now,”
Tomori observed. “But something can still be done to revamp the system
by using holistic approach.”
For him, “This is simply by returning to
basics holistically. To now starting education in the schools is
already too late. It has to begin at home, with parents laying the
foundation discipline, and schools supporting it with the pillars of
loyalty, integrity, faithfulness and excellence.”
There is also the need for government to
make adequate budget for the sector as this will arrest to a large
extent, the decaying infrastructures at all levels.
Olusoji also suggested some measures
that can drive the sector forward. He advocated the setting up of a
mechanism whereby the school administrators would be held accountable
for their activities.
The teachers should also be
well-remunerated and provided with good conditions of service, not only
to make them more committed, but also to attract best brains into the
system. Government should equally honour all the existing agreements
with various school workers from primary to the university. Incessant
strikes by school workers across tiers in the last two decades have done
nothing than incalculable damage to the system.
The teachers, students, parents and
other stakeholders, on their part, should also ensure they contribute
their own quotas to the development of the sector and make it globally
competitive.
Culled from National Mirror Newspaper
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