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Another wake-up call for education overhaul as Malala visits

The 20-year-old Malala, who was accompanied by her father, Yousafzai and other members of the Malala Foundation, arrived at the presidential villa at about 5:30pm


It was her second coming; Pakistani rights activist for girl-child education and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, was in Nigeria recently to further drum up campaign for the girl-child education. She met with the Acting President of Nigeria. Her last visit was in 2014 when she also met with the former President Goodluck Jonathan in the wake of the global campaign for the release of the abducted 230 Chibok girls by Boko Haram insurgents.

On her recent trip, Malala was reported to have visited school children in the IDP camp in Maiduguri (the epicentre of the Boko Haram crisis in the northeast) and met with secondary school girls at Yerwa Government Girls School.

Quoting from some statements attributed to her in the course of her visit, she said “Nigeria is the richest country in Africa, but has more girls out of school than any country in the world. Studies are clear — educating girls grow economies, reduce conflicts and improve public health. For these girls and for their country’s future, Nigerian leaders must immediately prioritise education.”

This cannot be farther from the truth. It is another wake-up call for the country’s leadership to urgently review the current educational structures particularly at the primary level.

Education as it is globally preached today and advocated, is the basic right of every child (not a privilege) irrespective of their religion, colour, race or family background.

What is most worrisome is the extent of governmental and developmental funding through various external agencies that have been sunk into this most important singular sector in Nigeria with little result to show for it.

Available statistics showed that Federal Government education spending averaged nearly US$2 billion annually between 2010 and 2014, which amounts to 7.8% of aggregate FG spending or 0.5% of real GDP. Reports also show that most State Governments spend on the average about 15.68 per cent of their budgetary expenditure on the educational sector though a smaller proportion of this (0.57 per cent) only goes to financing Basic Primary education. The United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had recommended a 26 percent benchmark of budgetary spending for developing countries on this most important sector.

Nigeria’s total budgetary spending on education averaged only 11-15 per cent in the last five years. From N306.3bn in 2011, to N400.15bn in 2012, N426.53bn in 2013, N493bn in 2014, 492bn in 2015, N369bn in 2016 and N540bn in the recently released 2017 Federal Government’s budget, thus making the most important sector unarguably underfunded

Beyond the Federal and States funding, the Nigeria educational sector has equally benefitted immensely from Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) including bilateral and multilateral bodies like the Department for International Development (DFID).

According to available data, bilateral aid dominates ODA to education, with nearly all of it from Development Action Committee countries (DAC). The DAC contribution averaged 69% of total education ODA from 2002 to 2013. The UK is the largest donor with an average annual contribution of US$24.60 million during the period followed by the US (US$7.66 million), Germany (US$5.37 million), France (US$3.17 million), and Japan (US$2.77 million).

Multilateral assistance accounted for 31% of ODA from 2002 to 2013. The World Bank Group IDA credits were the highest component of both multilateral and all education ODA, averaging US$44.85 million annually during the period. Other multilateral donors are UNICEF (US$1.97 million), AfDF (US$1.81million), UNDP (US$0.34 million), and EU Institutions (US$0.02 million).

Aside from all of these, according to available report, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) working in partnership with the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) has equally injected recently, funds totalling £124m into the sector. The eight and a half year programme is meant to support the Federal and some selected State governments (Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara and Lagos) to develop effective planning, financing and delivery systems to improve the quality of schools, teaching and learning. A consortium led by Cambridge Education managed the £124m programme.

It’s very saddening therefore that with all the governmental and developmental fundingthus far received, Nigeria’s education sector in the 20th century is still largely underdeveloped and bewildered by a myriad of challenges.

Nigeria’s literacy indices have remained low. Millions of children are left out of school with many more affected by the Boko Haram insurgency which has significantly ravaged the Northern part of the country and left many more families and children homeless and helpless.

Organisations such as the Cambridge Education Institute, which has benefitted significantly from developmental funding through the DFID-ESSPIN’s Supported programme have not developed any significant learning gains thus far. The quality of schools, teaching and learning in many of the states has remained very poor!

A recent report attributed to the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam El-Rufai (one of the states expected to be impacted by the DFID-ESSPIN’s programme being managed by the Cambridge Institute) was very disheartening. Analysing the state of the teachers and the poor standard of education in Kaduna, El Rufai was reported to have said “What we inherited was a situation in which 42 per cent of our teachers were not qualified to teach and when we tested them on the same common entrance exams that primary six pupils take, more than 42 per cent failed.”

It leaves us with a big question: where then is the impact of the £124million programme (the highest developmental funding ever to be injected in Nigeria’s educational sector) being driven by institutions like Cambridge?

According to UNESCO, of the 260 million out of school children in the world, nine million of them are in Nigeria (UNICEF recently puts this figure at 10.5million) and 4.7million of those are primary school children in Nigeria. Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education reports that 50% of in-school children cannot read or write and 63% of children who lived in rural areas cannot read at all.

Most recent report from UNICEF says “over 2,295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 displaced, and almost 1,400 schools destroyed since the start of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2009. Three million children in the northeast are in need of support to keep learning.

“While the 90 camps and camp-like settings in Maiduguri house thousands of families, more than three-quarters of the 600,000-plus displaced people are living with family, relatives or friends in host communities, placing an additional burden on local schools.

“Among the 10.5 million primary school-aged children not in school, only five per cent are dropouts: three-quarters of them will never step foot in a classroom, and the majority are girls. Across West Africa, 46 per cent of primary school-aged children not in school are Nigerians. Globally, one in five children not enrolled are Nigerians.”

Malala must be right in her assertion! – Nigeria has the biggest economy in Africa. A recent London Stock Exchange report titled “Companies to Inspire Africa” actually ranked Nigerian companies amongst the fastest growing in Africa. While Nigeria’s economy shows strength, its foundation for the future is weakened by an education system that is not keeping up!

One does not need a stargazer or a fortune teller to deduce that the current educational structures are no longer sustainable and therefore a more radical approach to educating our children needs to be considered. As the saying goes, only an insane man does the same thing over and over again and expects to see different results. If we must see majority of our children go to school and be educated in Nigeria, then there has to be a change – a change from the old thinking that government has the wherewithal to sustain the sector, a change that encompasses new reforms, new agenda and new orientation for the policy and decision makers.Truly as Malala said, Nigerian leaders must immediately begin to prioritise education!

Alabi is the Managing Partner, Prospers Strategy Limited , Lagos

In this article:
Malala Yousafzai


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