Poor education and Nigeria’s future
Education is the soul of a nation, the key to its secured future but it is a well-known fact that Nigeria’s is deteriorating. This ugly state of the country’s education has been attributed over time to a number of factors including underfunding, low-quality teaching personnel, poor infrastructure, poverty of curriculum and absence of dedicated practitioners.
From primary through secondary to the tertiary level, the rot is mind-boggling. It is a decline, which must be arrested if Nigeria’s future would not be jeopardised.
For the past few years, there has been a steady decline in the performance of candidates in WAEC examinations. The crisis manifested, for instance, in the May/June 2014 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) results. The results showed a pathetic poor performance by candidates, one of the worst recorded in recent times. Out of the 1,692,435 candidates who sat for the examination, only 529,425, representing 31.28 per cent could obtain credits in five subjects and above, including English and Mathematics, is disturbing. Majority of the candidates, numbering 1,163,010 or 68.72 per cent failed!
This is a disaster.
For several years, stakeholders, university administrators, parents and even students themselves have decried the falling standard in the university system. They have witnessed from successive governments a systemic dysfunction that has continued to impede the growth of education. They have also witnessed how a vibrant intellectual culture that bred opinion leaders, captains of industries, has been replaced by a rabid, consumerist trend churning out nurseries of mediocrities.
It is common knowledge that Nigeria is far from the UNESCO funding threshold for education pegged at 26 per cent of any budget cycle. The consequence is that teachers are underpaid; there is lack of healthy learning environment and absence of commitment as well as passion by those who work in the sector. This has been at the heart of most industrial actions in the education sector often led by the Academic Staff Union of Universities. But all stakeholders are at one that only through empowerment of the citizens through education can any country achieve transformation.
The quality of the teaching personnel is central to the educational system. Teachers in Nigeria today are poorly trained and many of those who take up teaching do so due to the absence of employment opportunities in preferred areas, not necessary because of motivation. The situation is aggravated by the distortion of values in the society, which has led to a situation where teachers’ pivotal role in nation-building is no longer regarded and merit is thrown overboard. There is also a decline of reading culture and a debasement of values has engendered disrespect for true nation-builders like teachers while thieving politicians, looters and sundry criminals are lionised. The overall consequence of this is a nation with its future threatened. Poor learner’s performance is evident in the poor outcome of various evaluating and benchmarking examinations such as General Certificate of Education (GCE), West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC), National Examinations Council (NECO) and Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and post-UTME.
There is the insufficiency of infrastructure in the education sector, of course. Beyond physical infrastructure, technological and laboratory equipment is lacking. Above all, the absence of constant electricity hinders science education and creates a chaotic learning environment.
The catalogue of woes is compounded by the disaster that Nigeria’s educational curriculum, which has been distorted by poor attitude to education, evidenced in shifting schemes and no clear philosophy, has become. The result is that basic aspects of curricular content such as civic education and history have either been removed or relegated to the background. Even when emphasis is placed on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, the so-called STEM, these are pursued without commitment and, therefore, no successful outcome.
Funding cannot be overemphasised although it is not necessarily the cure-all for all the ills in the sector. Paying teachers their well-deserved wages will help in the journey to revamping the sector and increasing the respectability of the teaching profession. Improvement in the quality of teaching is the only route through which Nigeria can realise its ambition in a competitive global order. Nigeria’s education sector must also embrace the use of technological tools as part of the overall infrastructural overhaul. And this costs money.
A complete review of the curriculum is imperative to upscale standards and the Nigerian child must begin the process of internalising the Nigerian dream, with a view to living it, through the philosophical framework of an education system that includes vigorous re-introduction of history and civic education. Nigerians will unleash their passion on everyday endeavours when they know their history and have a dream of the future. In Finland, regarded as one of the world’s most literate societies, teachers are prepared and they prepare their students for the theory of education and practice. Nigeria especially needs to create cadres of really professional teachers and nurture them in ways that can make the export of human capital to needy African countries possible.
It is incumbent on governments and their agencies at all levels to ensure that the level of education in Nigeria is improved. And since the future development of the nation is tied to its youths, government at all levels must make the right investment in education. The country should strive to nurture a system whose products would be competitive with their counterparts in the rest of the world. Nigeria needs to take the bold redemptive step to save education and the future of the country.