Since her independence on the 1st of October 1960, Nigeria has remained consistent in growth, moving from 42.5 million people at the time of independence from British rule to about 190 million people in the last decade with over 200 million of this population youths, making up about 60 percent of the country’s population.
The activities of youths in Nigeria makes tremendous marks in the country with activities across various sectors of the country’s economy and largely dominating the entertainment sector which is considered by many as the country’s largest export as opposed to the belief that oil is the country’s largest export.
Although education is said to be the bedrock of the society, the Nigerian state is unable to boldly showcase the country’s educational system as there are a lot of infrastructural decay amidst gross political inadequacies in terms of educational policies and implementation, as well as mismanagement of funds.
Regardless of the fact that education at the primary level is free in Nigeria, over 10 million children are currently out of school in the country, making one out of every five out of school children across the world. The North makes up a large percentage of the number of out of school children.
At the University level, incessant strike actions and protests are major characteristics which are fueled by mismanagement of highly inadequate funds, dilapidating structures and basic amenities marked by the lack of power, water and housing. The dearth of well-trained lecturers and the neglect of the needs of students are also a major problem faced by the educational sector in Nigeria.
As it stands, Nigeria is the country of origin of most African international students across the world. This is born out of the need to access more standard education or the inability to get into Nigerian universities. In the year 2015, two thirds of applicants who applied to Nigerian universities were unable to get in.
In Nigeria, the activities of the educational sector is overseen by the government at all levels with the Federal Ministry of Education in charge of all the policy formation in the country. While the Federal Government is responsible for overseeing the activities of tertiary institutions, the state and local governments are saddled with the responsibility of taking charge of secondary and primary education respectively. The country’s general policy of education covers areas like the number of years spent in schools which is six years elementary schooling and three years of junior secondary education. Another three years at the senior secondary level, then four to six years (depending on the area of study) at the tertiary level. In Northern Nigeria, children are deprived of access to quality education because of religious and socio cultural beliefs which largely keep females out of classrooms in the area. In the war-torn North-Eastern part of the country, over two million children are said to be in need of educational emergency according to UNICEF data. While 802 schools have been shut down, over 400 are said to have been damaged. The result of these numbers is the increasingly high rate of out of school children in the region and likewise increasing rate of crime amongst children and young adults.
The need for trained teachers and other personnel in the educational sector in Nigeria cannot also be overemphasized. In the year 2017, the Governor El Rufai led government of Kaduna state decided to conduct a competency test for teachers and out of 33,000 teachers who took the test, 21,700 were reported to have failed the test which was meant for Primary 4 pupils. This led to a massive sack of teachers in the state and of course, the need to employ competent and well trained teachers.
While there is a policy which entails that every teacher holds a certificate in education, the case is not quite so in the real sense, as the high unemployment rate of the country as well as corruption has driven many to professions (like teaching) which they did not originally train for. The result of this is incompetence in the area of teaching.
The lack of adequate educational facilities has also been boosted by the fast growing population of Nigerians amidst gross mismanagement of funds and many other impractical educational policies. While the spaces at Nigerian universities are not quite enough for intending students, there is also a very high rate of unemployment amongst Nigerian graduates. This results in many ills amongst youths which is fanned by the quest for survival and productivity.
This year, the International Youth Day explores the theme: Transforming Education and as such, Nigeria stands tall amongst those countries whose educational system are in need of transformation. From national policies of education to the active participation of students in schools, the country needs to return to the drawing board in order to be able to get it right when it comes to education. Also, Nigerians need to be able to look back home when they seek quality education.
In the Northern part of the country, there is need for sensitization, both in and outside the classrooms to encourage the need for individuals to open themselves up to access education. The need to overhaul schools in terms of infrastructure in this region and across the country cannot be overemphasized.
There is also need to devise measures which ensure that graduates are armed with quality life skills that will help them later in life after graduation from schools. The focus of students and teachers should not merely be in the need to graduate with good grades as graduates will have to be able to function in a larger society. While students are taught with a standard curriculum, there should also be a focus on practical skills that will help products of Nigerian schools stay at the top to compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world.
The Nigerian youth has a lot to offer and as it has always been, education remains key to a sustainable and highly developed nation. While there are many opportunities across the world, the country has to look within to get the best and in a nation so blessed with immense human resource, the best can always be groomed within the classroom.
Written by Josephine Omaku