Nigeria has a 9-3-4 educational system that has the first nine years spent on a basic education programme that is expected to provide a decent platform for subsequent professional (or further academic) endeavour.
Primary School Education is the Elementary Education stage that takes the first six of the initial nine-year stage and has a curriculum that aims to provide a solid foundation in Mathematics, English, Basic Science and Technology, Nigerian Language, Creative Arts, Religion and National Values, Home Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Agriculture.
The intent is to create a pipeline of adequately skilled workers to contribute to economic development. The impact of primary schooling on a nation’s economic development is multidimensional with its effects covering a range of factors.
A sound primary school education helps put a nation’s workforce in a position to acquire the aptitude, knowledge, and skills required for economic productivity and social competence.
Research has shown a direct relationship between a country’s level of education and its economic productivity due to the quantum of competence made available by a properly educated and skilled workforce.
There are disadvantages associated with children being given substandard quality primary school education and there is a different range of disadvantages that are gotten when children do not get a primary school education of any sort and the latter is what the 10.5 million out-of-school children (OOSC) in Nigeria are dealing with and will continue to live with as they get older.
Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children with almost 20 million children aged 5-14 years out of school.
In areas like the Northwest with states like Borno, Bauchi, Sokoto, etc, almost 60 percent of children between the ages of 5-14 years are out of school and early enrollment rates of 3-6% are the norm.
Formal education from the primary stage all through to the tertiary level is a key part of the Human Capital Development process that drives economic growth and development.
Having 20 million children outside of the system is a huge loss but what is the economic cost of having an OOSC problem that massive?
A report from the Centre for Study Of Economies of Africa (CEAS) tries to find out by getting an estimate of the total earnings likely to be gotten if all children in question complete their basic education programmes and comparing the results with an estimate of the total of earnings that factor in the likely incomes earned by the OOSC that do not have a complete basic education program to identify the difference in outcomes.
The report also considers the impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and does all this using macroeconomic and microeconomic approaches.
The OOSC provide cheap and largely unskilled labour that boosts outputs in some sectors early on but these advantages quickly lose their impact and negative effects kick in with Economic costs due to OOSC in Nigeria calculated to be in the $40 billion range.
This happens because the lack of education and skill places a rigid barrier on the long-term productivity of the adults who were OOSC and this costs the Nigerian economy $40 billion that’s roughly 7.83% of Nigeria’s $432billion GDP.
This $40 billion figure is larger than the combined GDPs of Chad, Mali, and Burkina Faso, speaking to the huge economic costs.
Nigeria and Mali have projected OOSC costs that match their average GDP growth margins over two years. It is clear that investment in putting out-of-school children in classrooms to be well educated would be an economically sensible option as opposed to leaving them to become economically unproductive, socially unintegrated, and open to damaging influences that would bring about insecurity and unrest.
An investment in solving the OOSC problem helps protect infrastructure by how it helps with proactive maintenance of Law and Order.
The economic impact of reducing the number of OOSC is not restricted to the extent to which the individuals concerned can earn when properly educated.
There are economically useful outcomes from the social integration and improved adherence to social norms that tend to be associated with high rates of early enrollment and primary school education.
Nwanze is a partner at SBM Intelligence