• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s education system is vital to productivity, fix it!

In a number of deficiencies and inequalities, the COVID-19 pandemic has unmasked the gaps in Nigeria’s education system. Given the importance of education to human development and its irrefutable role in economic development, fixing these inequalities should make the list of priorities. Economic productivity is a function of quality education system.
A United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Report states that 10.5 million of the Nigerian children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 percent of 6 to 11-year-olds regularly attend primary school.
Some states in the North Eastern and North Western parts of the country have more than half of their girls not enrolled in schools as marginalisation ensures that girls in those regions are deprived of basic education. This explains why Nigeria contributes 20 percent of the total global out-of-school population.
The COVID-19 outbreak has worsened these numbers.
In an unintended but necessary action, the Nigerian federal government and state governments ordered the closure of schools at all levels and forms in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly virus. This, of course, has disrupted learning processes and outcomes of students across the country.
However, amid this unfortunate event, COVID-19 pandemic is revolutionising digital and online education globally. While some schools in Nigeria have fully embraced the ‘new normal’, children in rural and underserved communities in some Nigerian states, are being left behind as they are not equipped to adapt or transition to the new methods of learning.
Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a number of challenges inherent in the Nigeria’s education sector. Also visible is the low attention paid to developments in the sector by the federal government as shown in its budgets.
Recently, the FG cut a whopping 54.25 percent from its 2020 budgetary allocations for Universal Basic Education to N51.1 billion, down from N111.7 billion. All these have reflected in the sub-optimal performance in the sector. In 2019, the sector recorded a weak growth of 0.80 percent.
The pandemic, however, provides opportunities to revive and develop the education sector.
Very commendable are the efforts of some private and non-governmental sectors executing projects such as Digiterate and Teach for Nigeria in Lagos. However, there are some children who currently cannot keep up with their peers because they don’t have access to digital tools.
Such children may never catch up and will continue to feel the effect of this gap long after the pandemic is over, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The challenges in the Nigerian education system are partly an issue of access; it is also that of quality. To drive quality and access, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and government aid must be encouraged. According to WEF, “PPPs can do much to improve the quality of, and increase access to education for poor children in underserved communities. More schools in such areas, especially Lagos, would go some way to start shifting the teacher/student ratio which has hit alarming lows of 1:83 at points during the past decade.”
If Nigeria must have a vibrant education system, education should be viewed as a high government priority. There should be an understanding that an investment in it is one in human capital and very beneficial to economic development.
This should inform budgetary allocations into the sector. Also, investing in educational tools of the future alongside a total revamp of the educational sector is key. Reforms in the national curriculum post-pandemic would be an effective way to also bridge the inequality gap.
Nigeria’s human development index is very poor and depicts the miserable state of its citizens. What better way to improve this index if not investing in quality education? This is a sustainable mission that must be embarked on because the more educated a country is, the more productive its workforce becomes, and the more it grows economically.