Nigeria continues to grapple with the challenge of providing qualitative education to its young ones. Over time, the quality of education provided across board from primary to university has so depreciated that education tourism has become an industry in the country.
But even more urgent is the problem of access to education in Nigeria. A survey conducted by UNICEF and the Nigerian government shows that Nigeria has the highest number of out of school in the world at 13.2 million. A majority of these out of school children come from the three geopolitical regions of Northern Nigeria – Northwest, Northeast and Northcentral. Perhaps, it is the desire to ensure every Nigerian child has access compulsorily to primary and three years of secondary education that led the government to introduce the Universal Basic Education in 1999, a scheme where the both the federal government and state governments contribute to fund basic education across the country. Sadly, since becoming fully operational in 2004, the UBE has not recorded much improvement in enrolment not to talk of quality in recent years.
Sadly the regional discrepancies in access to education have continued and are reflecting in the number of those gaining admission in Nigeria’s higher institutions. According to recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, five southern states of Imo, Anambra, Osun, Oyo and Delta accounted for one-third of students admitted to study a degree course in 2018. According to the data, a total of 422, 245 were admitted to study for one degree course or another in the Universities in 2018, a slight increase from the 418, 298 that got admitted in 2017. Out of these, Imo state led the pack with 23, 799, Anambra followed closely with 20, 686 candidates, followed by Osun with 18, 975, Oyo with 17, 693 and Delta with 16, 341. Of course, the five states with the least places in Nigerian universities were northern states with Zamfara coming last with 2, 359. It was closely followed by Sokoto 3, 623, Jigawa 3, 672, Kebbi 3, 748, and Yobe at 5, 803.
Sadly, the regions with the lowest admission in Nigerian universities also have the highest number of children out of school and the lowest literacy rates in the country. Added to these is the longstanding cultural belief which discourages girl-child education.
It is clear that this situation cannot be allowed to continue. We cannot have a situation where policies are designed to provide access to education to all Nigerians but a section of the country continues to act in ways that continually exclude their people and put them in disadvantage of competing with their peers in other parts of the country. This situation is at the root of the insecurity and social disorder engulfing the north of the country. You can’t have a different outcome when the greater majority of your youth were not educated at all or dropped out of school as children and have no skills or job to engage them as they grow up.
Perhaps, the federal government may want to take a closer look at how the UBEC funds accessed by the states are expended. There are strong suspicions that the funds are misapplied or diverted. That must be stopped.
Ultimately, it is down to the political and traditional leaders in northern states to change the educational outcomes of their people to give them a fighting chance of self actualisation and also save the regions and the whole country from the coming anarchy if a majority of northern youth remain uneducated and unemployable.