As Nigerians await the much-desired change promised by President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) government, one sector where positive change and reforms will rightly deliver good societal value and sustainable development is undoubtedly the education sector.
Africa Learning Barometer created by the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution estimates that over 37 million children in schools in Africa are not learning and may not be better off than those that are out of school. It is revealed also that in countries like Nigeria, Ethiopia and Zambia, over half of in-school pupils by the end of primary education are without basic reading and numeracy skills.
Considering that early childhood education is fundamental, these findings should indeed worry any government that seeks to bring true change and reforms in the education sector and even so across society, as education is the major vehicle for empowering citizens to improve their wellbeing and contribute meaningfully to the overall development of society.
A cursory survey of the primary education landscape in Nigeria readily shows that the number of public and private primary schools is on the increase. Yet, even with this bewildering multiplicity, especially with private sector contribution, there is still a major deficit in actual learning.
Experts and stakeholders have adduced reasons for this critical learning crisis. Among these reasons are the absence of supervision or haphazard supervision of learning processes and outcomes in the schools following failure to provide necessary leadership by education ministries across the country, and poor teaching skills of those who teach in many primary schools.
Investigations reveal that in the wake of high unemployment and a dispensation that allows undue profiteering by school proprietors, who prefer ‘cheap hire’ of those who do not possess the right disposition, qualifications or empowerment to be teachers, the teaching profession has virtually been bastardised.
Any house without a solid foundation would either crack or collapse. Primary education is the foundation and Nigeria should get it right if the country would take its rightful position in the comity of nations. The much focus on higher education at the expense of primary education is like setting the cart before the horse. Thus, it is no wonder that with the poor learning in primary schools and insufficient focus on primary education, many products of higher education in Nigeria are without commensurate literacy and numeracy skills as their foundation in learning is shaky.
We seize this medium to call on federal, state and local governments in the country to collaborate on saving primary education from total collapse and, indeed, ensure that it provides the solid foundation in learning. This can only be done by creating an impactful reform plan that seeks to enthrone actual learning at this level and provide the required mechanism in terms of proper learning agents – teachers – and necessary monitoring.