Stakeholders and experts have highlighted why education is on the back burner among Nigerian northern states.
The education deprivation in northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in formal education, especially for girls.
According to a UNICEF report, states in the northeast and northwest have female primary net attendance rates of 47.7 percent and 47.3 percent, respectively, meaning that more than half of the girls are not in school.
However, stakeholders have highlighted what they consider as fundamental reasons for the backward integration of education such as poor release of funds, lack of political will, lack of qualified teachers, inability to implement policies, and inadequate infrastructure.
The unenthusiastic attitude of governments in northern Nigeria towards the educational sector is seen as leading to the neglect of the sector over the years, which has placed the region on worse tread of the educational development index as evidenced in the performance of students and pupils in national examinations and competitions.
Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai, a former minister of education, recently identified the inability to mobilise school-age children, and the poor release of funds, as some of the challenges to education in the north.
As part of solutions to the challenges, she recommended additional schools be built in the north and the school feeding programme expanded, among others.
Lack of political will
Stakeholders insist that lack of political will is a key factor dragging education backwards in northern Nigeria. Corruption and insincerity of politicians are seen clipping the progress of education in the region.
Ibrahim Shekarau, a former governor of Kano State in an event decried the fact that despite the North’s rich cultural heritage, historical significance, and abundance of human resources, is lagging behind in terms of educational development compared to other regions in the country. He called for urgent action to change the narrative.
“These findings are not meant to discourage us, but rather to serve as a wake-up call for urgent action. Education is the bedrock of any prosperous society, and it is our collective responsibility to address these challenges head-on,” he noted.
Babangida Aliyu, chairman of the board of trustees of the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, recently highlighted a pressing issue in Northern Nigeria’s education system: “50 percent of teachers in the north are not qualified.”
“No Northern state in Nigeria has 50 percent qualified teachers as the minimum qualification required is Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE),” he said.
Experts believe that unqualified teachers negatively affect their students’ academic performance. Hence, recruiting and utilising professionally qualified teachers is necessary to enhance students’ academic performance.
Inability to implement policies
Just as political will, the inability of government agencies and departments to implement educational policies is also seen a clog in the wheel of education in many northern states.
Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto, recently reiterated that North has failed to move forward in education because of non-implementation of past recommendations.
The traditional ruler stressed the need for stakeholders in the North to show more seriousness in implementing recommendations to accelerate education development.
Experts maintain that the dilapidated state of infrastructure at both public primary and secondary schools, which essentially are the foundation, coupled with the quality of teaching and learning in the schools, have given rise to undergraduates who struggle to maintain or graduate with good grades in northern states of Nigeria.
UNICEF findings state that in north-eastern Nigeria, 2.8 million children are in need of education-in-emergency support in three conflict-affected States (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa).
In these states, at least 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed, with another 1,392 damaged but repairable.