BusinessDay

Nigeria must improve on education to reverse trend of youth unemployment

In Nigeria, the value of education is declining, tuition fees are rising, infrastructural facilities required for effective learning are not available, the real value of budgetary allocations to the education sector keeps dwindling and youth unemployment is trending upward.

The financial and training needs of staff are not provided and strikes take place more often than expected. The knowledge teachers imparted to pupils and students is less than what is required for graduates to excel at work.

The Nigerian education sector has been poorly funded for so long. It gets meagre allocation from the Federal Government budget annually. From 2014 to 2022, the sector got the highest allocation of 10.7 percent of the budgeted total expenditure in 2015. The funding of the Nigerian education sector falls below the recommended international standard of 15-20 percent of the national budgeted expenditure by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

As a result of poor budgetary allocation, many primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria do not have the required number of teachers. The schools find it hard to provide the necessary classrooms and equipment for the growing pupils and students’ populations. The teachers find it difficult to do effective teaching due to too many pupils/students in a class; the pupils/students learn little or nothing each day.

Recruitment in the education sector has been compromised and politicised. Many graduates from the Nigerian educational system find it difficult to get jobs in the local and international organisations due to poor education from a poor education system. Some graduates find it hard to continue postgraduate studies because they do not have a strong educational base.

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Youth unemployment has continued to rise in Nigeria due to poor education. Youth unemployment represents the number of young people who are not engaged in any economic activities to earn income.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), youth unemployment rose from 19% in quarter four of 2015 to 42.5% in quarter four of 2020. By implication, the 2020 unemployment rate means that about half of the youth population is not engaged in any economic activities; this has implications on economic growth and development.

The federal government’s efforts through the National Youth Policy (2019) supported by the Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan (2020-2024) to provide 3.7 million jobs for the Nigerian youth annually from 2019 to 2024 have not yielded the expected results considering the population of youth facing unemployment challenges in Nigeria.

A high unemployment rate aggravates poverty and insecurity in every economy. The prevailing poverty rate in Nigeria is on the high side.

According to NBS, 40.1% of the total population of Nigeria was poor in 2019. This translated to over 82.9 million Nigerians considered poor by national standards. The World Bank (WB) reported that about 7 million Nigerians would fall into poverty in 2021 due to high inflation. The WB report put the number of Nigerians living in poverty at about 90 million people.

Low growth rate, poor macroeconomic policies, and poor international recognition are likely the cases of a poor education because the youth who graduated from the education system may not have the required capability to work independently in the industries and participate effectively in policymaking.

The current economic realities in Nigeria call for an urgent attention of the government to mobilize the energy and capacity of the youth towards the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2030.

The Nigerian government must fund the education sector adequately to provide the necessary facilities and recruitment of the required number of academic and non-academic staff. Government must constitute quality assurance committees to ensure funds allocated to the education sector are well utilised. The quality assurance committee should report directly to the government for prompt action.

The Nigerian education curricula need restructuring to incorporate entrepreneurial studies at all levels to enable graduates to learn practical skills. This will help the graduates to establish their firms and employ others, thereby reducing unemployment in Nigeria.

Quality education promotes the growth and development of every nation. It is high time the Nigerian government gave urgent and adequate attention to the education sector to turn out competent graduates who can contribute meaningfully to national growth and reduce youth unemployment in the country.

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