How government can reduce poverty through education

Is education really the way for poor people to escape poverty? If this is so, how then can the government reduce the incidence of poverty through education? It is obvious that one cannot deny the fact that poverty is a persistent and pervasive problem across the globe.

One of the most visible effects that poverty has, and one that perpetuates its existence, is its impact on education going by the fact that the rate at which poverty increases every day has prevented many individuals, most especially in the developing countries from receiving a proper education.

Typically, articles related to poverty and education fall under two distinct schools of thought.

One school of thought says that better education will fix poverty and the other states that in order to fix education we need to fix poverty. Those that support the former opined that education is critical to development as a quality educational system will empower the people with the required knowledge, skill, and information which enables them to know their duties towards the society, develop the capabilities to fight injustice, violence, corruption and other vices which will lead to poverty reduction.

While those in support of the latter opined that the inequalities in an economic system will lead to low educational attainment which will then lead to an increased level of poverty and consequently affect people’s ability to get access to the basic needs of life which are food, shelter, and clothing.

For instance, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) described poverty to be one of the paramount factors responsible for the low level of education in Nigeria with the report asserting that “one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria”.

Despite the fact that primary education in Nigeria is free and compulsory, 61 percent of 6 -11-year-olds attend school regularly while only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months are enrolled in early childhood education.

Human capital development through investment in education and health has been discovered to be the key driver of poverty reduction and sustainable growth. However, much of the gains of human capital investment is about to be swept off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with the majority of the developing countries being at the receiving end.

A research report by the World Bank revealed that in the Human Capital Index, Nigeria ranks 150 out of 157 countries in the year 2020. Income inequality and disparity in economic opportunities continue to be high and has consequently affected the government’s efforts on poverty reduction. In 2020, high inflation took a toll on welfare at the household level thereby pushing additional 7 million people into poverty.

Read also: Functional transportation: Critical to poverty reduction and ease of doing business

From 2019 to 2023, the number of Nigerians living below the international poverty line is expected to rise by 12 million as the Nigerian labour market continues to be disrupted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From 2021 to 2025, the newly unveiled plan of the federal government, the Medium Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) intends to achieve a broad-based GDP growth rate of 5 percent, and also generate 21 million full-time employment for Nigerians while also emphasising the plans to lift 100 million people out of poverty at the end of 10 years explaining that this would be achieved by increasing its investment size to N348.1trillon.

However, the recently released report of the most industrialised countries in Africa by the “World Population Review” revealed that Nigeria with a Human Development Index of 0.539 ranks 27th in Africa while evidence from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that more than half of its labour force is either underemployed or unemployed.

Furthermore, the research evidence provided by Bloomberg, one of the world’s leading research organisations reported that “Nigeria’s rate of jobless force has more than quadrupled over the last five year as the economy has gone through two recessions thus casting a shadow over the efforts to implement job creation policies by the present administrations”.

Evidently, Nigeria is lagging behind in preparing her workforce for the challenges of the rapidly changing global economy. Nigeria cannot sit back and watch other nations make progress in the common quest for economic independence and the ability to deal with the problem of unemployment, poverty, and other related socio-economic challenges. The development of the knowledge sector of its economy will go a long way in providing the necessary impetus for economic growth and development. It will be crucial in boosting productivity, increasing competition and innovation, creating employment, and revitalising the economy.

It is concluded that improved and sustainable global economic development depends on a strong knowledge sector. The move toward poverty reduction should not be considered and treated in isolation as different approaches and strategies need to be employed. For any country to foster genuine economic growth and development, its educational system must be considered as the bedrock of any meaningful development strategies. In addition, with Nigeria’s current economic position and growing unemployment rates, we need a system that will provide equal opportunity to both the rich and the poor to avail everyone with an opportunity to contribute to the development of the country.

Going by this fact, the government can reduce poverty through education by increasing the provision of ICT in schools located in the rural areas, encouraging periodic training to expose teachers to modern-day teaching methods, increasing teachers incentives in order to encourage the teaching profession, encourage the free education system especially in rural areas that are more prone to poverty and provide adequate teaching facilities in all educational institutions.

Government should know that if it fails to invest in education, it will continue to spend on poverty which will subsequently breed other socio-economic vices such as armed robbery, hoodlums, prostitution, militancy, etc.

It is, therefore, pertinent to bear in mind the popular saying by Benjamin Franklin that “there is only one thing that proves to be more expensive than education in life; the lack of it”.

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