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Nigeria’s education sector in 2019

For decades, Nigeria’s struggle to overturn poor educational indices led efforts in its school system. But despite an array of roadmaps and action plans, the country has disappointingly recorded poor outcomes in access and quality as nearly a third of its school-age children remain out of school, and its institutions trail in global competitiveness. As internationally held, one in every five out-of-school children resides in Nigeria.

Year 2019 continued in that trajectory of a downward spiral. A surge in the nation’s population over the years, led to an influx of school enrolments. With over 40 thousand admissions into primary and junior secondary schools in 2018, and no proportionate increase in school infrastructure, school facilities became overwhelmed. Consequently, Nigeria closed the year with a deficit of teachers, classrooms, facilities and instructional materials to enhance teaching and learning.

Funding problems persisted as the country’s educational authorities maintained a fiscal posture ill-disposed to the growing rate of school population. Since 2014 when the country devoted N492 billion, representing about 10.7 per cent of its N4.358 trillion annual budget to education, subsequent education budgets have taken a downward turn, hitting a new low in 2019 and 2020 with N620.5 billion, representing 7.05 per cent and N652.94 billion, representing 6.9 per cent, respectively.

While its school system grappled with a funding and infrastructural deficit, public examination bodies struggled to fend-off fraudsters whose illegal activities extremely compromised the integrity of their exercises over the years.

With widespread irregularities, public examinations continued to show the rot in the country’s education system. Drawing from its encounter with examination syndicates while conducting the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, adopted the use of National Identification Number, NIN, as a requirement for registration in the 2020 UTME to fight-off identity theft and other malpractices.

But JAMB’s ongoing implementation of the NIN policy has subjected would-be candidates to serious hardship as they spend long hours on queues at the few registration points spread across the country. Besides a shaky conduct of the exercise, which has drawn criticism over time, an annual backlog of over two thirds of candidates who partake in the UTME exercise without admission into the country’s tertiary education institutions remains a worrying situation with economic implications, as many resort to pursuing admissions abroad, leading to capital flight.

As implementers of government’s policies aimed at attaining national educational goals, the school system must prioritise the welfare of its staff. Thus, government’s insistence to register university lecturers on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, elicits a struggle by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who maintain that the system is detrimental to the university system as it fails to account for the special allowances of university lecturers.

As ASUU continues to put on a resistance and seek dialogue with the federal government over IPPIS, government must lean towards an option that is best for the university system and the lecturers.

Meanwhile, 2019 was not all doom and gloom as the nation achieved a milestone in availability of reliable data in the basic education subsector. The National Personnel Audit Report released by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, on December 16, 2019 is the first holistic data of public and private basic education institutions across the country.

The report estimated 10.1 million out-of-school in the country as against the 10.5 million figure earlier estimated by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and other international organisations.

Similarly, as nations lean towards knowledge-based economy, Nigeria also initiated genuine steps towards laying the foundation for cutting-edge research as part of efforts to grow a knowledge-based economy in order to be among competitive economies in the world. The effort was led by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, through its ad hoc committee to deepen research co-chaired by Prof Placid Njoku.

While government deserves commendation for establishing more tertiary institutions to expand access, mechanisms must be put in place for proper funding channels other than annual budgetary allocations and TETFund interventions, which have not proven to sufficiently address problems in the institutions.

Education remains the fulcrum of development in any society and with Nigeria still in the league of e-9 countries with lowest literacy levels, the country must conscientiously prioritise its education programme and take steps to see the decline of negative indices until they hit the nadir.

 

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