Thursday, June 13, 2013

For Nigerians, it may be time to panic

By: Adejoh Idoko Momoh

Consider these scenarios: 50,000 teachers cannot pass a basic test in elementary English; illiteracy rate of about 70%; only 10 out of 1.6 million candidates that sat for university entrance examinations scored a pass mark of 300 and above out of a possible 500. Add this to a situation where 10.6 million children are out of school - the highest school aged children out-of-school population in the entire world, then relate these to the fact that all these take place in a nation with a GDP growth rate higher than all other African nations except South Africa.

This conundrum is representative of the inherent contradictions in Nigeria, where the government keeps brandishing largely useless growth figures in our faces, but where people are confronted daily by an increasingly divided citizenry, deteriorating security conditions, decaying infrastructure, rising unemployment, unprecedented corruption, impunity and falling standards of education.

Ordinarily, the scenario depicted above would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious. Unfortunately, for 170 million Nigerians who normally should set the pace for the rest of Africa in human capital development and educational attainment terms, the reality on ground is that they are plagued with a largely dysfunctional system that encourages an ever growing population of young people who would constitute an uneducated, unemployable generation with little useful roles to play in society.

The Ministry of Education would be quick to come up with excuses: attribute its many failures to a lack of finance and complain that it is not allocated some 26% of Nigeria’s national budget as is recommended by the United Nations. Yet of its dismal 8% budgetary allocation in 2012, the ministry only expended 20% of its capital provisions as at September the same year. This simply points to the fact that the ministry itself has no vision to accommodate the resources they often put forward as needed.

This immediately brings questions to mind, can this ministry that cannot implement an 8% budgetary provision wholly be trusted with 25%? Can the government afford to fund this ministry as much as it deserves? Is it not a fact that a former Education Minister, Dr Oby Ezekwesili admitted the above, and included the ‘Adopt A School’ program as part of Corporate Social Responsibility? Sadly, no sooner than she left office was her ‘Crisis’ reforms document thrown out too. What place does alternative education have in our current education system? How did our technical schools that served to train experts at skilled work loose relevance?

The truth is Nigeria’s education sector is in need of reforms and every Nigerian should take up this responsibility, demand an education revolution from our government. Peaceful protests like the Occupy Nigeria or the Project Cure rallies that have been beneficial for fuel subsidy as well as currency restructuring would do just as good for education. The creation of specialist universities may prove to be more beneficial than universities that aim to offer all courses. Would it not be a more informed thought if the President considered strengthening the capacities of existing universities as opposed to building new universities in every state? 

Challenges abound with reforming our education system. Time for one; reforms would take a little more than 4 years focused on planning, training, implementing and some more training. Take China as example, the country has had over 50 years of mandatory 9 year basic education and various laws guaranteeing access to education for minorities, women and the handicapped, yet the country has not totally attained universal basic education coverage. Nigeria has not even started. Discouraging as this may be, it is not reason to delay the reform process that would benefit generations of Nigerians to come.

Yes, there is a Universal Basic Education Board and 35 other state versions called State Universal Basic Education Board but what are these SUBEBs doing? Take a state like Kaduna for instance with a school aged out of school percent population of 51.6%, the state SUBEB has a zero capital allocation for the years 2013 and 2014, while there is a recurrent expenditure of N116.5m and N128.2m respectively. In view of the above, you decide if this demonstrates political will to curb the education menace?

This lack of political will to train and develop the people we refer to as Nigeria’s future goes beyond formal education; we see it even in the field of technical education too. The 2013 National budget has a capital provision of N40 million set aside for the National Business and Technical Education Board while its recurrent provision is N1.2billion, also there is a N300million capital provision for the National Board for Technical Education Secretariat while its recurrent expenditure is N1.3billion- about 300% above Capital Expenditure. With miserable capital provisions as detailed above most technical schools are shut down, the few that function do not have updated curriculums and therefore offer training that is of very little relevance to modern trends and realities.

For Nigerians who belong to the dwindling middle class and are rich enough to afford foreign education or training for their children and perhaps feel like the dearth of education infrastructure in Nigeria should not bother them, they are sadly mistaken. I conclude with the tale as narrated below, it is my hope that from it we all have a rethink. 

A man wise beyond his years once said, ‘the children we do not train now would kill those we have trained.’ He then explained how a Harvard trained student came visiting his parents in Lagos for a week and how on a hot afternoon made worse by the failure of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (P.H.C.N) to provide electricity, he decided to take a walk. As he walked, he saw a miscreant steal a lady’s purse and sought to challenge the man. The man simply pulled out a gun, shot this foreign educated student and rode off on his motorbike.

Adejoh Momoh ( can be followed on twitter @adejoh


  1. Government needs to get its priorities right, I subscribe to having specialized universities and increasing the capital budgets (with ways of ensuring implementation) for technical education. Those figures are just too insignificant to give the nigerian educational sector the boost turn around it so dearly needs.

    My God! So many points raised. Nice read.

    1. True. We need to get our priorities right, otherwise we risk handing over a nation with a huge education deficit to our children.

  2. Just like Nigeria's hydra-headed problems, the Nigerian Education sector is in a class of its own. How did we get here? Very easy. Failure of leadership and corruption in all spheres of life.
    Our Ivory towers and educational institutions used to be beacons of hope. Our universities had high standards, parents literarily fell over themselves to get their wards into federal unity schools, I attended 2, I know this!
    Our polytechnics were hotbeds of technological education and advancement. It is the time bomb of lack of basic education that has detonated in the North.
    Everyone irrespective of their innate talents and abilities wants to head to the university simply because employers no longer regard certificates from polytechnics.
    Sad cos in America, school like Virginia and Georgia Techs respectively have lived up to expectation.We have forgotten the role they played during our golden years.
    The UBE nko? Dont even go there, corruption has crept in and engulfed it.
    University dons have become emergency noveau riches, using funds meant for research for personal use. Obsolete learning methods and materials at all levels, like the author of this article said, the wards of the political class will one day be victims one way or another.
    The way out? Fight corruption. Our political leaders must imbibe fierce political will to solving our problems.
    Time is running out. The time is now!

    1. Yes, I cant agree more. We must raise these issues, engage the people that currently manage our education in creative discussions, demand accountability and performance. A country with our potentials has no business being where it is today. Now is really the time.

  3. I refused to join in complaining. It is time to speak with our actions rather than keep analysing problems we are not ready to take responsibility for.

    1. @ Gbenga: While I really appreciate your comment, let me say this. Your passive posturing or contentment is exactly the reason why Nigeria is in the wrought it is. For me, writing is my craft, my voice, my job, and I choose to use it to analyse issues; that is my way of speaking with my actions, please share your way with me...

      I heard the attached quote from my boss once and I hope you benefit from it as much as I did

      'There will be times when we would be powerless to fight against injustice, but may there never be times when we refuse to speak up about it'

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  5. Our education sector is a mess tho,no lies,so many people send their kids to other african countries to acquire better education...... Our major problem is corruption,once that is taken care off,I feel every other thing will fall in place ....... Nice write up all the same

    1. Thanks for reading and taking out time to comment. True, our education is a mess right now. It would get better though, but that would take concerted efforts.

  6. the truth is, education has never been priority of any administration in Nigeria and we are not ready to make it my opinion, aside declaring a state of emergency i our education sector, there has be a national education policy that is doable and without complications..experts and not politicians should draw up a proper framework...our future is in danger and we can't afford to leave it so

    1. Can't agree more Lanre. Can't agree more. Our education is in wrought its almost hopeless.