Paying lip service to education with emergency declaration
Education standards in Nigeria have continued to dip despite the outcry from various quarters. The federal government has called, repeatedly for a declaration of state of emergency by all states in the sector while some stakeholders have urged the government to set up a committee to address the education crisis. Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL, writes that there is more to the issue than meets the eye
Education in Nigeria, at least in the public sector, is in a state of dysfunction. Its human capital is in disarray, so is its physical infrastructure. The nation’s standard of education totters as the government continues to talk more about the crises facing it rather than act on resolving them. The students are disillusioned with public education. Their teachers are frustrated in the face of poor motivation and ramshackle facilities. As the rot deepens, so does the attention paid to the sector wanes.
If there is one thing successive Nigerian governments have succeeded in doing, it is organising summits or conferences to consider issues that have been thoroughly analysed and solutions proffered. In Nigeria though, history is a fall guy; nobody learns from it. The repeated calls for a declaration of state of emergency in the education system corroborates that point.
In October last year, the Senate had urged the federal, state and local governments to declare a state of emergency in the education sector following what the lawmakers described as falling standards of education in Nigeria. They argued that the prescribed standards for primary, secondary and tertiary education are not being met leaving teachers frustrated and students hardly equipped with demonstrable knowledge and skills needed to venture into the larger society.
In unmistakable terms, the Senate, therefore, urged the three tiers of government to restore the glory of the country’s education system.
Perhaps, taking a cue from the National Assembly, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, in January this year announced that the federal government would declare a state of emergency in the education sector, citing the problem of low standard especially at primary school level. He had disclosed: “By the end of April, we are proposing there will be a declaration of a state of emergency in the education sector all over the country. We request all the state governors to do the same in their states and we hope that once this is done our education sector will improve.”
That month, the federal government also expressed its plan to present a proposal to the National Council of State for graduates of education to henceforth be employed on Grade Level 10. That proposal is expected to offer employment to students who studied education in tertiary institutions.
In less than three months later, specifically in March, the minister again called on all states and other major stakeholders to address the issue of poor standards of education in the country. Then, Adamu added: “The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is vigorously implementing its change agenda in the education sector, as plans have reached advanced stage for the declaration of a state of emergency in the educational sector by the federal government in April this year, and it is expected that state governors will do same in their states.”
Nothing happened in April as regards the declaration of a state of emergency in the education system – not from the federal government’s end in particular being the champion of the cause.
Again, not ashamed that the call for an emergency declaration in the sector has become a cliché, in July, Buhari was reported to have directed the education minister to urgently convene a summit on education to, this time, however, address the issue of funding. Not a few were left bemused wondering if the government has found another way of calling black, white.
The convocation of an education summit was announced by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, at the 63rd National Council on Education (NCE). According to him, the federal, state and local governments would be mobilised to support the funding of education in the country. In the view of Echono, no government could single-handedly fund education.
For how long this huff and puff will go on nobody knows. What is clear is that successive governments in the last four decades have paid lip service to revamp a sector bedevilled by low budgetary allocation, poor incentives for teachers and dilapidated infrastructure. It is for those reasons and more that the country’s education system is in a mess, education experts say. It is difficult not to agree with them.
To illustrate: Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world. From an estimated 42.5 million people in 1960, its population has grown to 200 million people in 2018. According to the United Nations’ projections, by 2050 the country will be populated with 399 million people and that is not good news for the country’s education sector in which severe cuts in financial allocation for the sector have done more damage than good.
In the appropriation bill presented to the National Assembly, President Buhari allocated only 7.04 per cent of the N8.6 trillion 2018 budget to education. The total amount allocated to the sector is N605.8 billion with N435.1 billion for recurrent expenditure, N61.73 billion for capital expenditure and N109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Stakeholders argued that no amount of ‘declaration of state of emergency’ in the sector can change that reality – and rightly so.
That allocation is lower than the 7.4 per cent the government earmarked for education in the N7.4 trillion 2017 budget. The breakdown of the N550 billion allocated in 2017 was N398 billion for recurrent expenditure, N56 billion for capital expenditure and N95 billion to UBEC. Furthermore, experts noted that even though the N605 billion appropriated for the sector in 2018 is higher –in naira terms – than the N550 billion appropriated for it in 2017, a percentage decrease is evident.
With the federal government’s ‘Education for change: A ministerial strategic plan (2015-2019)’, the ministry of education believes it can tackle the issue of out-of-school children, basic education, teacher education, adult literacy, curriculum and policy matters on basic and secondary education, technical and vocational education, education data planning, library services, information and communication technology, and tertiary education.
Adamu said: “Sixty per cent of the 11.4 million out-of-school children in Nigeria are girls. Only a fraction (17 per cent) of 3.1 million nomadic children of school age has access to basic education despite decades of intervention. Similarly, only a small proportion of the ministry’s 2010 estimate of 9.5 million almajiri children have access to any basic education and an increasing number of displaced children (about one million) are being forced out of school in the insurgency-stricken states.”
In the document, the federal government had proposed strategies for engaging with state governments in addressing the problems of out-of-school children. It also planned to raise the national Net Enrolment Rate (NET) by enrolling 2,875,000 pupils annually for the next four years as well as renovate schools destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents and construct additional 71, 874 classrooms annually.
In addition, government is expected to provide additional 71, 875 qualified teachers through the deployment of 14 per cent of the new teachers to be recruited annually and raise the enrolment of girls in basic education schools by 1.5 million annually for the next four years.
Forty per cent of Nigerian children aged six to11 do not attend any primary school with the northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls. Despite a significant increase in net enrolment rates in recent years, it is estimated that about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school.
Increased enrolment rates have also created challenges in ensuring quality education and satisfactory learning achievement as resources are spread more thinly across a growing number of students. It is not rare to see cases of 100 pupils per teacher or students sitting under trees outside the school building because of the lack of classrooms.
Secondary education has not fared better under the Buhari administration. In both 2017 and 2018’s January/February private examinations, only 26.01 per cent and 17.13 per cent candidates passed with five credits including Mathematics and English respectively; while the remaining over 70 per cent candidates failed. On the other hand, in March, WAEC had released the result of the newly-introduced February diet for private candidates with only 1,937 out of 11,727 candidates who sat for the exam, obtaining minimum credits and above in five subjects, including English and Mathematics.
A mass failure was recorded in the 2017 WAEC exams. At the release of the general results during the 55th Annual Meeting of the Nigeria National Committee, only 34,664 out of 131,485 had five credits including English and Mathematics. Also, the percentage of candidates in WASSCE, for private candidates, in 2015 and 2016 was 28.58 per cent and 38.50 per cent, respectively.
Speaking on the latest mass failure in the West African Examination Council’s exams, following the set up of a Senate committee, Senate President Bukola Saraki had noted, “I am sure the committee will work assiduously to get to the bottom of this matter and see that it is addressed. Indeed the education sector needs some reforms.”
Since 1984, Nigeria had won the top three prizes put up by the examination body eight times. That was in 1986, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. On the other hand, Ghana won the prizes on nine occasions: 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
In the eight years (1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2001, 2007, and 2011) that the prizes had been won by candidates from more than one country, Ghana had trumped Nigeria. However, the issue of Nigerian students sitting for the O’ Level exams organised by WAEC transcends winning top prizes.
Against this backdrop, the Senate had directed the committee on education (basic and secondary) to meet with Adamu in order to identify causes of the recurring failure in WAEC.That resolution followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Sen. Umaru Kurfi, who described the mass failure of O’ level exams results in the country since 2009 as disgraceful. Kurfi believes that if the trend continues it will jeopardise the future of today’s youths and the generation after them.
According to him, in the success rate of students who sat for the 2009 and 2010 WAEC-organised exams had only 25.99 and 24.94 per cent respectively passed with five credits including Mathematics and English, while the remaining others constituting 70 per cent failed.“In 2011 May/June WAEC, only 86,612 out of the 1,540,250 candidates that participated in the examinations got credit in Mathematics and English. Also in 2011 May/June WAEC, only 86,612 out of 1,540,250 candidates that participated in the examinations got credits in Mathematics and English.
“In 2012 May/June WAEC, only 649,159 out of 1,672,224 candidates that sat the examinations which represents just 38.81 per cent got five credits and above including in the core subjects of Mathematics and English. In 2013 WAEC, only 29.17 per cent candidates actually passed the November-December WAEC examinations while 70 per cent failed,” Kurfi reeled out the statistics.
He added, “In both 2017 and 2018 recent January/February private examinations, only 26.01 per cent and 17.13 per cent candidates had passed with five credits including Mathematics and English respectively, while the remaining over 70 per cent candidates failed.”Analysts in the sector are convinced that the call for an education summit or declaration of a state of emergency is not what the sector needs but faithful implementation of policies on the ground.
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