UNICEF and a clarion call
Recently, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) drew the attention of Nigeria’s leaders to the sorry state of the nation’s education sector. On the occasion of the International Day of Education, the depressing state of education was highlighted especially the issue of out-of-school children who now have an estimated number of 10.5nillion and sadly still, even those lucky to be in school are simply there without learning anything that can translate into good prospects for their future. Such observation by the world’s renowned body calls for a serious concern and could not have come at a better time than now.
The Academic Staff Union of the universities ASUU has been on strike for a while because of the same issue of poor funding for education. Out of the 17 trillion 2022 national budget signed into law in December 2021, only 7.2 percent is allocated to education.
Though this was a step forward if compared with that of 2021 which had 5.7 allocation, yet all these paltry sums are a far cry from the real funds needed to put education on a strong footing. The call by UNICEF once again exposes all the grand propaganda aimed hiding the true state of things. For instance, most of the results of external examinations paraded by schools are the handwork of their teachers who in conjunction and cooperation of parents indulge in exam malpractice to ensure that students pass with flying colors. The truth will only be revealed if and when all public students with excellent results in external examinations are taken to a neutral ground to rewrite such papers.
Public schools today are dominated by learners who neither have the aptitude to cope with lessons nor are even interested. Many of the pupils coming into secondary schools cannot read at all and that is always the beginning of the problems. The idea of garbage in, garbage out has crippled things in the public schools as most wayward learners who are never ready to learn would still not allow the few serious ones any breathing space.
Things have now got to a stage where teachers are confronted by a large body of learners who are never receptive to lessons, and who cannot pass any test or exams without cheating or without teachers awarding them marks indiscriminately. Whatever it’s going to take the nation, discipline must be returned to all public schools and pupils being sent to the secondary schools from the primary should be able to read simple passages before there can be any tangible turnaround in the sector. Policies such as ones discouraging the use of cane tend to make most teachers nonchalant as they ignore whatever nonsense goes on within their schools in the excuse that the government is against corporal punishment. Under such prevalent situations, things have gone really awry hence this clarion call for action to reposition the public schools in such a manner that can make attainment of the lofty education goals possible. If need be, an immediate education summit should be organized where discussions on the way forward can be held.
It may require all learners being made to swear to affidavit of good behavior either within or outside the school compound and whoever among them contravenes the order shown the way out. The entire landscape is now dotted by so many hoodlums majority of who are products of a failed education system. Nigeria has obviously slept with fire over its roof for several decades and the sad effects are currently all around the country. When a nation’s education system collapses, the citizens may not see the consequences early enough until things get completely out of hand as it is currently the case with Nigeria. But rather than allowing the ugly trend to fester, it is never too late to put in place measures that can discourage the continued expansion of the evil regime. All that is required is for all those concerned with education in Nigeria to first of all agree that there serious problems that need urgent resolutions. Rather than ignore the call by UNICEF, Nigeria’s education planners should rise up to the occasion and search for ways to address all the problems that have been identified in the sector.
Oyewusi the coordinator of Ethics Watch International wrote from Lagos.