We Need to Talk About Education in Nigeria


The Root of the Problem

Nigeria needs to prioritize education. We are in a national state of emergency. Its current allocation from the national budget of N8.91tn hovers around 6%. Case in point, Ghana spends about one-third of its national budget on education. In 2017, the recommendation from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also recommended that the benchmark for funding education in Nigeria should be nowhere below 26%. The average public school teacher’s monthly salary in Lagos, the country’s megacity, is N57,000 (about $158) which is a pittance in terms of the city’s high cost of living. The recently released WAEC (West African Examinations Council) scores reflected a low-performance rate with only 26% of the 11,721 candidates who officially wrote the exams and passed with a credit or above. In 2017, almost 50% of the country lived in poverty with a progressive trend. With most families below the poverty line, the highest bracket of income within this group would be approximately N25,000 monthly. We are beginning to see the correlation of dysfunctional governance to the failing public school system. Basically, we are seeing how the infrastructure and economy plays a huge part in the educational success of children in Nigeria.

The Gap to Fill

Like most other African countries, Nigeria currently has no academic performance indicators to use for comparative studies in regards to the rest of the world. There are currently no Sub-Saharan African Countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Morocco, a country with over 95% attendance rate in its primary schools, was the only African country in 2018, that participated in PISA as a non-member. A key takeaway from the PISA assessment of 15-year-old students from around the world is “ a set of contextual indicators that will provide insight into how such skills relate to important demographic, social, economic and educational variables .

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields have seen significant growth in their sectors and now has a stronger demand for local talent. There has yet to be a strategic pipeline from university-career-leadership so that families would invest in their children’s hopes and dreams. Strategy means long term goals. Long term goals mean trajectories.

What lies at the end of the trajectory for Nigerian children who needs to get educated in order to get out of poverty? Jobs. Business Opportunities. Creativity. Problem Solving. If these four end goals were bins, they should be bottomless with career options.

How do these options come about? Business and organizations are either formed or sustained.

Who starts or sustains the businesses? People with brain power and financing to start and/or run it.

What does it take to keep businesses going? Along with financing and business expertise, the government must improve the infrastructure so businesses could make money i.e. constant power supply, larger road networks, massive transportation system etc.

And how does a better infrastructure correlate with education? More human capital and brainpower supplied to sustain or grow these businesses in order to boost the economy for global trade.

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How does the government benefit from working to better the country’s infrastructure? Taxes from not just sales, business, income and properties, but also from trade, tourism and travel, entertainment, lifestyle, and much more.

So it comes back around full circle. Nigeria is currently at an all-time high for unemployment at 23.1% in the third quarter of 2018 after a record low of 5.10% in the fourth quarter of 2010. The system is proven broken for its people and if improvement does not scale up quickly, the unemployment rate would remain progressive.

Change is Very Possible

What is a good starting point using best practices from some of the top performing counties and their education systems? It firsts starts with research and evaluation. The current organization, the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) is an extended arm to the Federal Ministry of Education. This means all activities are based on government decisions. In other words, education reform is also not at the top of their agenda. Privately funded research institutes would benefit the society, providing academic and professional evaluations, recourse, and recommendations for policymakers on improving the status quo of learning in Nigeria.

Adopt Some Best Practices

Most entrepreneurs who manage maintain high revenues at low costs would agree that quality services is attainable on a low budget. Nigeria could well enough handle the population needs for basic education with its annual budget is allocated at the recommended amount by the United Nations with meticulous spending, efficient systems and infrastructure in place, along with developing 21st-century teacher training, facilities, and learning resources and materials. Perhaps at the state level, each government should trial the ‘per-student’ model currently practised in the United States and some other countries. This way, every child could be accounted for effectively.

Written by: Bamidele Keisha

Bamidele “Keisha” is dedicated to education reform in Africa. As a writer and educational consultant, she believes education is a big ticket out of poverty.