The likelihood of every Nigerian child accessing basic education by 2015, in line with the Millennium Development Goals, is remote, writes SAMUEL AWOYINFA
The Goal 2 of the Millennium Development Goals has to do with basic education. It states that, by 2015, children – boys and girls – across the globe, should be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
Indeed, with less than 10 months to the MDG deadline, many Nigerian scholars and educationists are raising the alarm over the preparedness of the country to meet this target. While some argue that the indices that can drive the process and make it achievable are not in place, others say that the learning conditions in many schools across the country are nothing to celebrate.
For instance, a former Vice-Chancellor of the Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, says that achieving the MDG on Education by 2015 is quite impossible. The educationist, who says there are no indices on ground to show seriousness on the part of the government, notes that the country has yet to put in school half of those 10.5 million Nigerian children that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation tagged as not having access to education.
Tella adds that in many of the states, the school buildings are dilapidated, and this scenario, he declares, does not make room for a child-friendly education environment.
He says, “Our government, as far as I am concerned, is not serious about education. In 2014, a year to the 2015 Millennium Development Goal on education target, pupils are still learning under the tree, school buildings are dilapidated.
“The authorities are just paying lip service to education. The former Central Bank Governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, in his expose, indicated that funds are looted before they hit the account.”
Another educationist, Mrs. Jennifer Okoli, shares Tella’s views. She, however, notes that apart from the deficit in the provision of infrastructure and qualified teachers, there is no deliberate mass awareness programme put in place by the different tiers of government to sensitise the citizenry to the need to bring their children of school age into the enrolment net.
She says, “There are so many factors that are impeding the actualisation of the MDG on education. If, few months to 2015, only few states like Lagos, Rivers, Edo, Osun and Ondo are addressing the infrastructure decay, then we are still far from achieving the MDG on education.
“There is no awareness to create that massive enrolment into the primary schools, and even getting the illiterate adults educated. Again, there are no enough qualified teachers in the public schools. In many public schools, it is a ratio of one teacher to 100 pupils, while in some private schools, it is a ratio of one teacher to 30 pupils. What quality of education can one get from such arrangement?”
Okoli, who lashes out at politicians for the decay in the education sector, notes that they are all engrossed with preparing for the 2015 general elections.With this attitude, she states, attaining the target of the MDG will remain a pipe dream.
She notes that for the country, meeting the MDG on education by 2015 will remain a mirage, because, according to her, it is only a few states that are addressing infrastructure decay in the sector, and providing facilities such as computers to make the pupils aware of modern method of learning.
Describing the crisis rocking the North-East as another sore point, she notes that the action will further compound the problems of girl-child education in the region.
For a professor of Science and Technology Education, Duro Ajeyalemi, there is not going to be any remarkable change in education sector before the 2015 deadline.
Like Tella and Okoli, Ajeyalemi agrees that putting 10.5 million Nigerian children in school in two years is not feasible. According to him, with the dearth of classrooms and teachers, especially in the North where parents are not enthusiastic about educating their children, the target is as good as having failed.
He states, “Though the Federal Government has inaugurated some almajir schools, there is still the need to seek the cooperation of parents, so that they can send their children to school. After they have been given access to education, then one begins to talk about the quality of teachers.”
Another educationist, Dr. Ademola Azeez, notes that the situation does not portray any seriousness on the part of the government.
The state of facilities for basic education classes from Primary One to Junior Secondary School 3, he observes, does not give cause for cheer.
He says, “Some schools have laboratories but they lack the necessary tools for basic education. There is no motivation for the teachers in public schools in terms salary and training.”
Tella, however, believes that all hope is not lost in the sector. He, therefore, advises the government to redefine its policy on education and make it people-centred.
According to him, the government should make education free, from the primary school to the university level in order for the country to catch up with the rest of the world.
He says, “The argument that education is not free anywhere is a ruse, and does not hold water. The Scandinavian countries operate free education system. Nigeria must emulate such countries.
“That way, it must have taken care of social injustice that is currently breeding insecurity in some parts of the country.”
When contacted, the Special Assistant (Media) to the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, says the number of the out-of-school children has reduced considerably. He, however, did not give figures of children of school age that have been absorbed into schools.
He says, “The Federal Government has substantially reduced the number of out-of-school children through the construction of 125 almajir schools, 13 girl-child schools and commencement of special vocational schools.
“Through direct assistance to states, the FG has renovated and expanded over 1,000 schools to accommodate more children.
“Furthermore, it has commenced the construction of 300 more almajir schools and more girl-child schools in different states.”
The Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, also states that the state has recorded improvement in the enrolment of pupils in primary schools and JSS classes.
In a text message to our correspondent, she declares, “We placed into JSS 1 this year 101, 478 pupils. In terms of transfer, 5,000 pupils got into the system. A total of 1.4 million are there.”
The Federal Government in 1999 introduced the Universal Basic Education programme to provide greater access to and ensure quality of basic education.
The initiative is to ensure an uninterrupted access to nine-year formal education by providing free and compulsory basic education for every child of school age – six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary education.
As of January 31, 2014, the Universal Basic Education Commission had disbursed over N182bn matching grants to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory between 2005 and 2013. The total un-accessed matching grant as of January 31 stood at N45.8bn.
With additional reports from KAMARDEEN OGUNDELE