Bill Gates’ grisly warning,  by Jerry Uwah

Bill Gates painted a grim picture of Nigeria’s healthcare and education sectors last week.
The world’s richest man and co-founder of the Bill/ Melinda Gates Foundation listed Nigeria as one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, adding that one in every three children in Nigeria is chronically malnourished.
He noted that Nigeria has the world’s “fourth worst” maternal mortality rate.
Nigeria’s mortality rate is worse than that of war-torn Central African Republic and Sierra Leone.
Africa’s largest economy has an abysmally low life expectancy.
Gates lamented that Nigeria’s male life expectancy at 53 years is lower than that of the world’s low income countries which stands at 62 years.
Gates reeled out the gruesome statistics to convince the world that the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan which emphasizes the development of physical infrastructure did not reflect the needs of the people.
He called on the federal government to invest in health and education.
In the last three decades, health and education have suffered a superlative degree of neglect.
The private sector practically controls Nigeria’s education and health sectors.
Ten million children of school-age are out of school.
Last year, 1.8 million candidates sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
Ironically, only 500, 000 were offered admission.
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) set 180 as the cut-off point for admission into universities.
Unfortunately, some candidates who scored 270 were not admitted.
The vacancies are just not there.
The situation is so bad that even polytechnics that candidates hitherto shunned due to the dichotomy between degree and higher national diploma (HND) holders are now discriminating against candidates.
Previously, candidates with lower scores that could not secure university admissions were offered seats in polytechnics.
Now, leading polytechnics like Yaba College of Technology only admit candidates who list the school as first and second choice.
This year there is a drastic drop in the number of candidates applying for UTME.
While 1.8 million applied for it in 2017, only 1.7 candidates applied in 2018.
JAMB has not offered any explanations for the drop by 100, 000 candidates.
This obviously is not the outcome of a dwindling population.
Some candidates might have been frustrated into dumping the exercise after they scored above cut off point on several attempts but could not secure admission.
No one knows the fate of the 100, 000 potential candidates that did not apply this year.
It reminds one of the lyrics of one of the melodious tunes of the late reggae maestro, Lucky Dube, which say that those who don’t build schools must build prisons.
The irony of Nigeria’s economic plan is that the rulers are building neither schools nor prisons.
The 100, 000 potential candidates presumably frustrated out of the JAMB contest this year would only secure a standing space in congested prisons if they resort to crime for lack of opportunity to develop their skills.
Gates is worried that with the poor funding of healthcare delivery and education systems, Nigeria is not developing the skills of those who would manage the roads, railways, industries and airports that would emerge from the economic recovery and growth plan.
Even the healthcare delivery system is too weak to sustain the health of those who would manage the emerging infrastructure.
In other words, Nigeria’s economy would be inherited by unskilled, malnourished and sick people.
Nigeria has missed practically all the United Nations’ millennium development goals in the health sector.
The few public hospitals in the country are overcrowded, poorly equipped and under-staff ed.
Patients leave their homes by 4 am to pick the first hundred slots to see doctors.
Most of the hospitals lack basic diagnostic facilities.
Three weeks ago a medical student was referred to a private diagnostic facility in Lagos run by Indians.
For the simple investigation ordered by a frontline teaching hospital, the student was ordered to pay N15, 000 for the blood specimen to be flown to India for the laboratory investigation.
The cost of the test itself is N20, 000.
The cost of diagnosing an ailment in Nigeria is higher than the treatment.
The two investigations recommended for the student is N55, 000, but the drugs prescribed for his eye ailment is less than N10, 000. Millions have died for not being able to fund the laboratory test that would tell doctors what their ailment is.
Ironically, the federal government has no subsidy for diagnoses.
Doctors and nurses are sometimes compelled to fund the cost of diagnosis for very poor patients when the bill is within their limits.
Bill Gates’ warning last week is something of a recurring decimal except that it is coming from the richest man in the world who has sunk billions of dollars into Nigeria’s chronically ill healthcare delivery system.
Experts warn that aside from building more healthcare facilities and employing more personnel, the federal government should work out a system that would subsidise diagnosis and make it cheaper for patients.
One hopes that Bill Gates’ alarm would finally spur the federal government into investing in the two critical sectors to at least stem the tidal wave of child and maternal mortality and educate millions of school-age children hawking sachet water in the streets.

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