Educational challenges in Nigeria and possible solutions By Omale Angela Unekwu-ojo

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The issues regarding education and its values are numerous and cannot be over emphasised.

Education facilitates learning and acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. It ensures imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally, prepares one for intellectually mature life.

Regardless of its many benefits and importance, education is faced with various challenges in schools. 

If the challenges facing education are not tackled from the roots, they will continue to persist, just like a tree that grows back when it is cut instead of to uproot it. 

A renowned educator, Kolawole Yetunde, enumerated the following problems as they affect education.  He said the first and possibly one of the greatest challenges facing education is inadequate funding by the federal, state and local governments.

      In 2017, Nigeria’s education sector was again allocated much lower than the 26 per cent of national budget recommended by the United Nations.

The global organisation recommends the budgetary benchmark of 26 percent to enable nations adequately cater for rising education demands. But in the proposal presented to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari allocated only 7.04 per cent of the 8.6 trillion naira 2018 budget to education.

      The total sum allocated to the sector is N605.8bn, with N435.1bn for recurrent expenditure, N61.73bn for capital expenditure and N109.06bn for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).

      Poor governance and mismanagement have endangered education sector like all other sectors. Government’s attitude towards crucial problems of education, especially its quality, is lackadaisical.

Governments at all levels are more concerned about issues that are not as important as education and this is crippling the sector.

      Corruption is one of the major problems in the country and education sector is not an exception. There are stories of lecturers collecting bribes from students in exchange for good grades. School administrators demand money from students to have their exam results compiled and submitted to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Admission seekers pay money to get admission into universities, and so on.

Also, school funds meant for salaries, maintenance and the like, are being diverted for personal use. This cuts across all levels of education: universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, private and public secondary schools.

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      Lack of responsibility and control is a problem not only affecting Nigeria but most countries of Africa. Who controls the education sector? Is it federal, state or local government? For example, the control of primary education is neither fully in the hand of federal government, nor state or local government. This is a great barrier for effective educational development at the basic level.

Works that needed to be done are left undone because no tier of government wants to take the responsibility.

Politicisation of education prompts governments at all levels, especially at the state level, to run many institutions even when they are least prepared to do so. This cause the general fall in the standard of the existing ones as the available budget cannot cater for all their needs.

      In addition, state governments give accreditation to private schools that they know are not well equipped for teaching, all in a bid to generate more revenue for themselves.

      Infrastructure in schools and other vocational institutions have collapsed due to abject neglect by governments.

      Our tertiary institutions became dilapidated and their products are ill-trained so they cannot compete with other products outside the country.

      Many schools lack basic equipment for conducive learning, most especially for science practical classes, and those that claim to have are using the obsolete ones. Hence, students only learn the theoretical aspects rather than the practical.

      Also, the libraries in schools lack modern books, journals and magazines that aid learning.

      Indiscipline manifested in examination malpractices, secret cult, rape, etc, are the bane of education. Investigation revealed that some examination centres exist where parents pay money to qualify their wards for credits in SSCE and cut-off marks in UTME.                                                                           Poor parenting is one of the major causes of failure in the education sector. Parents are meant to provide the basic needs to meet the challenges of children’s lives, but many parents do not even show enough care or support. All they want is for their wards to excel irrespective of the means.

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      This lack of proper guidance gives room to paying for “special centres” for their wards.

Teaching aids are objects or devices used by teachers to enhance or enliven classroom instruction. There is a wide range of teaching aids which can be audio, video, books, projectors, computers, etc. These are not provided for teachers thereby making teaching difficult.

      An effective curriculum which provides teachers, students, administrators with a measurable plan and structure for delivering quality education is lacking. And also because of policy inconsistence, most schools cannot keep up standards or result to using the British curriculum.

      Unlike other academic disciplines that are highly competitive, there are scanty applications into faculties of education and colleges of education. According to research, in 2015, of the more than 1,700,000 applications for university admissions, less than five per cent applied for courses in education. These data point to the lack of interest of candidates for a career in the teaching profession.

      Unstable condition of teaching has made most professionals search for alternatives and this, no doubt, affect their effectiveness and dedication.

      The minimum wage in Nigeria is N18000. It will be hard for homes surviving on the wage to send their children to school because of high school fees, cost of books and so on.

      The necessary textbooks needed for easier learning are either scarce or ridiculously expensive, making it hard for students or teachers to buy or use them. 

When the causes of a problem are identified, it is believed that the solution to the problems is at hand. 

      In line with this topic, Johnson Olawale proffers the following solutions to problems of education in Nigeria. 

      The first step towards reviving the educational system lies in the hands of the government. Necessary steps need to be taken in order to restructure and save the sector. Governments at all levels need to commit to the delivering of a competitive standard of education across the country and with other countries.

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      Also, the right investments need to be done in order to get the desired results. Adequate funding with good management will provide high-quality education in Nigeria. Funds for renovation of schools and institution, acquiring quality training facilities, research grants, decent teachers’ salaries and welfare, etc, are the things that need to be increased, released and spent appropriately.

      The level of corruption in education ministries and regulatory bodies needs to be taken seriously and tackled.

      The level of exam malpractices needs to be curbed by a joint effort of the government and examination regulatory bodies.

      Admissions into tertiary institutions should be based solely on merit. 

Former executive secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC)  and pro-chancellor of Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun state, Professor Peter Okebukola, in 2017, also said that Nigeria could copy from countries such as Finland and Korea, which revived their economy by taking care of their education system .

      “In countries like Finland and Korea, only the very best are admitted for teacher training, and when they graduate, they are paid well and are the envy of other professionals.”

“In Nigeria, the typical faculties of education of a university admit largely the dregs from the pool of UTME applicants. In 2017, application for courses in education and agriculture were the fewest.

      “Most students want to read medicine, law, engineering and what they consider as prestige courses,” he said.

      Okebukola also said that the five cardinals to improve the education system were to revamp the curriculum, suspend all sandwich programmes, embark on teachers’ recruitment, implement teachers’ salary scale and punish those that maltreat teachers.

      When these solutions are put into action, we will be able to see real changes in the level of education in Nigeria. 

      The future of Nigeria is in the hands of the youths, and without educational liberty there will be decline in national development thereby affecting generations to come.

Omale Angela Unekwu-ojo is Mass Communication student at Kogi State University, Anyigba, and an IT student with Blueprint newspapers. 

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