Sunday, October 13, 2013

Let's invest in our future 

 In 1983,  a research noted that  the number of schools available in Nigeria was inadequate for primary school pupils. 30 years later, the story has changed. Education statistics for 2013 show that  10.5 million pupils are out of school (up from 4.7 million in 2005) . Of the population in school, 86700 took the common entrance examination  to Unity Schools in 2013, the figure was about 81,000 in 2012. This sad state of our education needs to be  addressed. Whilst other countries are investing in education and reaping the rewards, we appear not to care that our children are not getting educated. As the world evolves, Nigerian kids would be at a disadvantage because they are not equipped to match contemporaries from Asia and Europe. This disadvantage is important because  the World is becoming knowledge based where it is what you know and how you apply that knowledge that pays.If our kids are not able to think,apply and innovate, there is a problem. 
A negative effect of the lack of basic education  is uneducated kids  are on streets and are burden to the larger society. Imagine all the kids on the street were in school learning,we may not have our miscreant problem where these kids as they grow older  become tools in the hands of politicians.
Apart from children not getting sound education, the quality of teachers  intensifies this problem. When our teachers do not know and yet teach, the basis of education is flawed. LIke it has been recently said to me, no education is better than bad education. If the foundation ( primary education) is defective,  whatever is built upon at the secondary and higher education levels  amount to nothing. Today, we complain of half-baked graduates who cannot read, write  and be articulate. The primary  and secondary education they received should be blamed for that. At the University or Polytechnic, one should be able to apply what one is taught but if basic skills are lacking, how can one think?
This begs the question why we should care. We should care because if the future (children)  is not properly trained, then we have no future. That just 86700 children wrote common entrance is worrisome. It is worrisome because, Federal schools are inexpensive and if children did not write exams for Federal schools, it can be assumed that they are  not going to private schools.By 2023 how many illiterate adults would we have?
We should also care because  the impact of an educated mind is boundless, and this is not just in Mathematics, English and Science. The ability  to learn exposes the mind to think and develop. Like Nelson Mandela says "a good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something special".
 What can we do?
 First, our teachers have to be motivated to teach. This is difficult in a country where systems and governments fail the people and teachers cannot wait for their rewards in heaven.One solution to this can be  access to housing and car loans or incentives that can help teachers live better lives
Second, Our teachers have to be upskilled and properly trained. There are numerous instances of  uneducated teachers who cannot teach.  A recent case is that of a  teacher who could not read an affidavit . How do we train the teachers? The internet offers an affordable means to do so. Teachers have to be internet literate. They can join teacher communities and share experiences and practices with colleagues in other parts of the world. High performing teachers can be rewarded with training opportunities abroad, coaches can be assigned to schools to show teachers how to teach. The resources for this are affordable if States and the Federal government deem it as priority. The Nigerian Union of Teachers should actually champion teacher training and certification rather than fight the government when policies around teacher certification come up.  
Third,  the Nigerian curriculum needs to be revised. Education is moving on from rote learning (2*2=4) to ( applied learning) I have N2, my aunty gives me N5, how much do I have? Nigeria's curriculum should reflect same, learning by memorization  is no learning 
What do we need to achieve these this:
1) Willingness of the government to fund  education especially at the primary level. It is telling that in the 2013 budget, only 8.67% of 4.9 trillion was allocated to  education by the Federal government. Note: this is for all sectors; primary, secondary and tertiary education. In 2012, it was  8.43 %.  Politicians and  senior civil servants in our ministries of education need to put their money where their mouth is. Across the States, education accounts for less than 20% of budgets.What manner of future would we have?
2) Infrastructure: the state of primary and secondary schools do  not encourage any learning. Schools should be properly built and maintained. This should apply to both private and public schools. Some schools are dilapidated that I wonder why parents allow their children near such buildings.
3) The buy in of teachers who should realize the importance of their work and be willing to carry it out diligently
3) Enforcement of the Child Right Act of 2003: the CRA guarantees free and mandatory basic education for kids. Parents and Wards who fail to send their kids to schools should be punished. Agreed, there are children whose parents depend on them but allowing these kids attend school from 8-2 would not kill this class of parents. The continuous circle of poverty is promoted by lack of education. When I see market women or hair dressers giving their all to ensure their kids are educated, I know hope is not lost. The CRA has to be skillfully enforced especially in the North where the current rate of insecurity and culture is against education. This act should also be used to address the problem of high drop out rates in primary schools.
The "ideal" Nigeria would not be built by mouth. Investments have to be made in creating the future we want.

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