‘Feyi Fawehinmi: Look what they did to Education

by Feyi Fawehinmi

There is no other way to describe this other than an outrageous disaster. And a timebomb waiting to go off even.

I have always known Nigerian education was in a very bad place. But this report shocked me.

It’s not so much that we have a crisis on our hands but that, even though we’ve been in a crisis for a while now, all the evidence suggests that we are moving backwards. There is no other way to describe this other than an outrageous disaster. And a timebomb waiting to go off even.

What does one make of this as an example?

“Twelve countries account for 47% of the global out-of-school population (Figure 1.12). Nigeria, which heads the list with 10.5 million out-of-school children, has experienced the highest increase since 1999.”

Or this?

“In Nigeria, the number of illiterate adults has risen by over 10 million between 1991 and 2010.”

What is the plan? What is a country supposed to do with an increasing army of illiterates? These people can vote you know?

It gets worse. The glaring inequality we see in our society is now a structural problem which is firmly hardcoded into our society’s fabric.

“In Nigeria, about two out of three children from the richest 20% of households attend pre-school, compared with less than one in ten from the poorest 20% of households.”

Recent research has shown that the money spent on a child’s education in the first 3 years of their life delivers the best return over the child’s life. In other words, the worst thing you can do in Nigeria is to be born poor as that smell will follow you all your life.

No matter how bad you think it is, it is worse

“In Kano state of northern Nigeria, a test of some 1,200 basic education teachers found that around 78% had ‘limited’ knowledge in English after an assessment in which they were asked to take a reading comprehension test and correct sentences written by a 10 year child for form, content and punctuation.”

I remember getting into a debate with some ACN folk earlier this year over what I considered to be the daft plan to introduce Yoruba as the language of instruction in South West primary schools. Part of my point at the time was that the problem of incompetence and poorly trained teachers does not disappear when you switch the language of instruction. Here’s evidence suggesting the same thing:

“In Bauchi and Sokoto, two states of northern Nigeria, 4,000 grade 3 students were assessed in Hausa, which is the language of instruction and the lingua franca as well as the mother tongue for the vast majority of students. Just 29% of students in Bauchi and 18% in Sokoto could read full words. These students were given a reading comprehension test: less than one-fifth of them achieved a score of 80% – accounting for only 6% of all students in Bauchi and 3% in Sokoto.”

I was planning to write something about education today when this report got passed to me. It’s a very detailed report so perhaps you might want to run a search on Nigeria to get a flavour about it before settling down into it. I found it to be very disturbing.

And you know, my biggest fear in all of this is that by ignoring education for so long, we may have debased it to the point where it has been completely stripped of those things that make it an aspirational commodity. We may have so badly damaged it to the point where, in the eyes of an uneducated man, it has absolutely no value and is no more than a cost to him while he could be doing something better with his time. The quote below seems to lend credence to this;

“Nigeria, which heads the list with 10.5million of out-of-school children, has experienced the highest increase since 1999.”

Afterall when you look at a lot of people in government and the elite of our society, it’s not obvious that they got to where they did by virtue of their education is it?

The signalling power of education is gone.

What on earth have we done? Given how bad the problem is, can we even trust the government to tell us the truth let alone fix the problem? Well, education is being voted huge sums of money in the budget. Who knows where the money is really going….

The report which can be downloaded HERE was commissioned by UNESCO and was carried out by the Education For All Global Monitoring Team and it is titled ‘Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work’.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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