If you remember in my last post, I shared my take on our current reality in the education sector in Nigeria. I also spoke about some of the reforms underway in the country – at the federal and state levels. Finally, I reviewed one of Nigeria’s most daring and groundbreaking education reforms to date – Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Free Education Program.
The current reality of our educational landscape is very worrying. In order for us to start addressing these challenges, we need to make some very uncomfortable educational reforms. The question is: are we ready to implement the kind of reforms that we urgently need? History has shown that these types of changes will be painful, cause a lot of discomfort, and meet with resistance from various stakeholders.
“Change is hardest at the start, messier in the middle, and the best at the end.” – Robin S. sharma
The history of formal education in Nigeria dates back to the Methodist missionaries who opened the first primary school in 1843. A decade later, in 1854, some Christian missionaries opened the CMS High School in Lagos, which became the first secondary school. from Nigeria.
In 1914, after the amalgamation of the northern and southern part of Nigeria by Lord Lugard, there was a growing demand for schools. The rapid growth of education led to the establishment of the first Nigerian university in 1948 – the University of Ibadan.
EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended in Article 18 (1), (2) and (3), guarantees access to education at different levels. It indicates that;
- The government should orient its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
- The government must promote science and technology.
- The government will strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end, the Government will provide, to the extent possible,
- free, compulsory and universal primary education;
- free secondary education;
- free university education; and
- free adult literacy program.
Article 18 (3) emphasizes that free education is provided “as and when it is practiced” at all levels. The question is, with our current resources, structure and mode of government, is it possible for Nigeria to provide free primary, secondary and tertiary education? The answer to this question elicited different answers depending on which side of the fracture you are on. However, if we aspire to transform the Nigerian education system, there are some difficult issues that need to be addressed.
AND NOW ?
With the context I have provided, here are some of the difficult issues that we must address if we are to transform our education system;
1. Public-Private Partnership (PPP)
Nigeria has had varying levels of success with this approach. However, the reality is that the PPP needs to be more comprehensive, extensive and well established in our education system. The charter school framework is one possible solution that we may have to adopt. It is a system in which the government retains ownership of the school while day-to-day operations are contracted out to the private sector.
Our Unity School, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) centers, state and federal schools, among others, may need to adopt this framework as it would dramatically improve the state of our education system. The Nigerian government alone cannot solve our education problems; PPP is essential.
2. Higher education institutions
There are several schools of thought on how to effectively manage Nigeria’s higher education system, but I want to focus on three (3).
The First School believes that we should maintain the status quo, which means that the federal and state governments should significantly increase the budget allocation to our higher education institutions. We have been using this framework for decades now, we have to ask ourselves how effective it has been.
The second school of thought posits that tuition subsidies should be removed from certain government-owned higher education institutions, allowing them to charge appropriate fees. This means that the fees charged at these institutions will be comparable to those charged by private higher education institutions.
The third school of thought believes that higher education institutions in the country should have complete autonomy in terms of operation and management.
I think we need to find common ground among all of these schools of thought, but one thing is clear: we cannot continue on this current path. This current framework which results in incessant strikes, school closures is not sustainable – we are definitely trampling on our nation.
3. Student loans
We do not currently offer a student loan program, but many countries around the world have offered such programs for decades. Perhaps it is high time that we explore this option. If we are considering eliminating tuition subsidies from our higher education institutions, a student loan scheme must be in place. It must be administered in a transparent and objective manner. It must also be managed by the private sector with strict government regulation and oversight.
Thus, the above points are some of the issues that we need to address if we are to reform our education system in Nigeria. Engaging on these issues would make various education actors uncomfortable, face opposition and setback, but the current system does not meet our needs as a nation.
“No nation can rise above the level of its education and if we are not to be left behind we must start fixing the sector, because the future of the country is at stake” – Ene Okoro
Until next time we meet here, remember we all have “A role to play.”
Bank-Olemoh is the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Education Interventions