Nigeria: Ten Years of Democracy – Weep Not for Education…

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To a large extent, Nigeria’s education sector still gropes in the dark, unable to confront and respond to the various challenges of the 21st century knowledge economy.

While the number of universities have increased phenomenally since 1999 when democracy returned to the country from about 35 to 102 today, the system is still unable to cope with the huge demand for university education as less than 20 per cent of eligible candidates are offered admission yearly.

The Federal Government and state governments were the only bodies previously allowed to establish and operate universities in Nigeria.

Since 1999, licenses have been granted to individuals, corporate and religious bodies to establish private universities. The National Universities Commission (NUC) is the body charged with the responsibility of determining applications in conformity with laid down guidelines, conditions, criteria, enforcement of uniform standard and sets admissions capacity for every university and the accreditation of academic programmes..

There are also several Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education whose numbers have increased tremendously in the last 10 years. Government has not created enough space for eligible and intending students for tertiary education.

For instance, about 1.2 million candidates sat for the University Matriculation Examination (UME) in 2009, with spaces for less than 200,000. Private universities and polytechnics have been unable to fill the gap.

Perhaps, it was in an attempt to close the gap and correct this imbalance that the Federal Government introduced the Tertiary Education Reform anchored on consolidation of tertiary institutions to expand access and provide additional 500,000 spaces. Cognisance was taken of the inability of present arrangement to absorb qualified candidates with preference for university degrees.

The policy also involved the conversion of Federal Polytechnics and Colleges of Education to campuses of proximate and contiguous universities to award B. Tech. All non-degree programmes will remain.

Curriculum in higher education institutions not relevant to labour market needs, while there had been preference for universities because of existing prejudices against technical and vocational education.

The policy of consolidation would mean scraping Higher National Diploma (HND) from the programmes of the polytechnics and upgrade them to a degree awarding status.

But the implication of this is that Polytechnics as they are presently constituted cannot translate or transform into degree awarding institutions without a repeal of the old law and enact a new Bill to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration and passage.

Ever since these policies were initiated during the Obasanjo administration in its twilight, nothing has been done as regards timplementation. So, we are in a stalemate, as the situation remains intractable.

The lack-lustre and purposeless government of President Musa Umaru Yar’Adua, even with the human capital development component in his so-called 7-Point Agenda, tends to put tertiary education sub-sector deeper in the valley.

Factors responsible for the crisis include inadequate financing, insufficient and irrelevant learning materials like outdated equipment, antiquated journals and books, poorly trained and paid lecturers, overcrowded classrooms and lecture theatres.

Chronic accommodation scarcity, outdated structures, arbitrary expansion of enrollment leading to oversupply of graduates, irrelevant curricula, corruption, abuse, misuse and embezzlement of education funds, serious disconnection between university training and needs of labour market. However, there are some few private universities determined to make the global ranking in the nearest future and are already showing academic excellence with most or even all of their programmes/courses fully accredited by NUC.

To enhance quality admission, post-UME Test was introduced which itself had been subjected to abuse and exploitation of admission seekers.

Now JAMB has announced the Unified Tertiary matriculation Examinations (UTME) which will combine UME, Monotechnics, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education (MPCE) Matriculation Examination as from the next academic session. According to the new policy, candidates will be allowed to choose six tertiary institutions and give candidates more level playing ground.

Over the past 10 years, academic activities have been disrupted more than 200 times by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) through series of strikes and industrial actions.

The recent report on Global Ranking of Universities never contained any Nigerian university which confirms the degeneration of the country’s tertiary education.

Report concludes that the average graduate who leaves a university or polytechnic with a degree, diploma or certificate is not worth the qualification which he/she is supposed to have.

The Federal Government launched the Universal Basic Education Scheme in 1999 for compulsory, free basic education to enhance literacy and lay solid foundation for lifelong learning.

But the UBE has been hampered by insufficient teachers, abuse of funds, poor infrastructure, lack of teaching facilities among others.

According to Personnel Audit conducted by the Universal basic Education Commission (UBEC), there are 627,550 teachers at basic education sub-sector out of which 92,756 are in the junior secondary schools. Primary education requires 872,971 teachers ideally, but only 534,974 teachers are currently in service. Most of them are not qualified. Out of the 534,974 currently teaching, 294,884 (55.2%) are qualified.

For the junior secondary school level, it requires 93,337, teachers, but presently has 92,756 in which 73,729 are qualified, leaving a shortfall of 19,608.

To tackle the problem of unqualified teachers, Special Teacher Upgrading Programme (STUP) was initiated.

There is also Federal Teachers Scheme (FTS) meant for NCE graduates to serve for two years after which they can be absorbed by states as permanent staff. About 28 states and FCT indicated willingness to absorb between 75 % – 100% of those qualified teachers.

Definitely, UBE is at the crossroad, plagued by inadequate qualified teachers thereby threatening the achievement of Education For All (EFA) in 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

A first batch of FTS was 40,000. A second batch of 40,000 with 5,000 science-based participants is underway, aimed at injecting fresh knowledge and skill into UBE

Dr. Ahmed Mohammed, current Executive Secretary, UBEC has explained that FTS is a response to the increasing demand for teachers at the grassroot, ensuring qualitative education in public schools, exposing NCE graduates to relevant practical experience in their chosen careers and employment opportunities.

Teaching of Science has been considered difficult with Science subjects avoided by many children. Consequently, the Federal Government has spent N747,414,750.00 to supply Science kits to designated Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) in the country.

According to Hajia Aishatu Dukku, Minster of State for Education: “The government admission policy of 60/40 ratio in favour of Science into universities had always been breached because there are not enough Science students applying for admission.”

While pupils and students are learning under sub-human conditions – without ventilated classrooms, sitting under trees, leaking roofs, no benches, tables, desks, no drinking water, lack of toilets, no meals, huge UBE funds are stolen, misusedand diverted by officials.

More appalling is that N69.16 billion UBE fund is lying in the vault of the Central Bank unutilised. State governments are not coming forward to access the money.

Dukku is worried, saying that government cannot allow a situation whereby children are sitting on the floor, or under trees, while there are unaccessed funds to provide a conducive learning environment, she warned that the Federal Government would be compelled to review its intervention strategy” pointing out that a number of states which had accessed the UBE grant in the past nine months are yet to implement the activities outlined in the action plan for which the fund was released.”
Many states are yet to access the fund in the last few years even as pupils and students groan under terrible learning environments.”

The scrapping of JSS segment in Federal Government colleges which shut out 64,000 children in a policy logjam has not been resolved, bringing anguish and frustration to the affected children and parents.

The public, private partnership in running of the 104 Unity schools and the envisaged plan to sell the institutions initiated by the Obasanjo regime seemed to have been reversed by the present administration.


The Federal Government spent N832.6 billion on education between 1999 and 2007. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent N30.6 billion on the sector in 1999. In 2000, N64.2 billion was spent. 2001, N74.9 billion; 2002, N45.5 billion; 2003, N63.5 billion; 2004, N90.3 billion; 2005, N106.7 billion; 2006, N151.7 billion and 2007, N205.2 billion. About 71 per cent of the cash went to tertiary education between 1999 and 2005. About 29.2 per cent was spent on secondary and basic education.

Out of the total expenditure on education during the period, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) received about N90.08 billion from 2005 to 2007.

Expenditure on tertiary education accounted for an average of 70.8 per cent of Federal Government ‘s total education expenditure between 1999 to 2005. (Source: Report of a Review of the costs and financing of public education in Nigeria, presented by former Minister of Education. Dr. Igwe Aja-Nwachukwu).

The report was a collaborative effort by the Federal Ministry of Education, the World Bank and the Department for International Development.

World Bank Country Director in Nigeria, Mr. Onno Ruhl, disclosed that the bank has spent about $245 million so far in education. While $180 million was expended on Science and Technology, about $65 million had been spent on UBE.

Federal funding on education has grown by almost 50 per cent in the last five years, although it fell short of the recommended 26 per cent of national budget by UNESCO.

State of Education in Nigeria

Nigeria is one of the 15 countries with the highest number of illiterates and one of the top 5 countries of the developing world that will not achieve any meaningful EFA goals in 2020 let alone 2015.

Nigeria ranks 151 among 174 nations in the human development index, according to recent assessment of UNDP.

Nigeria is consigned to the list of 10 least developed countries, in terms of economic development.None of the country’s universities fall within the first 500 best universities in the world in the recent global ranking of universities. 22.1 million out of 42.1 million Nigerian children are in primary schools.

Out of 33.9 million Nigerians eligible for secondary education, only 10.4 million are in school. Of all the students who sat for SSCE examinations from 2000 top 2006, only 25 per cent passed with credits in Mathematics and English.

Out of the 1.5 million Nigerians seeking admission to tertiary education only about 19.5 per cent get admitted.

About 55 per cent of the adult population are illiterates.

EFA Global Monitoring Report says that many of the countries of the developing world will not achieve the Education For All (EFA) goals by 2015.

On the corruption index, Nigeria has been judged to be the worst in the world coming second from the rear and with Bangladesh as the country which overtook Nigeria early this year.

(Source: “The Beginning of a New Dawn For Education in Nigeria” by Prof. Olugbemiro Jegede, VC, National Open University of Nigeria).

Over seven million children, majority of them girls do not attend primary schools. Inadequate infrastructure and shortage of materials make the learning environment for those who attend even more difficult, according to UK Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, when he visited Nigeria recently.

In the last two years of the Yar’Adua administration, industrial actions have disrupted education sector. The unending ASUU dispute with Federal Government over autonomy and the dismissed 49 UNILORIN lecturers is leading to another strike. SSANU, ASUP are also spoiling for war, while the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) still has an axe to grind with state governments that refused to pay the new Teachers Salary Scale.

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