By Adesina Wahab
Today, Nigeria marks 60 years of independence from Great Britain, a country that left us with many of her legacies, including her system of education.
Though the nation has tinkered with what the British left us, has that improved the quality and standard of education in the country?
The number of schools at all levels has also increased tremendously, is it keeping pace with the explosion in the population of the country?
With over 22 million pupils in 62, 406 public primary schools in 2014 according to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, and about 9,015 public secondary schools as at 2005, are these facilities enough for a population put at over 110 million?
Is education given the pride of place in the scheme of things in the country? Is enough budgetary allocation made for it annually across all tiers of government?.
Over the years, some of these issues have raised dust between stakeholders in the sector, leading to countless industrial actions.
While speaking with the Vanguard, some stakeholders such as parents, teachers, public servants among others, agreed that progress has been made in some areas, while they disagreed on others.
Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT.
Speaking on the development, the Lagos State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Otunba Adesina Adedoyin, said determining the state of education in the country was relative when one considers finding and performance.
“However, it has not been the same as it was in the colonial and immediately post-colonial period. We were given liberal education to be able to read and write and it was not technology-driven.
“UNESCO said nations should devote between 15-26 per cent of their annual budgets to education and we are not near that.
“Also, in terms of curriculum, our curriculum planners have not taken cognizance of our culture, norms and ethics and have destroyed them. What they have given us are not in conformity with our environment.
“We also have acute shortage of manpower and the dearth of teachers in the classroom is glaring. In 2020, close to 1,000 teachers are retiring in Lagos State and not to talk about those who have retired in the past.
“The Lagos State government is trying, as they are engaging about 1,000 teachers but that would still not fill all vacancies.
“Teachers are also not happy with the treatment being given them. Also, the teaching profession should not be for mediocre. It is not that if somebody applied to study engineering in the university and is not able to secure admission, you would now admit him to study education which he has no interest in.
“On the part of government, political instability and policy somersault are not helping us. A government will come in and jettison the policies of previous government.
“Parents are also part of the problem. Some don’t take interest in their children education. In those days, parents would check the school bags of their children and know what the children are doing in school. Some parents don’t even buy books and other items for their children,” he stated.
National Association of Nigerian Students
The South-West Coordinator of NANS, Comrade Kappo Samuel Olawale, blamed the leadership for the rot in the sector. He also alleged that the misplacement of priorities was killing the sector.
“When we talk about education in the country, whether when we were under military regime or now in a democratic setting, we are not where we are supposed to be. We do not accord priority to education in this country. From primary to tertiary level, we don’t have enough schools. That has led to many people not been accommodated in schools. It is a sad one for us. Being where we are now is unacceptable.
“Interventionist agencies such as TETFUND are not doing enough. Those who are supposed to complement their efforts are not doing so. The percentage of the budget allocated to education is too paltry.
“What the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is asking the government to provide for the revitalization of education is about $1.7 billion and the same government is spending $1.9 billion to build a rail line to Niger Republic.
“Lack of priority for education is why we are in this situation today. Schools are not enough and available ones very overcrowded,” he opined.
The Chairman of the University of Lagos chapter of ASUU, Dr Dele Ashiru, noted that as long as the nation is tied to the apron string of colonial powers, the situation would remain the same and not improve.
“We are not really independent. It is 60 years of useless leadership , decaying infrastructure and policies and dependent economy dominated by no-liberal policies.
“We are still far from independence. The ruling elite in the country has to rethink and empower the people on the path of progress. We have lots of potentials but very unfortunate that we are not making use of the potentials.
True independence can only be achieved when majority of Nigerians can achieve their potentials. Education in the country is still colonial and largely dependent on the vagaries of international system.
“We must decolonize the education system and channel it towards the progress of the people. It is only then that we can say we are independent. We are still largely dependent on colonial powers and that is negatively affecting our education,” he said.
We are making progress – Ajiboye
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer/Registrar of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, said the quality of education has gone up, while more people now have access to it. “Our education has witnessed a lot of evolution over time. We ran colonial education at independence up to 1970.
“The first National Curriculum Conference held at the University of Lagos which led to the National Policy on Education and we moved from 6-5-2-3 system to 6-3-3-4 and we now operate 9-3-4 system. We have transformed over the years.
“When we talk about structure and organization, we have improved. The landscape has expanded including computer education which we didn’t have in those days.
“We have expansion, as we have over 140 universities today compared to what we had in the colonial era. The number of primary, secondary schools and tertiary institutions has increased tremendously.
“I am not part of those who say the standard of education in the country has fallen. If you look at the number of Nigerians making waves across the globe, you will be surprised. If you go to any part of the world, Nigerians are celebrated. Though we have economic challenges, that does not mean we are not making progress.
“When I left secondary school, I made A1 in Economics, but now, if I attempt to do the examination again, I may struggle because a lot of statistics and mathematics are now included in the syllabus.
“However, we have to improve on budgetary allocation to the education sector in line with global recommendation,” he stated.