There is no gainsaying that education is a very important tool of nation building and one of the core indices of national development. In fact, in the very true words of Erasmus, “the main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth”. What then is to be said of Nigeria’s future if she has the world’s highest number of out-of-school children – 10.5 million? 60% of those children are in Northern Nigeria. It is no wonder violent extremism has had considerable success there. It was also shocking to learn that only 7% of the total 2018 budget was allocated to Education as against the 20% recomended by the United Nations.
Without burdening your heart with data that may further sadden you, products of Nigeria’s public education system can testify to the need of an educational revolution on almost every level: curriculum, research, educational culture, funding etc. Little wonder our politicians send their children abroad for education. They know that the education we get in Nigeria is lacking in quality. So how do then we achieve the revolution that Nigeria so desperately needs in the field of education? I have highlighted below five steps that I consider important to promoting the quality of education in Nigeria:
1. Prioritize Quality and Inclusive Education
The first step to leading a revolution in education is the widespread/ viral understanding the importance of education and ensuring that a premium is placed on it.An object is treated based on the perception of its value. Future Nigerian governments should treat education like our future as a nation depends on it because it does! With the #TeachATeen campaign, championed by my organization, we are trying to ensure that the government and all other stakeholders place the necessary premium on education. This is an important first step because a revolution can only be achieved by a critical mass of discontent people who are willing to go all the way to see that they see desired changes. So, to achieve this, all hands must be on deck – government, private sector, civil societies, individuals, and most especially, the students.
2. Increase and Transparently Allocate Funding for Education
When we prioritize education, budgetary allocations for education will conseqiently increase. Quality and inclusive education requires funding. This is a no-brainer. If we fail to invest in education, we will be forced to spend excessively to remedy consequences of the lack of it. If the Almajiri children had been taken off the streets and into schools, they might not have become the “little arms and legs of Boko Haram”; that the government is spending billions of dollars to curtail.
3. Quality Teacher/Lecturer Training
Knowledge and experience are not the only features of good teachers. In fact, that one is a guru in a field does not automatically make one a good teacher. Teachers (even at University level) have the very crucial jobs of raising the future and imparting knowledge. It is a job that should be reserved for those who are passionate about it and not for those who resort to National College of Education(NCE) training because of their inability to secure admission to other tertiary institutions
Teachers on the job should be continuously trained to understand their role in nation building. They should ensure that their classes permit their students to develop problem solving skills with the knowledge they have.
4. Evaluate and Reform Curriculum and Content
I find it funny that we teach Nigerian children from Nigerian textbooks that Mungo Park discovered the River Niger when their forefathers had already been fishing in it for centuries before Mungo Park was born. Our educational curriculum should not teach our children that only the white man is capable of innovation and discovery because nothing could be farther from the truth! Our curriculum should also celebrate Nigerian innovations and discoveries. It is easier to aspire to invent or innovate if you know that someone in your shoes has done it before. Hence, we should make the conscious effort to Nigerianise the curriculum that is used to teach children.
5. Education Should Sustain Development
We should work to ensure that education can build and sustain development. Our public school curriculum should mainstream 21st century relevant skills like leadership, enterprise education etc. This is the primary message of the #TeachATeen campaign and project that is carried out by Teens Going for Gold Network. Too many University graduates are financial illiterates. Education that sustains development does not exclude financial education.
With contemporary advancements in technology, education no longer has to be boring! We can help children relive World War II or visit the Pyramids of Egypt right in their classrooms using Virtual Reality.
Education should also enable its participants develop problem solving mechanisms and critical thinking abilities.
This is the kind of education that Nigeria so desperately needs! The one that can sustain development and as Nigerian citizens, we are all key players. So, let’s all get to work!