Nigeria battles 'out-of-school' epidemic


Leaders in the country gathered in Abuja for the 20th Nigeria Economic Summit to discuss ways to transform education through global partnerships as the decline in education and literacy standards proves a huge social and economic challenge for the country.  

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“Universal Basic Education has two definitions. One is the concept, ‘Universal Basic Education’ and the other one is getting the concept into reality, making basic education universal. There we have not done well because it’s a combination of Access, equity, relevance, quality and efficiency,” Professor Pai Obanya, Chairman, West Africa Examinations Council told CNBC Africa.

Universal Basic Education is a nine year basic educational programme that was launched by the government in Nigeria 15 years ago to eradicate literacy, ignorance and poverty. The programme is also part of Nigeria’s strategy for the achievement of Education for all and the education-related Millennium Development Goals.

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“There is first of all the problem of 10 million [children] left out of school … Then, there’s the other one, where you don’t have meaningful access. That means, if you had 100 people enrolling, about 90 of them will attend, about 80 will progress, about 60 will complete and about 40 will go onto the next level,” he said.

According to Education For All (EFA), one out of six children in the world that are out of school live in Nigeria. In the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report, it was found that among the young men aged 15 to 39 in 2008 who had left school after six years of schooling, 28 per cent were illiterate and 39 per cent were semi-literate.

“Then, there is a problem of quality. The way you define quality is simple, people go through school but the school should also go through them. There is a learning crisis if you look at the number of those who are able to read and write, the numbers are appalling,” he explained.

In 2011, the government launched the Presidential Taskforce for education to tackle this problem however, many believe that a lot more needs to be done. Obanya believes that as the world now practices reformative learning, Nigerian children need to be taught how to adapt to any environment they find themselves in.

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“When you come to relevance, you’d have noticed that there is a problem of attracting people to school in the northern part of the country. Part of it is the perceived irrelevance of schooling. There is a problem of adolescent boys running out of school in the south east [part of the country].”

Last year, the government invested an extra 250 million dollars in the country’s education system while the international committee also contributed the same amount.

“Then you have the efficiency part of it, which has so many dimensions. How do you manage the system? There is no clearly defined way. The other one is that, the money being injected isn’t yielding the desired benefit,” he added.