Rejuvenating Nigeria’s Collapsed Educational System: The Roles Of Alumni And Old Students’ Associations

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

According to Dike, 2002, although Nigeria‘s educational institutions in general are in dire need, the most troubled of the three tiers is the primary education sector. The statistics on primary education available to Dr Dike in 2002 showed that there were about 2,015 primary schools in Nigeria with no buildings of any type. Classes are held under trees. The quality of lectures conducted under such an inhumane condition would not be anything to be proud of. With this dismal statistics, the government is still in the habit of allocating less money to the educational sector (see Tables A). If Nigeria‘s allocation to education is compared with that of other less affluent societies in Africa, the picture becomes more discouraging (see Table B).

Table A: Federal Government Budgetary Allocation to Education

Year Allocation (%) Year Allocation (%)

1995 7.2 1999 11.12

1996 12.32 2000 8.36

1997 17.59 2001 7.00

1998 10.27

Table B: Spending on Education (%GNP) for some African Countries as compared to Nigeria

Country % GNP Country % GNP

Angola 4.9 Cote d’ Ivorie 5.0

Ghana 4.4 Kenya 6.5

Malawi 5.4 Mozambique 4.1

*Nigeria 0.76 South Africa 7.9

Tanzania 3.4 Uganda 2.6

Sources for tables A & B: Extracted from, The African Dept; Reported by Jubilee 2000; Alifa Daniel: Intrigues in FG-ASUU Face-off; see The Guardian On-line, June 17, 2001. Compiled by Victor Dike, 2002.

I have tried to find more recent statistics, but have not succeeded, but from the above, the statistics were very grim indeed. Yearly allocation, which rose in 1996, started decreasing in 1998. It is quite possible that with our democratic dispensation which started in 1999, allocations had gone up, but unfortunately, up to the present year, we are yet to see or feel any impact. This is of course, attributable to bogus and insincere educational programs which had only served as conduits for transferring money to corrupt political leaders and their parasitic cronies. One of such program was the Universal Primary Education (UPE), which since 1996, has been nothing more than words on a piece of paper. And then came its successor with another high-sounding name, Universal Basic Education (UBE), launched amidst great fanfare by the Obasanjo Administration. Your guess is as good as mine as to what happened to this scheme. It has gone to the dogs.

A cursory glance at Table B above is even more disheartening, considering Nigeria’s position and wealth in Africa. At least as of 2001, Nigeria actually spent the least on the education of her people in Africa. Again, this statistics might have improved since then, but I doubt it, or if it has, what are we showing for all the spending? Again, take a wild guess.

In the 1970s and ’80s the government attempted to found a university in every state, but, with the ever-increasing number of states, this practice was abandoned. Attempts by individuals and private organizations, including various Christian churches, to establish universities did not receive the approval of the Federal Ministry of Education until the 1990s. Since then, several private post-secondary institutions have been established.

Nigeria‘s educational system declined significantly in the 1980s and ’90s. There was a shortage of qualified teachers, and the government was sometimes unable to pay them in a timely manner. Moreover, the number of schools did not increase proportionally with the population, and existing schools were not always properly maintained. This led to an increase in the number of largely unregulated private primary and secondary schools. Nigerian universities and colleges also often have inadequate space and resources, and semesters have been cancelled owing to campus unrest for reasons ranging from students protesting tuition increases to teachers and staff striking for higher salaries and better working conditions.

So what can we say? What with several of our politician-masters lying their heads off about their educational qualifications everytime, we can see that they really do place great premium on education, but do not want other people to be educated as they will pose a threat to their very existence and survival as a political thieving class. Anya, 2001 noted that “without a formidable intellectual base”, it is unlikely that any society will move forward. Democracy and progress thrive on the education and productivity of a people. Marzano et al, 1988 posited that democratic values are nurtured on fertile ground of basic education – a functional education with the right focus and correct scope. At this time in Nigeria, with the behaviour and attitude of its political leaders towards educating the people of Nigeria, it is not possible to have these values. If leaders can steal billions of Naira, meant for education and other areas of governance, we are kidding ourselves on developing the nation. The pittance sum invested on education on a yearly basis is not enough to produce creative and critical minds that we need to guide and manage democratic systems and survive as a viable nation (Dike, 2002). And as long as we continue to have these same parasitic and greedy, money-loving leaders, rejuvenating Nigeria’s educational system is made more and more difficult and the future remains gloomy indeed.

You see, the problem is that our leaders do not know, or are not versed, in the art of governance or leading. Not only these; they are ignorant, uncaring, selfish and uncompromising in their desire to steal the country blind. It is a kind of mental sickness – kleptomania, which has afflicted our leaders. And education is just one of many areas where they are lacking. So considering the other areas of neglect such as agriculture, health, provision of basic amenities, security of life and property, sports, children welfare, employment, transportation, etc, you can see that we are in very serious trouble with these people. Please, I am not trying to re-invent the wheel here, but we must keep on hammering it into their wooden heads.

Therefore, in education, as in other areas, Nigerians must not put their hands behind their backs or open our mouths expecting manna to fall from heaven. We must take our destiny in our own hands. I have always advocated community involvement in the socio-political, economic, educational and technological development of our country. We can no longer trust politicians or even technocrats to do it for us.

I see the emergence of viable, strong, and vibrant University Alumni and secondary school Old Students Associations as just one of many ways of taking our destiny in our own hands. These associations of former students of hundreds of academic institutions exist both in Nigeria and abroad. I have even seen a few old students associations of primary schools. However, while it is considered a laudable thing for old students to meet, reminisce over school days, have parties, renew acquaintances and introduce families, very few of these associations have really done a lot for their old schools.

Putting it succinctly, what are the Old Students associations of great schools like Kings College, Igbobi College, St Finbarr’s, St Gregory’s, Methodist Boys High, etc all in Lagos; Government College, Ibadan Grammar School, Loyola College, St Anne’s, St Theresa’s, Lagelu Grammar School, Our Lady’s, etc all in Ibadan; Christ The King College, Onitsha; Hussey College, Warri; Christ School, Ado-Ekiti; Olivet Baptist, Oyo; St Charles, Oshogbo; Aquinas College, Akure; Edo College, Benin; and so many others around the country, doing to remedy the dilapidation of their alma mater? It is quite clear that we can no longer leave these things to the politicians and Governments to sort out. They are not willing to do so, judging by their out-of-this-world unworkable policies and lies. They do not even know how to go about it. The roofs of classrooms are falling in; school buildings are falling apart; there is no running water or electricity; the laboratories have no equipment; the libraries are empty and not replenished with modern books; the boarding houses have been turned into other schools; shortage of teachers; no sports facilities; people have encroached on school land and built private houses on them; there is shortage of tables and chairs; virtually no computer education in most schools; there are no longer school buses and school meals; and so many things expected of a conducive learning environment.

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Ajoke Moses January 16, 2008 - 6:20 pm

Mr Adejumo well done. l really appreciate your article on our educational system and would like to encourage every NIGERIAN that had benefited from the system to contribute positvely to upgrade the standard. Please let everyone in better postion help to prevent further deterioration.

Kola Akanbi January 4, 2008 - 1:37 pm

A challenge to all Nigerians, really. Not just old students. this is a very good article directly hitting the conscience of all of us who took something out of our communities in Nigeria and never thought of putting something back. It is a call to rescue not only our educational system, but also many other areas that successive ploitical leaders and governments have failed us, and continue to fail us. Kudos, Mr Adejumo


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