The role of education, both qualitative and quantitative, in the development of any society has been vastly documented in academic dissertations, journals, books, newspapers, seminars and conferences all over the world, and it is not my intention to re-invent the wheel or revisit it here.
It has long been recognised that the survival of the Nigerian state as a viable, progressive and democratic society will depend on the state or health of her educational systems – primary, secondary and tertiary – and how our political class and masters decide to grapple with the challenges this enormous task poses.
It is again well known that prior to the decadent 1980s and 90s,
Even recently, political leaders have decided to play politics with the nation’s education, and have continued to neglect this sector of governance. The result has been a moribund educational system and social paralysis. The consequences of these lapses are what we are witnessing today in “area boys”, cultism, armed robbery, very high unemployment, migration of our academicians and young people to other countries (brain-drain), under-development, and the general rot in the Nigerian society.
Today, I can consider myself lucky and proud to have passed through this same education system which had produced so many Nigerians (and even non-Nigerians) of note. I went through the primary, secondary and tertiary systems before proceeding abroad for further studies, when the Nigerian educational system was well very and highly recognised all over the world. In those days, even some qualifications from some Western and other countries were not recognised in
So what happened? The 1979 constitution made primary education the responsibility of the states and local councils. State and federal authorities have concurrent powers over post-primary education. The first six years of primary education were made compulsory in 1976. Recent years have seen a marked growth in educational facilities. Projected adult illiteracy rates for the year 2000 stood at 35.9% (males, 27.7%; females, 43.8%). As of 1995, public expenditure on education was 0.5% of GDP.
The advancement in education in the southern states, compared with the relative lag in the northern states, reflects the contribution of Christian missions to the Nigerian educational system. Teacher-training colleges are operated by missions or voluntary societies; their schools, however, are regulated and largely supported by the government. In 1994 there were 16,190,947 students in 38,649 primary schools, taught by 435,210 teachers. In secondary schools, 4,451,329 students were taught by 152,592 teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was estimated at 37 to 1 in 1995.