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

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, Nigeria used to boast of a vibrant, progressive and highly and widely recognised educational system which compared favourably with any educational system in the developed worlds, despite the fact that Nigeria was still classified as underdeveloped. Alas, since the early 1980s, our educational system has been bedevilled and moribund due to many factors and circumstances, most of which were not unconnected with our well-known and much-talked-about vices of corruption, insincerity of our leaders and other woes. In fact, the military governments we have had contributed so much to the collapse of our educational system than anything else. Could it be that this was a result of the low level of education achieved by these military cabal? Could it be as a result of tribalism and nepotism? Or was it just plain ignorance of these largely uneducated class of the enormity of the task at hand of recognising the importance of education in nation building?

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 Nigeria. Those were the days when recruiters from the USA, UK, Germany, Canada etc specifically come to Nigeria annually to recruit Nigerian graduates and non-graduates to work in their countries. Those were the days when Yaba College of Technology, Universities of Ibadan, Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo), Lagos, Nsukka, Benin, Ahmadu Bello University were household names on the lips of foreign countries. Those were the days when you can count up hundreds of very good secondary schools in the western and eastern parts of Nigeria with pride, with nearly all of them employing foreign teachers to complement the local teachers.

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.

Written by
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
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2 comments
  • 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.

  • 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