MAKING STRIDES IN EDUCATION

Nigeria 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | REVIEW: EDUCATION

As Nigeria strives to develop and provide for its 182 million people, it is making headway in education thanks to a strengthening private sector.

Though there is room for improvement, Nigeria's education system, infrastructure, and outcomes have been improving, and there are signs of real change. A rise in private education systems and institutions has spurred growth, and the government is turning more and more toward privatized education.

Between 2000 and 2015, Nigeria's population grew by 48%, surging from roughly 123 million to 182 million, and between 2015-2030 the population is forecast to grow by 44%, totaling more than 263 million in the next 15 years. While the rate of growth is forecast to decline somewhat, the rate is still so robust that sizable pressure is expected to placed on education infrastructure. With an adult literacy rate of 51.1%, Nigeria is making gains. Geographic disparities persist, however, and students residing in the north of the country are far less likely to receive an education. According to BTI, the enrollment rate for school-aged children is around 30% in the north and 70% in the south, putting the national rate at just over 50%. Wealth also plays a major role in educational divergences, and the most affluent quintile of Nigeria's population have nearly eight more years of education than the least affluent. Poor rural women are often some of the most educationally disadvantaged, and in Nigeria less than 10% are literate. On average, the country's wealthiest youth receive 12.2 years of education while the country's poorest youth received only 1.7 years. Another hurdle in the spread of education is the lack of materials. In a 2015 survey of educational materials in the country, only nine of Nigeria's more than 520 languages were found to be represented in student reading resources.
A relatively large portion of the federal budget is reserved for education, and in 2014 the country directed nearly 10% of all federal expenditures, roughly USD3billion, to education. In 2016 the rate dipped slightly to 7%.

Though there have been difficulties in collecting sound statistics for assessment purposes, grassroots efforts and newly announced government initiatives are trying to change that. Let's Engage, Assess, and Report Nigeria (LEARNigeria) is a grass roots program aimed at creating a standard for assessment across the country. Set to be launched across six states in 2017, the program is being coordinated by the Education Partnership Center, and more than 30 institutions have already agreed to participate. Organizers and participants are hoping that their efforts will help more clearly define Nigeria's learning outcomes while simultaneously spurring greater investment and commitment to education from the government, private enterprise, and communities across the states.

Not surprisingly, increases in education can have dramatic effects on other social and demographic trends. According to UNESCO, the completion of four additional years in school reduced birth rates by one birth per young girl in Nigeria, and the country's universal primary education policy is given the majority of the credit for cutting early fertility rates by 0.26 births per year for every additional year of attainment, according to the latest Global Education Monitoring Report. With far-ranging socio-economic benefits, declining fertility rates are generally considered to be an avenue for promoting greater resource allocation toward children's health and education.

Unfortunately, political instability in certain regions of Nigeria has had detrimental effects on educational attainment. According to the UN, between 2009 and 2015 violence in the country's north destroyed 910 schools and prompted the closure of at least 1,500, and more than 950,000 children were forced to evacuate unstable areas. Teachers and educators have also been targeted by terrorist groups, and education in these areas remains limited.

Nigeria has been at the forefront of introducing education programs specifically targeted at nomadic peoples, and the programs have had great success. According to UNESCO, these community-specific plans have had such a large impact that education officials from the conventional education system have begun implementing particularly effective aspects of the program.

Nigeria has also benefited from the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability's Regional Centers of Expertise. The centers focus on sustainable resource management and development, and fosters collaboration between community leaders, educators, students, and concerned citizenry. This community-based approach to learning has been popular in rural areas of Nigeria, and UN officials expect that more centers will foster greater collaboration, innovation, and change.

Private Education

Privatization in education has grown at every level Nigeria, and the trend promises to continue. With nearly 61 private universities and 82 federal or state higher education institutions, the private and public sector are getting closer and closer to parity every day. According to the BTI, much of the privatization in the education sector has come from Pentecostal churches, which see education as a means of educating, proselytizing, and generating revenue. In the state of Lagos, a whopping 85% of pre-primary and 60% of primary students are enrolled in private institutions, and the state's most recent census revealed that there were 12,098 private and 1,606 government schools, according to the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report.

As private education has grown, specialized degree programs at the tertiary level has also expanded. Business schools in particular have established themselves as leaders in the field and take great pride in preparing Nigeria's next generation of managers and executives. In an exclusive interview with TBY, Dr. Enase Okonedo, Dean of the Lagos Business School, explained what educators and the government need to do to ensure Nigeria's future is brighter than its past. “We have 180 million Nigerians, of which 110 million are young people, and it is a duty of the state to provide education for these people,” said Okonedo. “Most critical for me is curriculum development. I believe the curriculum needs to updated in several schools because there is no regular review.” According to Dr. Okonedo, another key to unlocking Nigeria's educational future is collaboration between private industry and the state

As rates of education have grown and the job market has become more competitive, less traditional, but no less necessary, forms of education have become key to giving candidates that competitive edge. Interestingly, an entire cottage industry focused on personality and image consulting has sprouted up. These firms focus on instilling a variety of characteristics and traits that are key to success in the business world, like etiquette, comportment, judgment, project management, presentation skills, problem solving, and diction, among others. In a recent interview with TBY, Mavi Isibor, Group CEO of Poise Nigeria, explained how this type of training can help differentiate candidates entering a highly competitive job market. “Our client companies always complain that there is a lack of employable graduates in Nigeria,” said Isibor. “We work with some selected universities to groom their final year students so that they are employment ready.” By enhancing students' abilities in core business-related areas, Poise Nigeria has succeeded in achieving an 87% employment rate for its students.