As Nigeria commemorated the annual International Day of Education on January 24th, the occasion prompted solemn reflection on the state of the country’s education system.
Militant groups like Boko Haram and bandits have been attacking schools, kidnapping students, and disrupting education across northern Nigeria.
Since the Chibok schoolgirls’ attack on April 14, 2014, in which 276 students at Government Girls Secondary School Chibok in Borno were abducted, a spate of attacks on schools and abductions of students has become recurrent.
From December 2020 to April 2022, 1,436 school children and 17 teachers have been abducted from schools, and 16 school children lost their lives. This is unacceptable.
Chief of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) field office, Phuong Nguyen in Maiduguri, has said almost half of the schools in the northeast part of Nigeria need rehabilitation.
Also, UNICEF has expressed concern over the recent attacks on schools in the North East and North West , which have disrupted the education of over 1.3 million children and led to precautionary school closures.
They also noted that only 6,000 schools in Nigeria meet the 43 percent minimum standard for a safe learning environment.
In our view, ensuring safe access to quality learning for all children emerges as an urgent priority.
However, chronic underinvestment, outdated curricula, and a shortage of qualified teachers across the country reveal deeper systemic flaws that have left Nigeria with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
Sadly, Nigeria confronts harsh truths. Well over 10 million children remain excluded from the classroom. Over half of schools lack adequate facilities and fall short of minimum safety standards.
Educational outcomes consistently lag regional and global averages. But this occasion must also ignite commitment to meaningful change.
Because education bears a fundamental connection to both peace and development, reforming and strengthening Nigeria’s education system offers a critical step toward securing the country’s future stability and prosperity.
Dangerous attacks on schools by militant groups underscore the literal threats to education, but fixing searing inequality and improving uninspiring learning environments can help remove the figurative targets from Nigeria’s schools.
Constructive policy and dedicated investment must aim to truly make classrooms sanctuaries of hope rather than symbols of desperation. While funding presents an ongoing challenge, devoting greater budgetary resources to education is imperative.
The current allocation of 6.39% to education in the 2024 budget spending falls well below the 15-20% recommended by UNESCO.
Needless to say, Nigeria must increase funding to improve school infrastructure, recruit and support educators, provide learning materials, and make education affordable for all families.
Increasing investment in education can also help curb insecurity and unrest. Lack of access to schooling fuels resentment and mistrust, while keeping children idle and susceptible to negative influences.
Providing quality education fosters social cohesion and channels youthful energy into productive endeavors.
An educated populace also yields significant economic dividends that reinforce stability.
Money alone will not mend Nigeria’s troubled education landscape. A sober assessment reveals that problems run deeper, demanding reforms to curricula, teaching methods, and outdated modes of school administration.
Education policymakers must craft responsive policies and learning frameworks that deliver the skills young Nigerians need to actively participate in a 21st-century economy and a globalised world.
Modernising curricula should emphasise core competencies like creative problem-solving, digital literacy, entrepreneurship, and climate change awareness.
Updating instructional techniques can nurture critical thinking rather than rote memorisation.
Providing professional development support and respecting teachers as nation-builders will strengthen the heart of the education system.
Leaders at all levels must renew their commitment to inclusive, equitable quality education, recognizing it as the cornerstone of a peaceful and prosperous future.
There are no quick fixes to deeply rooted challenges, but progress begins with the courage to confront hard truths. With wisdom and resolve, Nigeria can transform education from a source of despair to a source of hope.
Difficult roads still lie ahead, but the nation’s children deserve no less than classrooms where they are safe, valued, and inspired.
Though terrorists threaten schools with violence, the government must respond by making classrooms temples of inclusion, equality, and aspiration.
Though deprivation and despair imprison too many youths, Nigeria must liberate them through knowledge and opportunity.
Progress will require patience, courage, and unity of purpose, but Nigeria cannot afford to wait. The nation’s future beckons its children, and its schools must give them wings to soar. That is education’s promise. And that is Nigeria’s hope.