analysisBy Wale Ajao
FOR thirty years the nation has been unable to successfully implement the National Policy on Education (NPE).
Education sub-sector had glorious time between the fifties and early seventies. However, by the nineties, twenty years after the NPE, education has receded into a dark age characterised by brain drain, campus cultism and examination malpractices.
While giving the 16th inaugural lecture of Olabisi Onabanjo University in September 2000, Professor Emmanuel Ajayi described Nigerian Educational system as "the crisis child of our time." Very few people will reject that description.
The population of Nigeria is now 140,003.542 million. Illiteracy is still as high as 60%. No Nigerian Newspaper has a daily print run of 500,000 copies. Indigenous languages are still relegated to the background, funding for education is still below expectation.
Less than 60% of graduates of our tertiary institutions are products of science and technology institutions. Graduates of humanities and social sciences are far more than those of science and technology.
That is contrary to the NPE which recommended 70% admission into science and technology programmes.
Teachers and students still interact under poor learning environments. In fact it is as if each year makes things worse for education. Yet as far back as thirty years ago, the National Policy on Education outlined steps to be taken to make education sub-sector something we can all be proud of.
The policy which came into existence in 1997 after over four years of deliberations at various levels contained solutions to virtually all our educational problems. In Section 1 Sub-Section 5, the document says Nigeria's philosophy of education is based on the development of the individual into a sound and effective citizen.
"The full integration of the individual into the community, the provision of equal access to educational opportunities for all citizens of the country at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels both inside and outside the formal school system."
With regards to the provisions of the policy, Nigerians know that none of those lofty objectives have been fully realised. Just as many "effective citizens" have been produced by the educational system, there are also many citizens who cannot perform their responsibilities as citizens.
They are the thousands of educated but unemployed Nigerian youths who cannot pay taxes. These people cannot be described in the words of NPE as "effective citizens."
There are also few educated elites who have looted the treasury so massively that they cannot be described as "effective citizens." Stakeholders would wonder what type of education was given to those rogues in government.
Is there something in the National Policy on Education to instil patriotism in the minds of the citizens?
Why have such provisions not been implemented? The policy talks about integrating individuals into the community. How can an unemployed graduate be fully integrated into the community?
What type of education have the youths received that they cannot get jobs and they cannot create jobs for themselves? Is it possible that we have reached this point because there is no link between our Education Policy and agro-industrial policy?
In terms of provision of equal access to educational opportunities for all citizens at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, observers will readily assert that this has become a tantalising mirage.
Dr. Rasheed Aderinoye, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan agrees. He said, "Poor funding of education has negatively affected the implementation of the policy. So many young persons cannot access education at every level because their parents are poor.
Even though the state has made education free up to junior secondary level, many parents may not be aware of this new situation. Some parents may still want their wards to keep assisting them on the farm, in cattle rearing, in fishing, trading and so on. In effect, poverty is still inhibiting access to education among the less privileged in society.
Until we carry out massive enlightenment campaign and we significantly improve funding for education we cannot talk of equal access to education at all levels for all our citizens."
In section 1 sub-section 10 the policy talks about the importance of language. It says "government appreciates the importance of language as a means of promoting social interaction and national cohesion and preserving cultures. Thus every child shall learn the language of the immediate environment.
Furthermore, in the interest of national unity it is expedient that every child shall be required to learn one of the three Nigerian languages, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. For smooth interaction with our neighbours it is desirable for every Nigerian to speak French. Accordingly, French shall be the second official language in Nigeria and it shall be compulsory in schools."
Thirty years on, French is only being learnt in a few public or private primary and secondary schools.
Many public or private schools in Ogun and Lagos states have no French teacher Vanguard investigation has revealed. It is well known by stakeholders that all over the country private primary schools offer lessons in English while indigenous languages like Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo are taught as additional subjects.
Yet what the policy advocates is that indigenous language should be the mode of instruction for the first three years of primary school. Another aspect of the policy that has not been implemented is the provision that each child should learn one language in addition to that of his own community.
The policy specifically mentioned Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. In reality all over the country there are very few places where the children have opportunity to learn another Nigerian language in addition to that of their own area. In the Western part of the country where Yoruba is the dominant language, majority of the children have no opportunity to learn Hausa or Igbo.
This situation prevails in both public and private schools. What this means is that indigenous languages are not getting enough attention while foreign languages are getting better attention. Professor Babs Fafunwa reacts to this situation:
"That is another evidence of poor implementation of the policy. I have been saying that we can teach our children in our own indigenous languages. And I have often asked how many foreign languages are we going to adopt as official languages. We carried out a research at the University of Ife. We taught Mathematics and Science.
We used Yoruba language to teach the two subjects. As it has been widely reported the children did well. They sat for primary school leaving certificate examination and 95% of the children scored over 90% in Mathematics and Science."
Vanguard asked whether his view is practicable in view of the fact that we have well over 200 languages in the country. Professor Fafunwa replied, "It is all a matter of the political will of government. If government has the will to encourage the teaching of indigenous languages it can be done.
You must have heard that the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNESCO has also been saying that indigenous languages and cultures should not be allowed to go into extinction."
Furthermore, Professor Fafunwa, who is a former Minister of Education said that as the policy recommended, government needs to develop the orthography of more Nigerian languages and produce textbooks in Nigerian languages.
This, according to him, can form the foundation to the development of an indigenous language as Lingua Franca. The late Dr. Tai Solarin was also an advocate of use of indigenous languages in the educational system.
The National Policy on Education has also been poorly implemented in the area of pre-primary education. In Section 2 the policy says "The responsibilities of government for pre-primary education shall be to promote the training of qualified pre-primary school teachers in adequate number and supervise and control the quality of such institutions."
This is another aspect of the policy that has not been implemented at all especially at the federal level.
According to Professor Tunde Samuel, "Lagos State College of Primary Education, LASCOPED, Epe is perhaps the only institution in the whole of this country that specialises in the training of pre-primary and primary school teachers. It is unlikely that all over Africa LASCOPED is the first institution with that mandate."
Professor Samuel who is the foundation Provost of LASCOPED added that "both the Federal Government and the states need to show more commitment to education."
The management of primary education has been affected by inconsistencies and contradictions as if there is no policy on this level of education.
Commenting on the impact of political consideration on the policy on primary schools, Professor Ajayi in his inaugural lecture said that, "It was political consideration that led to the controversy over who should actually be in control of primary education and the backward and forward policies and decrees we have witnessed on the issue ever since including the establishment and scrapping and re-establishment of the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC)."
He added that, "Politics equally destroyed the effective implementation of the National Policy on Education (NPE) that beautiful and well conceived programme which would have ushered in an era of scientific and technological revolution for the country."
The National Policy on Education also provided for a two tier secondary school system. The first three years is the junior secondary while the second three years is the senior secondary. Scientific and technical equipment were supposed to be provided for the secondary schools.
Each school was to have Introductory Technology workshop mid-way into its implementation, the programme was abandoned. All around the nation nowadays extremely few schools still have such introductory technology workshops. In fact, government has come up with another system to be known as 9-3-4 system.
The first one known as 6-3-3-4 was never fully implemented and yet the education authorities have come up with the 9-3-4 system. According to Mrs Bola Mosuro, Proprietress Access Universal College, Lagos, "Our problem in this country is that we often pick and drop policies as we want. In the United States the two tier secondary school system is still in operation.
"There is nothing wrong with the 6-3-3-4 system. We have not implemented it well and now we have picked another one."
Frequent changes in policies is traceable to frequent changes in government. Professor Ajayi noted this in his inaugural lecture. "Within the eight years (1991-1999) that I served as the Provost of the Federal College of Education (FCE) Osiele, Ogun State, the nation passed through five different regimes (Babangida till 1993, Shonekan for less than four months in 1993, Abacha 1993-1998, Abubakar 1998-1999, Obasanjo 1999-2007).
Within this period I had to operate under eight Ministers of Education. The same thing happened at the state level. Each of the Presidents, Ministers, Governors and Commissioners had their own different conceptions and policies on education which they tried to implement during their tenure.
With such instability in the system of governance coupled with constant changes in "Ministers of" and "commissioners for," one should not be surprised at the level of the crises the nation's education system has witnessed over the years and the inconsistency and often contradictory nature of the educational policies and programmes with one step forward and two steps backward."
The policy on Technical and Vocational education has also been poorly implemented over the years.
The Rector of Hussaini Adamu Federal Polytechnic Kazaure, Jigawa State and chairman of COHEADS told Vanguard in his office that government has not been following the provisions of the National Policy on Education (NPE) in establishing secondary schools and technical colleges.
While the NPE puts the ratio between secondary and technical vocational education at 3:1, Nigeria has 5,100 secondary schools with enrolment of 4,448,991 as against technical colleges of only 169 with enrolment of 43,354 representing ratios of 37:1 and 102:1 respectively.
This means that technical colleges will turn out small number of students. Dr. Kazaure added that, "It should be noted that according to the policy technical colleges are expected to feed polytechnics just as secondary schools are to feed universities.
The prevailing situation however is that the total products of our technical colleges represents only 17% of available spaces in polytechnics. So right from the on-set the mission of technical colleges with regards to feeding polytechnic is not being met."
In terms of tertiary education there is equally nothing to write home about. A former secretary for Education Professor Ben Nwabueze in a book titled Crisis and Problems in Education in Nigeria published in 1995 wrote that, "At the tertiary level our universities and polytechnics have become perhaps the most fertile ground for social unrest and indiscipline.
The factors responsible for this state of affairs are partly external and partly internal to the tertiary institutions.
Among the external causes are insufficient funding, lack of coherent higher education policy by successive governments, undue interference with the university autonomy, the amorality, buccaneering, unbridled quest for wealth, the adoration of money, the disdain for intellectualism and the enthronement of mediocrity in our society in place of excellence; the inversion of moral values. In contradiction of the provisions of NPE students enrolment has gone beyond existing facilities.
This trend started long ago. It has now led to all sorts of anti-social activities like cultism and examination malpractice. There is a gap between demand and supply of bed space in all tertiary institutions.
Seven years ago, government began to allow private universities to operate with the hope that more space will be made available to students.
Tracing the roots of the situation, Professor Ajayi said in his lecture that, "In 1960/61 when there were only two universities in Nigeria, the total student population stood at only 1,395. This figure rose to 32,282 in 13 universities by 1975, 116,822 in 27 universities in 1983 and 180,871 in 31 universities by 1990."
Even with the existence of 22 private universities, 25 federal universities and 27 state universities and over 200,000 students enrolment is still far in excess of available space. In fact, out of over 1 million applicants for university admission less than 25% can be absorbed.
This is due to the poor implementation of the policy which had long ago recommended greater expenditure on education which if done would have opened more space for the youths.
In section 7 the policy said that the Federal Government shall provide functional literacy and continuing education for adults and youths who have never had the advantage of formal education or who did not complete their primary education.
The Federal Government under General Babangida (rtd) with N200 million established the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education. Some of the 36 states also established mass literacy agency.
At present underfunding and almost total neglect is the fate of the commission and the mass literacy agencies. That is another instance of the poor implementation of the NPE.
Furthermore the National Policy on Education in Section 9 sub-section 79 suggested that there should be Teachers Registration Council.
Between 1977 and 1993 nothing was done to establish the Teachers Registration Council. In 1993 Decree 31 established the council. For another six years nothing was done to implement the provisions of the decree until 1999 when the first Registrar and Chief Executive of the Council Mr. A.M. Ciwar was appointed.
For another two years, with the exception of the Registrar and one other staff, the full compliments of staff and a secretariat were not made available to the commission. Therefore, between 2002 and 2007 the Teachers Registration Council can be described as a toddler. Only few teachers have been registered while many still do not know of its existence.
Similarly, the Policy recommended that government shall give priority to education financing. Yet no government, military or civilian, since independence has allocated up to 25% of the budget to education. It has always been difficult to determine the priority of the Nigerian state.
Therefore, the thirty years of the National Policy on Education has been years of unplanned expansion. There has been growth in institutions, personnel and facilities but the growth has been inadequate in quantum and quality. According to Dr. Rasheed Aderinoye, "It is time to take another look at the policy and re-work it so as to incorporate HIV/AIDS education, Information Communication Technology, ICT education and other emergent issues.
Above all there is an urgent need for the government of the day to ensure proper implementation of policies to avoid the mistakes of the past."