Primary school completion rates in Africa have been the lowest in the world and this remains a concern as half of the world's out-of-school-children, OOSC, are concentrated in 15 countries, eight of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria has 9 million (37%) OOSC, which is more than one-third of its primary school-age children. This is the highest in Africa.
According to the Mo Ibrahim report on 'African Youth Fulfilling Their Potentials', current African educational levels are lower than China and India, while only two thirds of those in primary school progress to secondary school - 20 points behind the world's average that has remained unchanged since 2000. West and Central Africa's literacy lags behind East, Southern and North Africa.
Proffering solutions to reducing the number of OOSC, the chairperson, Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mrs. Gbolahan Daudu, said the process has started, especially in Lagos State where government has declared primary education free and compulsory.
"That some parents and guardians are not availing themselves this opportunity is not out of poverty but misplaced priority and value system. We will keep on advocating for parents to register their wards in schools as education is of great importance to this administration.
But for the Policy Advisor, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), Mr. Wale Samuel, this is a result of inadequate investment in quality education.
"There is very little accounta-bility in the provision of education services which has resulted in many OOSC kids. Where investment takes place, corruption always has a way of robbing the quality aspect off."
Commenting on the teacher pupil ratio, which the Report states is 40:1 in about half of African countries, Nigeria inclusive, Mrs. Daudu said the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and its states counterparts are working towards having smaller classes to enhance the assimilation of knowledge.
"Lagos State is faced with the challenge of influx of people to the state, thereby, stretching the existing facilities. Depending on the space, when getting rid of old structures, we add more classrooms blocks like from 6 to 14 classrooms blocks. This is done mostly in the junior secondary as most parents who send their wards to private primary schools decide to send them to public secondary schools because of cost."
According to the report, over the next 10 years, the number of school-age children in sub-Saharan Africa will be twice the number in America and Western Europe.
The more educated, the less employed
The Report stated that in most African countries, the most educated people are the least employed, while tertiary educated people have the highest migration rates with more than half of them leaving their countries.
"Though literacy is growing, Africa still lags behind the rest of the world with more educated youths still unemployed", the report stated.
This is a grim picture considering the number of graduates that are churned out from Nigeria's numerous institutions of higher learning.
This raises the question: Is there hope for the Nigerian youth, knowing that there are no jobs upon graduation?
Speaking for Nigerian students, President, National Association of Nigeria Students, NANS, Comrade Dauda Mohammed, said hope is dimming for the average Nigerian youth on a daily basis because of lack of leadership and good governance which has become the order of the day in the Africa continent.
"The peculiarity of Nigeria's situation is the fact government has not, in recent time, paid any attention to the growing rate of unemployment. This has been compounded by the orientation of an average Nigerian youth in seeking white collar jobs, thus killing the culture of creativity and self employment.
"This has contributed in no little ways to the growing rate of unemployment in Nigeria, and we should not be oblivious of the threats that illiteracy and unemployment are creating in our societies.
For CSACEFA's Policy Advisor, there is the urgent need to tailor our education to address the requirements of modern economy.
"The Chinese education model is geared towards growing the manufacturing sector, and for government to achieve this, it need to intensify its effort on grooming technical and vocational education.
Low engineering graduates
The Report states that Africa has the lowest share of engineering graduates in the world graduates in engineering courses are dropping. Blaming lack of adequate facilities for drop, NANS President, Mohammed, said this has led to low level of Africa's industrialization.
"While the lack of equipment for the study of Engineering and other science related courses may have been part of factors responsible for the decline in enrollment into Engineering courses, I believe that improper funding by government and the low level of industrialization in Africa is largely responsible for the loss of interest in the in the courses by prospective students.
But beyond the provision of necessary equipments, the availability of research grants and other relevant supports could be the basic requirement for the promotion of interest in the Engineering and other science related courses, more still needs to be done by government and education stakeholders to save African, nay, Nigerian youths from the bleak future they face and help them fulfill their potentials.