Vanguard (Lagos)

3 January 2013

Nigeria: Education 2013 - Projecting the Sector's Strides

At the beginning of 2012, it would have taken an entire team of the most brilliant professors in the nation's education sector to predict the twists and turns that the sector would face. Even then, most events that graced the headlines of education newspapers would have taken such a team by surprise.

However, with the new budgetary allocation well underway, newly undergone projects and Federal Government policies, and views from some stakeholders in the education industry, our projections here at Vanguard Learning give a glimpse into what the future might hold for the sector in 2013.

Budgetary allocation: Lion's share or puppy bits?

A breakdown of the 2013 N1.095trn budget shows the education sector getting N426.53bn, 8.67 per cent of the budget. Although much celebrations heralded the fact that the education sector led the pack by getting the highest budgetary allocation, this meager 0.24 per cent increase from last year's 8.43 per cent could consequently imply a 0.24 per cent increase in the sector's performance next year.

According to Dauda Mohammed, the immediate past President, National Association of Nigerian Students, "the budgetary allocation for education is commendable, but we are not going to get it right until we meet the 26 per cent budgetary allocation recommended by UNESCO."

In the words of the former Vice Chancellor, University of Jos, Professor Sonni Tyoden, "from the budgetary allocation, it seems like there is hope, but it's not the amount of money that is the issue, but the management and commitment of the stakeholders."

According to a respected analyst, "disbursements to each tertiary and non-tertiary institutions as well as departments and agencies may not even increase at all or only marginally given that there are now nine additional responsibilities.

"Moreso, only N60 billion of this is for capital project and you begin to wonder how many modern libraries or science laboratories this would be able to build. How many standard lecture theatres or students' hostels can it build?

"This amount will not even be enough to provide adequate infrastructures in the nine new federal universities not to talk of the existing tertiary institutions in the country that are in different states of abject disrepair."

One might not need to hire the services of a long bearded prophet to guess that more Nigerians will troop out of the country in search for quality education.

More libraries and learning materials

For the Chairperson of Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board, Mrs. Gbolahan Daudu, 2013 would usher in the needed change that would reposition education, especially in Lagos State.

"A lot of efforts went into improving education in 2012 but more still needs to be done. 2013 would see us building more libraries and providing more learning materials other than text books.

"We would also focus more on teachers' training because the teachers have to get it right for us to effect the kind of change we want. So far, we have trained teachers in 600 schools remaining 401."

Yet another Syllabus

Stakeholders fear that 2013 would be one of those years where much noise is made about a syllabus change that would happen in name only.

The Nine-Year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) has been reviewed by the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) less than three years after the implementation of the curriculum started nationwide in primary and junior secondary schools.

Implementation of the focal points of this review will begin in September 2013.

The Executive Secretary of the parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Education, Professor Godswill Obioma, in defense of this review, said: "We will also recall that the Nine-Year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) had 20 subject listings and we have made known to Nigerians the structure of those listings in the last four years as we are going round advocating and sensitizing stakeholders, particularly teachers.

And so, Nigeria will like to be part of this global development for best practice, and that led to the revision of the BEC, from 20 subjects to a maximum of 10.

But from primaries 1 - 3, the maximum number of subjects to be offered is six and Arabic is the seventh one for those who elect to study Arabic.

French is introduced in primary four, and the entire subjects have been restructured to capture basic elements of knowledge - English Studies, Mathematics, Basic Science and Technology, Cultural and Creative Art, Pre-Vocational study, Religious and National Values, Business Studies and Languages. You could see that at most, it is 10.

This proposition may look good on paper, but with many primary and secondary schools grappling under the weight of sustaining an educational system of any kind, it might not be too soon to guess that its failed implementation might constitute a headline come the end of 2013.

UTME, WAEC, NECO and admission crisis

The three musketeers that constitute a stronghold for any Nigerian youth seeking university admission will most likely remain unshaken in 2013.

In 2012, 38.81 per cent of the 1,672,224 candidates succeeded in the West African Examination Certificate (WAEC).

Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has introduced three options for the 2013 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for candidates.

Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar of JAMB, listed the options as Paper and Pencil Testing (PPT), (Based Test, where questions would be presented on computers and answers would be on paper and Computer Based Testing (CBT) where both questions and answers would be done on computer.

Ojerinde stated that candidates were at liberty to choose one of the three options in the 2013 UTME.

The registrar said that the most advantageous part of the CBT was that candidates would get their scores few minutes after writing the examination on their GSM cell phones.

It would be recalled that in 2011, 1,493,604 applicants sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination.

Nigerian universities had space for only about 500,000 of such hopefuls. The number of applicants increased slightly in 2012, to 1,503,931 applicants but the situation as per admission remained the same without a commensurate increase in the capacity of Nigerian varsities.

Following such trends, it is predicted that the number of applicants writing the UTME this year will increase considerably and some stakeholders are of the view that the establishment of nine new federal universities would not cause any significant change.

Professor Sonni Tyoden, the former Vice Chancellor, University of Jos, refers to these new universities as "a drop in the ocean."

The reason for this is not farfetched. Reports say that eight of such universities which are already established have the capacity for only about 2,700 students.

Even if that number doubles in the next academic session towards the end of 2013, there might not be much to smile about.

Closer to 'Education for All' by 2015?

With these projections, Nigeria is still far from achieving Education for All by 2015, despite 2015 being two years away.

This position was recently restated by the Education Minister, Professor Ruqquayatu Rufa'I when she decried the literacy rate in the country, saying the 'Education for All' target for 2015 is far from achievable.

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