Nigeria misses 2015 global education goals

Bokova

Bokova

THE indicators were there, but not much was done by the powers that be in the country, including education authorities to ensure that this day does not come to past. Indeed, judging from the signs, which were replete, it would have been a shocker if the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) reached a contrary verdict.

Alas, Nigeria has failed to reach any of the global education goals. This bewildering revelation is contained in the 2015 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR), being released officially today by UNESCO in Paris, France. Nigeria, is not groping alone in this unfortunate milieu, but is in company of hordes of other sub-Saharan, that have been adjudged not to be doing enough to better the lives of their children educationally.

EFA goals are six internationally agreed education goals aimed at meeting the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015.   Only last year, indications arose that the country may after all fail to reach any of the global education goals.

These were contained in the 11th edition of the EFA GMR, which had predicted that failing to prioritise education over the years meant that Nigeria would be very far from reaching EFA goals one, two and four by this year.

Specifically, it stated that universal primary enrolment, which is deemed to be the most watched goal will remain a mirage, especially with the record-breaking 10.5 million out-of-school children. Sadly, Nigeria is one of only 15 countries that the 2014 report posited would have fewer than 80 per cent of its primary school-aged children enrolled this year.

Its out-of-school population not only grew the most in absolute terms of any country in the world since 2004-2005 by 3.4 million, but also had the fourth highest rate of growth, showing that the wealth in the country is not trickling down into public social good. In that 2014 report, UNESCO said Nigeria exhibited disturbing credentials in EFA goal four – adult literacy, just as it noted that there were 17 million more illiterate adults in the country in 2008, than there were in 1991, an increase of 71 per cent. In sum, the 2014 GMR posited that there were 40 illiterate adults in the country as at last year.

Interestingly, across the globe, only one third of countries have achieved all of the measurable EFA goals set in 2000. None achieved them in sub-Saharan Africa, and only seven countries in the region achieved even the most watched goal of universal primary enrolment.

A total of 16 out of the 20 bottom countries ranked for progress towards ‘EFA’ are in sub-Saharan Africa. And an extra $22 billion a year is needed on top of already ambitious government contributions in order to ensure the achievement of the new global education targets being set for the year 2030. The comprehensive GMR at the behest of UNESCO also lists a litany of reasons that ensured that Nigeria, and indeed other sub-Saharan countries failed to make a headway regarding the global education goals.

Giving insights into some factors that facilitated Nigeria’s failure to reach the aforementioned goals, UNESCO’s Communications and Advocacy Specialist on EFA GMR, Kate Redman, in a release said, “Corruption, conflict and a lack of investment has resulted in Nigeria having one of the worst education systems in the world.

The political leadership has been identified as corrupt, losing $21 million of education funding over two years. Despite Nigeria’s GNP per capita growing substantially between 1999 and 2012, investment in education remains low. As a result, the most basic of resources for education are limited – an additional 220, 000 primary school teachers – 15 per cent of the global total were needed.

The report being released one month ahead of the World Education Forum in Incheon, Republic of Korea, also reveals that the gap between the poor and the average in Nigeria has increased with the number of children from the poorest households going to primary school falling from 35 per cent to 25 per cent in 2013, adding that enrolment rates may fall even more given the increase in Boko Haram’s campaigns against education.

A panoptic view of the report, Redman wrote, reveals the following findings:   Goal one, which has to do with expanding early childhood care and education, states that 47 per cent of countries reached the goal and another eight per cent were close. 20 per cent were very far from the goal including Nigeria.

Globally, however, in 2012, nearly two-thirds more children were enrolled in early childhood education than in 1999. On goal two, which is on achieving universal primary education, “50 per cent of countries achieved this goal; 10 per cent are close and the remaining 38 per cent are far or very far from achieving it, including Nigeria.

This leaves almost 100 million children not completing primary education in 2015. A lack of focus on the marginalised has left the poorest five times less likely to complete a full cycle of primary education than the richest and over a third of out-of-school children living in conflict affected zones.

“There have been important successes: Around 50 million more children are enrolled in school now than were in 1999. Education is still not free in many places, but cash transfer and school feeding programmes have had a positive impact on school enrolment for the poor.

Ensuring equal access to learning and life skills for youth and adults is the third goal. And in this regards, Redman said the report maintains that, “46 per cent of countries reached universal lower secondary enrolment.

Less than half of adolescents are enrolled in lower secondary education in Nigeria. Globally, numbers in lower secondary education increased by 27 per cent and more than doubled in sub-Saharan Africa.  Nonetheless, one third of adolescents in low-income countries will not complete lower secondary school in 2015.

Achieving a 50 per cent reduction in levels of adult illiteracy is the thrust of goal four. Here, the communications and advocacy specialist wrote, “Only 25 per cent of countries reached this goal; 32 per cent remain very far from it, including Nigeria.

While globally the percentage of illiterate adults fell from 18 per cent in 2000 to 14 per cent in 2015, this progress is almost entirely attributed to more educated young people reaching adulthood.

Half of Nigerian adults (51 per cent) are illiterate. Women continue to make up almost two-thirds of the global illiterate adult population. Half of sub-Saharan African women do not have basic literacy skills.

In goal five, which is concerned with achieving gender parity and equality, she stated that the report maintained that gender parity will be achieved at the primary level in 69 per cent of countries by 2015. At secondary level, only 48 per cent of countries will reach the goal.

Nigeria remains far from the target at both primary and secondary level. Child marriage and early pregnancy continue to hinder girls’ progress in education, as does the need for teacher training in gender sensitive approaches and curriculum reform.” Improving the quality of education and ensuring measurable learning outcomes for all is what goal six is all about.

And Redman said the 2015 GMR notes that “the numbers of pupils per teacher decreased in 121 of 146 countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, but 4 million more teachers are still needed to get all children into school.

Trained teachers remain in short supply in one third of countries; in several sub-Saharan African countries, less than 50 per cent are trained. However, education quality has received increased attention since 2000; the number of countries carrying out national learning assessments has doubled.”

In the area of funding and political will, Redman said that the report noted that since 2000, many governments significantly increased their spending on education. Specifically, 38 countries increased their commitment to education by one percentage point or more of GNP. However, funding remains a major obstacle at all levels.

Speaking ahead of the release, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, “The world has made tremendous progress towards EFA,” adding, “Despite not meeting the 2015 deadline, millions of children are in school than would have been had the trends of the 1990s persisted. However, the agenda is far from finished.

We need to see specific, well-funded strategies that prioritise the poorest – especially girls, – improve the quality of learning and reduce the literacy gap so that education becomes meaningful and universal.” Nigeria’s failure to reach any of the 2015 global education goals did not take the immediate past executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, by surprised.

The academic who is credited with the introduction of ranking into the Nigerian university system said, “It will be a pipedream to expect Nigeria with its unserious mindedness towards education to achieve any of the global education goals. It will be possible only if we can reap from where we have not sown.

We have not sewn towards goal one on early childhood care and education beyond adding one theoretical year in 2013 to the 6-3-3-4 system to make it 1-6-3-3-4. Universal primary education, which makes up goal two, cannot be attained with at least a tenth of those who should be in the basic education system roaming the streets. “Goal three is about foundation skills at the basic education level, which is deplorably exhibited by our youth.

Okebukola

Okebukola

Goal four on adult literacy has hardly improved since 2010. Gender disparities remain a vexed issue with many northern states still playing catch-up with regard to girls and many southeastern states failing to arrest boy-child dropout. These make us fall flat on goal five.

We will have our poorest outing on April 9, 2015 with regard to goal six, which is on the quality of education that is already in shambles.”   He added that, “It is cold comfort to note that not a single goal will be achieved globally by the close of 2015. Shamefully, sub-Saharan Africa will have the poorest showing of all the regions of the world.

It would have been exciting to have Nigeria lead the pack of countries in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of performance on the indicators on account of being the ‘giant of Africa’ with the largest economy in the region. With many not-so-endowed countries in Africa outshining Nigeria on the league table of performance on the global education indicators, some would say, Nigeria is big for nothing with respect to meeting global development goals.

On how the country’s inability to attain these all-important goals set us back as a country, he retorted, “We are already experiencing huge setbacks as a consequence of our lacklustre performance. We have a setback in terms of youth unemployment and its attendant security consequences for failing to inch close to attaining goals three and six. Our health sector and agricultural productivity are laden with challenges on account of the high illiteracy rates championed by goal four. For instance, Nigeria’s high infant and maternal mortality rates can be explained, at least in part by the low literacy level of many mothers especially in the rural areas.

High illiteracy rates negatively impact good governance, promote ethnic and religious intolerance and serves as a recipe for brewing social disharmony. We are set back because we have failed to tap forcefully into the power of education for development. “Down through the ages, education was seen as the antidote to poverty and ignorance and the key for unlocking natural resources.

Education is a key pathway to helping individuals escape poverty, and it improves people’s chances of living a healthier life. The end point of the logic is that if we strive to attain the developmental goals, we will indeed be the giant of Africa and a model for the world.

For quick fixes that may enable the country catch up with the rest of the world when new development targets are set post 2015, Okebukola enumerated some this way: “Yes, there are four quick fixes, which can enable us catch up with the rest of the world when new development targets are set post 2015. For 2015, we have missed the boat by a wide margin.

However, firstly, our investment in education has to be elevated at least three times the 2015 rates for significant impact to be recorded two or three years down the road. “Investment here means targeted funding that will not leak into pockets along the way. It means targeting those critical areas that will catalyse development such as adult literacy, promoting entrepreneurship, enhancing access and improving the quality of education.

Ukpong

Ukpong

It also means getting all the actors – public and private- to be part of the investment effort. With regard to the public, not only the Federal Government should be called to the targeted funding duty, but also the state and local governments.   “The second one is improving the quality and incentivisation of teachers for them to be able to deliver the curriculum in a way that will guarantee the attainment of the development goals.

This demands rethinking our teacher education programme, which at present is only capable of producing half-baked teachers. Welfare scheme of teachers should be significantly improved to ensure that we retain the best teachers. How do we expect to attain 2015 goals when in many states, teachers were last paid in November of 2014. This is already April! “Thirdly, we need a school mass mobilisation scheme that will ensure that no child is left behind.

Fourthly, we need to ensure that when we finally shepherd boys and girls to school in equal number, we must make the school environment learner-friendly. A learner-friendly environment will not have children sit on the floor or under trees, but it will entice them with free school feeding programme. The mix of improved investment, quality teachers and quality facilities can be achieved in two years hence I have channeled them into the quick-fix options.

This is clearly achievable when political will is not in short supply, and when corruption in the education sector is at its lowest level of manifestation.”

On long term procedures that would enable the country return to the track as far as these education goals are concerned, the President of the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI) Africa submitted, “In the long term, we need to sustain the four quick fixes and also ensure that we strengthen our education data collection and processing mechanisms to keep Nigeria’s Education Management Information System (EMIS) current, accurate and in line with global best practices.

We have this rather poor culture of accurate data collection in a timely manner. On most global statistical annexes, Nigeria’s data are always outdated or not available.

It can be conjectured that if we had accurate, reliable and current data, our showing on global league tables of the development indicators may not be as bad as portrayed.

Speaking specifically on the wider implications of the GMR, which goes public today and where it leaves us as a country, especially in the light of dwindling enrolment figures, the former Lagos State University acting vice chancellor said, “I believe it should be a wakeup call for more resolute and determined action against all forces working in concert to widen enrolment gaps. It calls for a massive anti-Boko Haram campaign.

It also calls for making education truly free and compulsory. We have a lot of funds to make education free for children from the poorest households if financial leakages are blocked and if funds locked up in the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) are freed for implementing activities that are targetted at bridging enrolment gaps between rich and poor communities and between boys and girls.

It leaves us with heightening our poverty eradication programmes including financially empowering rural communities through agriculture.

Funding and political will featured prominently as factors that militated against the attainment of these educational goals. In fact, the report states that since 2000 many governments significantly increased their spending on education: 38 countries increased their commitment to education by one percentage point or more of their GNP.

However funding remains a major obstacle at all levels.  Against the backdrop of the imminent administration of Mr. Mohammadu Buhari, does Okebukola envisage any radical increase in budgetary provision for the education sector?   He responded; “It is difficult to say for 2015 with Nigeria’s economy still wobbling.

By 2016 when the crooks that are bleeding the financial jugular of the nation would have been reined in, more funds could be freed for investing in education. For political will, I am optimistic that we will have a positive change in fortune. How long this will last is difficult to tell.

What I am sure of is that the first four years of the Buhari administration will have bright flickers for education in an attempt not to disappoint Nigerians who are overly anxious for miracles to happen in education and other sectors. We must not fail to forget that the increase in funding, which education enjoyed over the years was largely induced by pressures from university staff unions through strikes.

It is our fervent hope that government will do what is right with regard to improved investment in education and not wait to be stampeded into signing agreements with university staff unions to effect increase in the funding level of education.”   Legal practitioner and member, Board of Trustees of Crossfields Private Primary School Lagos, Mrs. Lebari Ukpong, who opined that, “performance in education can be measured,” as the sector was “not one of those sectors where a box can just be ticked,” stressed that “the management of the education sector in Nigeria has been ineffective and at some levels non-existence, for years and the evidence of this is visible across all levels from primary to tertiary.”

She said, “I was not expecting Nigeria to reach the global education goals because from my visits to some government schools and interactions with teachers and students, there were hardly any signs on improvements or excellence as required by the EFA goals.

I also found out that the usage of management tools by school heads were minimal and government information was inadequate on some of the key performance indicators for schools. Ukpong, a former director of London Metropolitan University Nigeria Office, who was responsible for the operation of the office and marketing of the university, maintained that, “Nigeria’s inability to attain the goals in 2015 means we will continue to bear the burden of an ineffective educational system much longer than other developing countries.

These include unemployment, ignorance, violence, poverty and insecurity and the other chain effects. The list is endless. The legal practitioner, who has a disdain for quick fixes in the sector stressed, “…we loose nothing if we take our time to do what is right.

However what we need urgently to reverse this slippery slope we are on, is a government and leaders that are firmly and honestly committed to an organic education policy.

They would need to declare a ‘state of emergency’ in the education sector and accord it the required assiduity. “Long term is to keep education as the highest priority of the government.

I believe that the biggest issue with the Nigerian education system is our teachers or rather the lack of qualified teachers. Government needs to standardise licensing and certification of teachers, introduce high quality selection procedure and offer better pay and incentives.  Teachers need to be trained adequately and retrained to meet 21st century standards.

Improve, update and form curricula, texts, pedagogy and examination and evaluation techniques across all subject areas,” she stated. Furthermore, she said it was imperative for government to “Develop educational institutions for unconventional disciplines like fashion designing, art and music.

Also develop science parks to increase research and innovation. Additionally, government should provide conducive infrastructure and learning materials to schools. “To meet specific goals for the minority areas, parents need to be educated on how education benefits their children, especially the girl child.

It also needs to find new methods to attract students to attend classes. The list again is endless but genuine commitment by government will yield extensive results.” On the much talked about dwindling finances, which many finger as plaguing the very spine of the education sector, she said, “In my opinion, funding is not the main factor that has plagued our educational system and stopped us from achieving the EFA goals.

The main factor is corruption, even though funding for the sector needs to be increased significantly to halt the failing system. “However, like all other sectors in the country, mismanagement and misappropriation of funds has incapacitated development.

If the imminent Buhari’s administration keeps to its promise of stemming corruption even by 50 per cent, we will witness remarkable improvements across all sectors especially education.

In one of his speeches Buhari said that savings from his war against corruption would be ploughed into education, which suggests that funding for the sector will increase. Whether the increase will be radical or not is directly tied to his success level at deterring or terminating looting of public resources.

“I particularly like his statement that ‘If you give education to a man or woman, you have empowered them to be productive.  There is no better way to empowerment.’ I like statements like this because they show intention to be accountable, and I will definitely judge him on this when we meet at the polls in four years time.

This may just be the turning point in the education sector we have all been hoping for. QUOTE It is cold comfort to note that not a single goal will be achieved globally by the close of 2015.

Shamefully, sub-Saharan Africa will have the poorest showing of all the regions of the world. It would have been exciting to have Nigeria lead the pack of countries in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of performance on the indicators on account of being the ‘giant of Africa’ with the largest economy in the region.

With many not-so-endowed countries in Africa outshining Nigeria on the league table of performance on the global education indicators, some would say, Nigeria is big for nothing with respect to meeting global development goals.

I was not expecting Nigeria to reach the global education goals because from my visits to some government schools and interactions with teachers and students, there were hardly any signs on improvements or excellence as required by the EFA goals.

I also found out that the usage of management tools by school heads were minimal and government information was inadequate on some of the key performance indicators for schools   It will be a pipedream to expect Nigeria with its unserious mindedness towards education to achieve any of the global education goals.

It will be possible only if we can reap from where we have not sown. We have not sewn towards goal one on early childhood care and education beyond adding one theoretical year in 2013 to the 6-3-3-4 system to make it 1-6-3-3-4. Universal primary education, which makes up goal two, cannot be attained with at least a tenth of those who should be in the basic education system roaming the streets

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