World Bank’s proposal on Nigeria’s education sector

The World Bank has canvassed three key policy prescriptions to revive Nigeria’s ailing education sector within three years.

They include building national awareness on the true extent of the education problem and the key roles of education in national development; pursuit of profound institutional reforms and the embarking on specific programme interventions to improve access to education, quality and equity.

Achieving the third recommendation, according to the bank, would involve at least $199 million (N31.8 billion) yearly additional allocations to the education sector for the next three years to give quantum facelift to the system. The recommendations were contained in the ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria Education and Skills Policy Notes’ published and made public in Abuja recently.

The report, in addition, lamented the high rate of out-of-school children estimated at about 10 million in the country and with a high concentration in the North; and the mournful quality of education in the country.

The document said there was the urgent need for massive enlightenment by the government to re-orientate parents and other stakeholders, especially up North, by encouraging them to enroll their children in school.

In her remarks at the presentation of the report, World Bank Country Director, Mrs. Marie Francoise Marie–Nelly, urged the Federal Government to identify means of re–enrolling out-of-school children into the classrooms through poverty reduction measures. Marie–Nelly bemoaned the poverty level in the country and its negative implications on the education of young Nigerians.

She said unless concerted efforts were made by national and sub-national governments to reverse the out-of-school syndrome, it would keep increasing; and that the gender disparity and democratic challenges confronting Nigerian children should be addressed with better legislation aimed at creating efficient and enabling milieu for girl-child education. Without pretence, the World Bank report refreshes public memory on the crises Nigeria’s education sector is now engulfed in.

Recurring school closures, poorly equipped laboratories and libraries, over crowded classrooms, inadequate funding, non-democratized structures of governance, especially at the tertiary level, campus cultism, school stop-out and drop-out, et cetera, have been hounding the sector for decades.

Co-incidentally, too, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared an indefinite strike recently to protest the partial implementation of the 2009 agreement it reached with the FG on how to rescue university education, particularly, in the country.

ASUU is not only demanding the full implementation of the 2009 agreement, it also believes the government is in possession of the requisite financial resources needed to offset its cost implication.

The nation will be living in denial of the stubborn reality that the recent closure of public universities and the shutting for three months of polytechnics underscore the despicable state of education in Nigeria.

Ironically, the World Bank report suggested increased funding to education in contradiction of its earlier prescription on reduction in public sector spending for ‘adjusting countries’. In the mid 80’s, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund prescribed adjustment reforms to African countries, including Nigeria, that drastically reduced the subsidy on education and capital spending.

The policy prescription was purportedly designed to ensure that debtor countries repaid their loan commitments to the London and Paris clubs. It is the bank’s policy of deregulation that led to the commercialization of education, and the reduction of its access to the poor.

Similarly, the quality of education had been compromised through state policies on deregulation of the economy that led to brain drain, poor research facilities, low subscription to quality journals and books, poor training and re-training, and grant for human capital development, as well as retrogressive syllabuses.

Nonetheless, the latest World Bank recommendations on reviving Nigeria’s education sector qualitatively seem well informed and should challenge the Nigerian government to improve on its 8.3 percent or thereabout annual budgetary allocation to education.

The government should embark on urgent measures to tackle the pervasive level of poverty and poor school enrolment, especially in northern Nigeria. It is government’s negligence and carefree attitude to education that exacerbated the Almajiri and Yandaba syndrome.

Agreed, institutional reforms are absolutely necessary in the country’s education sector, but they must not necessarily be pursued with World Bank as a watchdog.

The country should look at other alternate strategies that can help in reviving education in the land. Listening to ASUU’s and other stakeholders’ suggestions and convening a national summit on the whole gamut of education in Nigeria to rethink the country’s education policy might turn out to be the panacea to the problem.

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