It is widely accepted that Nigeria’s education system must undergo major changes if it is to enable the country to develop in a manner that will allow it to continue to grow. Unless the vast majority of the country’s young people receive the level of education they deserve, they will be condemned to a life of poverty and unemployment, which will inevitably lead to widespread unrest and political instability. In simple terms, the only way to overcome the proliferation of extremist groups such as Boko Haram is to stamp out illiteracy and provide a decent standard of education for all.
For some years following its independence, Nigeria’s education system continued to be based on the British model, which was not designed to meet the needs of an emerging African state. However, the Curriculum Conference of 1969 resulted in the staged introduction of a set of National Policies on Education in 1977, 1981, 1998 and 2004.
Unfortunately, not all the government’s policies for improving education in the country have been carried through due to a combination of poor organization, inadequate teacher training, underfunding and lack of forward planning. As a result, the number of unemployed rises annually while vacancies for skilled positions in all sectors remain unfilled.
A secondary school curriculum that was designed to meet the needs of the country’s growing economy was introduced many years ago as part of the National Policy on Education, but it has never been fully implemented; doing so as quickly as possible has to be a key priority. The Secondary Education Board, which is overseen by the Ministry of Education, was set up to implement government policies in all state schools; primary, secondary and senior secondary. The board has many responsibilities, including the construction of new schools, the provision of a safe learning environment; support for the development of the qualifications and skills required by industry and commerce; the preparation of students for their future working and family lives; making them aware of all the options available to them, and offering ongoing training and support to teaching staff. These actions should mean that the number of individuals leaving the country to attend overseas universities can be significantly reduced, thus enabling them to become the type of entrepreneurs the country so desperately needs.
The private sector is already playing its part, especially in terms of further education; for example, the African Leadership Academy helps would-be entrepreneurs and budding future leaders of industry by financing their university education. There is no doubt that Tunde Foliwayo’s profile is one that any aspiring young Nigerian would do well to emulate.
The current secondary school curriculum largely ignores technical, practical and vocational training. This is due, in part, to a lack of facilities and shortage of suitably trained teaching staff; however, the educational system has always leaned more towards an academic rather than vocational curriculum. It is essential that youngsters receive hands-on practical experience so that they can prosper throughout their lives.
The vast majority of the population is not employed as lawyers, company directors, doctors or accountants; most school leavers become farmers, mechanics, shopkeepers, nurses, etc. These are the people who form the backbone of the country and who will be responsible for ensuring Nigeria continues to grow economically and culturally and remains a safe and civilized place in which to live.