Despite the crises in the nation’s education sector, brought about by poor funding, policy summersault, incessant strikes and dearth of facilities, among others, besetting the sector, stakeholders have said that the sector has recorded some appreciable progress over the years.
The former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Distinguished Prof. Peter Okebukola; the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Oloyede and the Vice-Chancellor of University of Benin (UNIBEN), Prof. Lillian Salami, disclosed this during a NTA Good Morning programme, organised on Thursday by the Nigerian Television Authority to appraise the nation’s education as part of activities marking the 60th Independence anniversary of the country.
The theme of the discourse is “Education in Nigeria at 60,” with the sub-themes “Nigeria at 60: The Education Report Card” and “Nigeria at 60: Educational Development.”
Okebukola, who pointed out that the sector had made tremendous success, recalled that in 1960, the country had an education sector that catered for smaller population students, while the nation also had teachers and students that were more committed, and the products were judged to be good.
According to him, though there were “bad potholes” along the way, there are still “good portions” on the road of Nigeria’s education system.
Given some statistics, he said: “Talking about the normal curve, if we look at the major indicators of educational progress since independence, there are over 200 of such indicators, which could be clustered into access and what has the country done from 1960 to date with regard to access.
“Adult literacy rate which was about 67.3 per cent in 1960 has grown to 75.03 per cent in 2019; while primary gross enrolment ratio also improved from estimated 69.2 per cent to 84.73 per cent in 2019; secondary gross enrolment ratio increased from estimated 36 per cent to 42 per cent; and tertiary gross enrolment also increased from estimated 6.3 per cent in 1960 to 18.16 per cent in 2019.
“On the quality front as measured by the percentage pass in public examinations, there has been notable improvement in the senior school certificate examination (SSCE) results conducted by WAEC and NECO. Within the last 10 years, and as reported by NUC Digest of Statistics, the universities recorded an 18 per cent increase in the number of graduates who made first class.
“The number of academic programmes that earned NUC’s full accreditation status increased by 10.8 per cent in 2018. Quite striking also, in 2017 and 2018, JAMB processed within a month, admission into the Nigerian higher education system of about 1.7 million candidates compared to 1.6 million in 2016, the highest in over 40 years.
Okebukola, who said he had been a consultant to UNESCO and UNICEF for several years insisted that there was not time that either organization benchmarked 26 per cent of the nation’s budget to education, being touted in the country, but that countries should fund their education based on their needs and peculiarities. “The country is still making some steady progress, but the process point of graduating students still has a lot of challenges.
The challenges since 1960 have kept on depressing due to poorly prepared teachers, huge quality teacher deficit, when compared to what the country used to have in the past,” he added.
However, with achievements recorded by the sector, Okebukola pointed out that the country still had a long way to travel in terms of delivery of qualitative education. On his part, Oloyede said that rather than continuing to moan over the shortcomings in the sector or allow it to becloud our sense of judgement, Nigerians should concentrate on the prospects.
He noted: “Today, we have problems and we are looking at the problems, which have not allowed us to see the prospects. The JAMB Registrar, who noted that the real issues was that there was no planning, when the country ought to plan for education, recalled that for so many years, the country did not plan well for what it has today, adding that the problems became so overwhelming that what is being put into the system become so insignificant.
“The current problems are so overwhelming that the country cannot plan for the future. As we moaned the problems we damage tomorrow, and under the confusion we are bound to forget the good ideas,” he said.
Oloyede, who also hinted that underfunding is another problem confronting the sector, however, wondered that the funds going into the system has neither been utilised nor managed properly. He stressed: “There is corruption in the system, and we need to be innovative.
So far, so fair, the current situation might not be what we wanted, but globally things are bad. Nigerians get themselves too much in distrust, even forgetting that we are making progress. The progress that we are making should not be overwhelmed by the current situation.
“Let us combat the evil in order to make progress, but to say we have stagnated or not doing well means that we are not appreciating what God has done for us, as a nation.
Also, Prof. Salami, who said that the leaders and government at independence believed in education as an instrument of national development, and therefore provided basic quality infrastructure and facilities, which motivated teachers and students at that time to qualitative education.
“Though, no population issues then as we have it today, population problem, poor funding and policy instability, among others, are some of the serious issues and challenges that the sector has been facing. On poor funding, which according to the Vice-Chancellor has remained a major problem, has not provided the action to drive whichever policies the country has for the education sector.
“Inadequate infrastructure, motivation of teachers/lecturers and students, are lacking due to poor funding,” she added, saying funding problem should be addressed as a precursor for driving quality.
While adding that the problems of the university system include poor implementation of policies, infrastructural decay, poor motivation, Salami, however, insisted that the nation could not get to where it ought if these challenges are unresolved.