Declining Educational Standards And Poor Quality In Nigeria: Impeding The Future Of The Youth

Towards the end of the year, various Houses of Assembly, the Senate, and the presidency presented decorated boxes to signify and embody the government budget—income and expenditure for the new financial year. One response after the presentation was the anticipation of an industrial strike from ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) in 2024. The bone of contention lies in the fact that for the past eight years, education in the country has only received between 7.4% and 7.9% of the national annual budget.

At a critical juncture in the nation’s economy, after instances of embezzlement and mismanagement by political appointees and elected officials, Nigeria heeded the World Bank’s advice and implemented a 500% increment in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, increased taxes, plunging millions of Nigerians into untold hardship and suffering. The advice to accord education its rightful place for the training of young minds has never been negotiated, despite several calls by stakeholders and the UN to different countries.

Interestingly, Nigeria adopted the British system of education in the early ’70s. However, over the following years, the standard and quality of education continuously decreased, leading citizens to seek quality education in the UK and USA. Most Keke and Okada riders in Nigeria are university graduates, highlighting the gap and inadequacy of the education system. The Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has urged youths that certificates no longer guarantee jobs; instead, demonstrable skills are crucial, and many public schools are yet to be equipped to offer such training.

In summary, history calls for a statement of purpose regarding the standard of education in Nigeria and its disastrous impact on the future of the youth. Despite some state governments, like Anambra, channelling youths towards alternative, cutting-edge, and ICT skills, the primary purpose of education—to train minds to be creative, innovative, imaginative, and proactive—is not being fulfilled. Educational institutions are meant to produce well-equipped individuals who, through self-reliance, become employers of labour, but the reverse has been the case.

Moreover, factors contributing to the falling standard of education include not only infrastructure challenges, insufficient funding, and a lack of qualified teachers but also the attitude and body language of political leaders, the political class, and the leadership of various institutions. Everything rises and falls on leadership, and societal priorities influence education and academic pursuits. The flaw in human nature is significant, and with a little management, it could transform the face of the country.

Conversely, socio-economic challenges in Nigeria have drastically reduced access to education, increasing sharp practices and malpractices in the education system. Due to the erosion of values and ethics, the compromised education system fails to instil critical thinking, moral reasoning, and civic responsibility in young people, potentially leading to societal instability.

Furthermore, political instability and economic meltdown have led a significant number of qualified teachers and lecturers to leave the country, seeking opportunities abroad due to a lack of fulfilling prospects in Nigeria. The Federal Ministry of Education was quick to announce the use of vernacular for basic education, but this has not addressed the various challenges confronting education in Nigeria. Unfortunately, many public schools in Nigeria are funded by parents whose children were deprived of the option of private schools.

Therefore, the same government wants to be relieved of any funding for education, especially tertiary education. The governance style in Nigeria may reach a point where there would be no funds to pay pensions or gratuities. The government always seems to have resources for political aides and appointees, but the money spent on teachers and the Ministry of Education appears to be a huge waste. This underscores the government’s priorities and the state of education in the country.

Incidentally, the value of education in Nigeria has fallen to an abysmally incomprehensible level, affecting the youth most, and future generations are despicably misinformed. It is not a coincidence or an unfortunate incident; it stems from several years of neglect, sidelining, and glossing over the roadmap for meaningful development. The Chairman of EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) stressed that, in every 10 Nigerian students, 7 are involved in cybercrimes (Yahoo).

On November 12, 2019, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an audience at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO that education is an “essential pillar” to achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UN General Assembly equally tasked the leadership of various countries to ensure universal access to basic education for every child everywhere. Just as boxes are still being presented in the spirit of Christmas and God’s gift to the world, parents, teachers, religion, and government are required to take stock of plans and solutions to the problems and evils bedevilling the education sector in Nigeria because the magic of Christmas can quickly dissipate. We have millions of out-of-school children in Nigeria, especially in the North, yet the government is furtively moving away from its major role of funding for education.

Furthermore, quality education is the foundation upon which a strong future can be built. It is the fourth item on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It is a powerful tool that can help individuals and communities achieve their full potential, create a better life for themselves, and contribute to the development of their society. The government, religion, parents, and individuals have roles in building knowledge and skills, encouraging innovation and creativity, fostering a sense of social responsibility, promoting diversity and inclusion, and addressing global challenges.

The detrimental impact of declining education standards on the future of Nigerian youths is corrosive. Where does the hope of the youth lie? Could there be a golden age of prosperity when all the perplexing problems—religious, social, or political—would find their complete solution? There is always hope for a brighter future through education reforms because unemployment and skill gaps attenuate going to school in the country. Certainly, economic development has social consequences on youth well-being. A wise leader is willing to admit, ‘I’m not perfect, but I know who is. And I’m doing my best to become more and more like Him in my professional and personal life.

Finally, our commitment to making the world a better place can only be achieved through quality education. What kind of gesture or a high point of presents can parents offer when a promise revolves around a concreteness to the nebulous and chaotic future of their children? Do we call it a white man’s world, or the world of politicians, cabals, and groups of people more insidious than the world powers in their pursuit of political interest? To forge ahead, the communities’ hopes and hates, fears, and desires must be incorporated to forge differences in policy making.

Obiotika Wilfred Toochukwu: St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Awgbu – Anambra State

Business Day

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