Learning Crisis: Enforcing the one-year mandatory early child education

Posted by News Express | 23 May 2022 | 1,130 times

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By JOHN NWOKOCHA

At a recent Media Dialogue workshop on Child Rights Act, in Kano state, an education expert, Dr Manar Ahmed, made public that the nation’s education sector has slipped into a mind-boggling level she prefers to describe as LEARNING CRISIS.

Ahmed who works with UNICEF stated clearly that Nigeria is facing staggering learning crisis with learning outcome being one of the lowest globally.

She made further worrisome disclosures about the crisis in the nation’s education sector, such as increasing numbers of unqualified teachers across primary schools in the country.

The expert also did not mince words when she said 69 per cent of primary school teachers are unqualified. The education specialist added that on the whole, 27 per cent of Nigeria’s teachers were not qualified.

According to her, unqualified teachers are moulding Nigerian children, a situation that has left 70 per cent of the children not achieving the basic functional skills. “They don’t have basic literacy to be able to read and write,” she stressed.

Ahmed is not alone. Education stakeholders have expressed similar concerns at various times, warning that learning does not take place in most Nigerian schools.

UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Rahama R. Mohammed Farah, in his paper on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (ELN), puts it thus: “Nigeria faces a learning crisis in which learning is not taking place, even for children that are in school.”

Speaking at the workshop also, Farah who was represented at Media Dialogue by UNICEF Field Office Kano, Elhadji Issakha Diop, Officer-in-Charge (OIC), in his remarks brings into focus the Child Rights Acts, saying education is one of such rights.

Farah noted: “Education is a fundamental human right, and that right is well-articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the (CRC) which guides the work of UNICEF, and of course, in other legal instruments, including the Nigerian Constitution.”

He said, “According to the World Bank, Nigeria is experiencing and learning poverty in which 70 per cent of 10-year-olds cannot understand a simple sentence or perform basic numeracy task.”

Sadly, despite several intervention programmes to improve outcomes in the education sector of the UNICEF and, of course, the Nigerian governments, the country still has an estimated 18.5 million out-of-school children. The figure is reportedly the second largest number in the world. By implication, Nigeria is at a tipping point in the education sector. With these disclosures by the research works of the expert, it is not difficult therefore to understand that the nation’s education sector is fast collapsing. However, the experts’ revelations underscore, seriously the level of attention being paid to the sector by governments and stakeholders. More importantly, is shocking findings about abandonment of a one-year compulsory pre-primary school policy of Nigerian government that is constituting foundational problems to the sector.

The gap already created by non-implementation of the mandatory one- year pre-primary education under the Child Rights Acts is huge.

With the shaky foundation, it is therefore not surprising why Nigeria is retrogressing in all aspects of education.

Without sounding alarming, most government schools in the northern part of the country are in shambles. And pupils and students are forced to cope with the horrible situations they found themselves in their schools. The gloomy environment does not encourage learning, it does not matter how much efforts the student made.   In fact, the students cannot cope. Consequently, they dropped out of school. And that is resulting in increasing numbers of school drop outs in Nigeria. The governments have their share of inadvertently undermining the sector.  Just recently, Sokoto and Zamfara state governments demonstrated that education of the child is not on their priority lists. Both states reportedly failed to register candidates for the 2022 WAEC examinations. Here are the same states like others in the North where the uptake of WAEC examinations is usually low, even with state governments paying for the students.

In the South, most government/public schools are overcrowded and always attended by children from poor backgrounds who could not afford the prohibitive cost of private primary and secondary education for their children. Besides governments’ poor funding of their schools, they owe their teachers arrears of salaries. It is evident that governments do not care about what is happening in the sector.

The education sector crisis has been made worse by the escalating insecurity in various parts of Nigeria, but particularly in the north. In Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Niger States, including the FCT, high cases of banditry and kidnapping are fast becoming normal life. The girl-child education is worst threatened with abductions, rape and maiming right in their schools. Students in IDP camps are worrying more about survival than getting an education. So, insecurity remains a concern. These situations have resulted to high levels of displacement, disrupted sessions in schools.

In addition, the declining purchasing power and rising poverty have made quality education unaffordable by many Nigerian parents. Unarguably, there is total loss of interest in the country’s education system.

Looking at the scenarios, education of the child is no less secondary matter in Nigeria. But the development is not only causing tongues to wag, it is also causing fears for future of Nigeria as expressed by Ahmed.

Education stakeholders and policy analysts share in Ahmed and Farah’s fears, cautioning that neglecting the education of the present generation of Nigerians would, in many ways, endanger the prosperity of the future.

The stakeholder writes: “Educating young people today will determine how much progress we make as a country. It is evident that with the neglect or near-total collapse of education, the future of our society is uncertain or may be gloomy.”

Although insecurity and poor governments’ funding are linked to the decline in the sector, on poor funding, the expert noted that public spending on education is as low as 1.7 per cent of GDP allocated to education. But this is against the recommended average percentage of GDP on total government and private expenditure on education which is 5 per cent of the GDP.

Most countries in the developed world spend even more than this average on education. Take, for instance, “among the 34 OECD countries reporting data in 2015, 17 countries spent more than the average percentage (5 per cent) of GDP on total government and private expenditures on education institutions for OECD countries. Norway spent the most on education as a percentage of GDP at 6.4 per cent, followed by New Zealand at 6.3 per cent, the United Kingdom at 6.2 per cent, and the United States at 6.1 percent,” according to UNESCO. However, data from UNESCO also shows that education expenditure (percentage of GDP) in Nigeria was 0.85 per cent as of 2017.

In addressing the ugly trend, Ahmed noted that the low attendance to school is not due to lack of policy on education by governments but that policies are not enforced. As she puts it, “Nigeria has rich policies. But they lack implementation.”

She wants the policy that makes it compulsory for every child to have one- year pre-school implemented, to start with.

The education specialist proffers other solutions to the crisis, among these is tough sanctions against parents who fail to prepare their five-year-old children for the pre-primary education. To her, stiff punishments may help to reverse the trend in states where strict compliance to all-children-must-have-one-year-access to pre-primary education, is not adhered to.

Also, she wants a special attention paid to In-adequate and under-prepared teaching workforce. This is her recommendation: Remedial education to address the gap in foundational literacy and numeracy and improved transition to Junior Secondary, with a special focus on upper Tailor-made teaching learning practices. Related to this recommendation is what the expert calls Investing in structured teachers Continuous Professional Development

In a nutshell, there is urgent need to scale-up Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in Nigeria.

On his part, Dr Godfery Njoku, Communications Specialist with UNICEF, urged the media to advocate increased funding to the education sector, especially the allocation of adequate resources to pre-primary and primary level of education in Nigeria.

He also called for investing in improving teachers’ quality.

Nigeria can escape the much-dreaded bleak future if her education sector if the sector is given its deserved attention, starting with a total overhaul.

•JOHN NWOKOCHA is the Managing Editor of News Express.


Source: News Express

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