Learning and the Arewa Situation

The state of education in Nigeria and Africa as a whole has constantly been in awful light. Many of the accounts are lamentations about the pathetic state of education in the region. The state of illiteracy in the African subcontinent is still dismal as compared with the rest of the world. Indeed even in countries like Nigeria with improving figures, there is still uncertainty as the reading and writing skills of the so called “literates” is questionable.

Without doubt, literacy rates in Nigeria have improved in recent times but still are of no good. The standard of education in the country is still baffling primarily due to lack of planning of priorities. Education is generally underfunded, infrastructures are limited, poverty is the bane of the day, gender inequality and cultural practices downplay education, and walking distances to schools due to lack of transportation are always a hindrance. In Northern Nigeria, the situation is even more dire as, education can be said to be virtually non-existent in a lot of places, only partially so in other places, and perhaps likely to get out of the slumps in a few places.

The entire problem of education in Northern Nigeria is as diversified as its own people. The cultural, ethnic and religious factors as well as violence have played a tremendous part in the tumultuous situation of education. High poverty rate together with neglected minority groups have created multiple problems for learning. Worth of remark also is the high gender imbalance in terms of higher education in this region.

The gross under funding of the educational sector and the overlooking of the maintenance of the physical facilities have all lead to turn-down in academic standards. In addition, obsolete teaching methodology which doesn’t address the incessant need for development of knowledge vis-à-vis skills has widened the gap between the needed and the achieved aspects.

Another impasse is the lack of teaching personnel. The current available number of teachers does not meet the ever increasing student populace, with more and more learning-hungry students living in rural areas where educational facilities are virtually inaccessible. With the above spreadsheet, it is without gainsaying that education in Northern Nigeria has long failed the majority of its learners.

Bridging the Literacy and Skills Gap: Story So Far

The level between literacy and skill acquisition has been widening day by day. The phenomenon is so rampant that skilled workers with less tenable educational qualifications have increasingly been marginalised. With the University system in the country churning out half-baked graduates with every cycle that are not sufficiently trained to be skilled according to the employment prospectus, over-education has crept in. Over-Education is simply a phenomenon where graduates fail to find jobs that use their skills. This has lead to graduates holding positions where a lower level of education than theirs is required as well as employers raising the entry levels for employment prospective.  As such, demand is higher for less-skilled workers with higher qualifications and the increased marginalisation of vocational, technical and skilled workers with lower qualifications. Skill mismatch has hence become a persistent and troubling trend.

Government over the years have been putting measures to solve such incessant problems. Ministers of Education of the African Union rolled out a platform, ‘First Decade of Education for Africa’ to bridge such literacy gaps. An evaluation of this First Decade of Education for Africa however revealed that most of the goal sets were not achieved. Also, a number of literacy campaigns have been put in place by successive governments; unfortunately many of the campaigns were not planned and executed with a focus leading to them failing.

Educational structures have been situated by various Government Administrations to administer educational programmes at different levels of education. Specifically, Universal Basic Education Commission, National Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education (NMEC), National Nomadic Education Commission and State Agencies for Mass Education were established to provide basic education in Nigeria. Unfortunately, these agencies have not been adequately financed nor maintained for goal delivery. Additional to these programmes are the Almajiri Education Programme, Girl-Child Education Programme, Radio Literacy Programme for Adult illiterates, Market Education Programme for traders and a host more, still without appropriate dividends.

To boost the skill level of the Nigerian youth, the Government of Nigeria in 1987 established the National Directorate of Employment with skill inclined programmes; however the hydra-headed problem has continued to prosper. Other programmes include, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) entrepreneurial Programmes, National Poverty Alleviation Programme, Industrial Training Fund, You Win Initiative to mention but few. Many other private initiatives and NGOs have all contributed immensely, however the problem appears unabated, primarily due to mismanagement.

From all indications, the acquisition of marketable and applied skills as well as basic scientific knowledge should be the cornerstone for any meaningful breakthrough in this unperturbed nemesis. Emphasizing the importance of self-reliance for the job seekers should be a necessity,the poor and unemployed populace should be urged to begin to appreciate the option of being self-reliant rather than waiting for government patronage.

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Sada Malumfashi is a writer living in Kaduna. His works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in local and international magazines.