A massive undertaking: repairing Nigeria’s education system

It is known that the education system in every country has problems. By its very nature, public education will have poor quality, even when it is well funded.

We inherently know this when it comes to other products or services: whenever you attempt to mass-produce something, the quality suffers.

One-on-one tutoring and instructing yields by far, the best results. But a country has to reach millions of people, hence cannot afford that luxury.

Nigeria is very far away, and your own country is probably experiencing its problems. Why should you care about this far away place’s school system, when your nation probably has similar issues?

The primary reason to care is that Nigeria’s hurdles are not unique. Every single problem: from underfunding, political strife, and internal cultural clash are universal. Most countries have them, and sadly, Nigeria’s are just turned up to eleven.

Even if you are not a humanitarian, pure necessity would require you to pay attention. There is a lot to be learned from this situation because you never know when you will be having similar issues.

Let’s take a look at the primary factors contributing to this massive crisis:

Lack of funding and infrastructure

There is severe mismanagement of resources and poor infrastructure that present hurdles for young people attempting to get an education.

The North outright just does not have enough schools for the number of children who should be attending. Many have to cross large distances each day just to commute to the nearest school.

The South lacks proper conditions in which learning thrives. For example, some schools do not have working toilets, or the number of teachers is too low.

Western children are used to didactic material, TVs, and computers, while their peers in Southern Nigeria lack all of these.

Overall, there are nearly not enough resources to go around. The North is especially hit, but the South has similar problems.

It is no secret that during our first years, our families are our support structure. But what happens if our families cannot support us? Well, we lose our head start in life.

The nation’s northern half has the lion’s share of the children who are out of school. This is the poorer of the two regions, and it shows.

Many families are living at the brink of survival, prioritizing food and water. They simply cannot afford to invest money in uniforms, manuals, and any other related expenses especially considering that the families are rather large, so they have to worry about sending more than one child to school.

When asked about the situation of the education system, Nigerian officials tend to pivot towards issues such as insurgencies, nomadic living, stealing and bandit-like activity, and religious extremism (Boko Haram).

All of these factors surely contribute to the problem. If an armed army names itself “Education is bad” and goes around promoting its ideals, the interest in education will decrease.

Also, if a child is part of a nomadic community, he/she will find it impossible to attend the same school and receive an education. Nomads in general do tend to underachieve in our modern societies based on massive centralized governments and settled living.

Depending on who you ask, this is by far the greatest problem. The government is not allocating sufficient resources towards education, despite international warnings and guidance.

In addition, the money that is finally given can be stolen along the way. Grant and scholarship money is a common target for “misplacement.”

The education system is an investment in the future, and offers little opportunity for politicians to enrich themselves in the short term. There are almost no contracts and kick-backs, and schools will be ignored as a result.

Currently, only 6% of the total budget is allocated. This is a miniscule percentage, compared to the Unesco-recommended 26%.

It is very important to realize that, as previously stated, Nigeria’s problems are the world’s problems. Your country may be doing well at the moment, but nobody’s on top forever. Human history will always have times of plenty, and times of conflict, war, and poverty.

If we construct our school systems to be fragile and expensive, then we admit that education is just a luxury, and not a basic right. A good education system should be disaster-proof, and able to run on a minimal amount of resources.

The only reason this country in particular stands out, is the scale on which the problems are manifesting.

We need to make sure that we are discussing solutions (plural). There is no single action or problem that can solve such a massive undertaking.

Before the invention of gunpowder weapons, only noblemen were good fighters. Armor, weapons, horses, banners, jousting, and other necessities were simply out of reach for common people.

Then the gun came around. With just two weeks of training, an average Joe could learn to shoot and defeat a knight. The gun was an equalizer.

So too, is the internet. If you are working a job and get home exhausted, often neglecting chores due to said exhaustion, when will you ever have the time to get educated?

Classes are held at strict hours, by certain people, in certain buildings (Universities), that you have to apply to get to. In contrast, the internet allows you to buy courses for a hundreth of the price, and browse them whenever you have spare time.

Is it easy? No. Online education has been proven to be worse than in-person classes. But can it be done?

The answer is yes. It is much harder to learn from a laptop than from a teacher, but it is not impossible. Ten thousand human lifetimes wouldn’t be enough to browse through all of the information available online.

Smart devices are getting very cheap, and the Internet seems to be the only short term solution.

As a citizen of Nigeria or any other country, you are living in a system that you did not create. For better or worse, you were born in it.

You, the student, cannot control who is in charge, how much money is spent on your education, or what war is going on. Also, even if a solution is found, by the time it is implemented, it will be too late for you personally.

As mentioned, the Internet can be a great equalizer. It is cheap and hard to learn online, but it can be done. Meanwhile, on the large scale, political action must be taken to get rid of corruption.

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