Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Declare State of Emergency in the Education Sector

Human Capital Development is crucial and central to any meaningful national growth and development. Recent revelations about the state of education in Nigeria, however, call for concern. They are simply mind-boggling and heart-rending! Nigeria’s Minister of Labour and Productivity, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN), recently said that a World Bank report on Nigeria put the country’s unemployed at a staggering 40 million, the majority of them being within the age of 18-25. This is not the first time Nigerians are being treated to unemployment statistics. I recall that in 2008, the Minister of Youth Development, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, said 64 million out of the 80 million youths in Nigeria are unemployed. He stated further that 1.6 million of the employed youth are underemployed and went on to declare that the data made available by the National Manpower Board and Federal Bureau of Statistics indicated that only about 10 per cent of the graduates produced for the labour market annually by universities and other tertiary institutions in Nigeria were able to get paid employment.One of the clues to the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria was given by the incumbent Education Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu when he said that about 80 per cent of the country’s university graduates are unemployable. He blamed the sad development on poor teaching, resulting from inadequate infrastructure and poor library facilities. Concomitant to this is the low carriage capacity of Nigerian tertiary institutions, which according to official statistics and media reports stand at less than 200,000 for the Nigerian university system as against an annual demand of one million. The simple deduction from these is that of the estimated 40 million unemployed Nigerians, be they university, polytechnic, monotechnic or Gollege of Education graduates, only 20 per cent is employable.There are two issues in the Education Minister’s submission. The first being that only about 20% of over one million students who apply to about 94 Nigerian universities gets admitted. The other point is that these lucky few that made it to the university are being trained with inadequate and obsolete infrastructure and equipment as well as poor library facilities.Over the years, the subvention to 27 Nigerian federal universities has been drastically reduced to the point that these academic institutions have become glorified secondary schools. In the 2009 budget, for instance, the entire education sector got N38 billion for capital expenditure. Considering the fact that this amount is for all federal institutions from primary to tertiary, as well as agencies and departments under the education ministry, it then becomes grossly inadequate. Yet, there is the Education Trust Fund (ETF) meant to provide funding support to these academic institutions.I am of the opinion that the time has actually come to declare a state of emergency in Nigeria’s education sector. We just cannot continue to pay lip service to education the way we have been doing in the last two decades. As a result of the years of inadequate funding and neglect of Nigeria’s academic institutions, many of the qualified and experienced staff have been lost to brain drain.In developing Nigeria’s human capital, there is an urgent need to revive our technical schools and strengthen the National Directorate of employment. The 6-3-3-4 mode of education already envisages that students who have demonstrated low capacity for academic studies would be encouraged to acquire vocational skills.