Look What They Did To Education

I have always known Nigerian education was in a very bad place. But this report shocked me. 

It’s not so much that we have a crisis on our hands but that, even though we’ve been in a crisis for a while now, all the evidence suggests that we are moving backwards. There is no other way to describe this other than an outrageous disaster. And a timebomb waiting to go off even.

What does one make of this as an example?


Twelve countries account for 47% of the global out-of-school population (Figure 1.12). Nigeria, which heads the list with 10.5 million out-of-school children, has experienced the highest increase since 1999


Or this?



In Nigeria, the number of illiterate adults has risen by over 10 million between 1991 and 2010


What is the plan? What is a country supposed to do with an increasing army of illiterates? These people can vote you know?


It gets worse. The glaring inequality we see in our society is now a structural problem which is firmly hardcoded into our society’s fabric 


In Nigeria, about two out of three children from the richest 20% of households attend pre-school, compared with less than one in ten from the poorest 20% of households


Recent research has shown that the money spent on a child’s education in the first 3 years of their life delivers the best return over the child’s life. In other words, the worst thing you can do in Nigeria is to be born poor as that smell will follow you all your life. 


No matter how bad you think it is, it is worse


In Kano state of northern Nigeria, a test of some 1,200 basic education teachers found that around 78% had ‘limited’ knowledge in English after an assessment in which they were asked to take a reading comprehension test and correct sentences written by a 10 year child for form, content and punctuation

I remember getting into a debate with some ACN folk earlier this year over what I considered to be the daft plan to introduce Yoruba as the language of instruction in South West primary schools. Part of my point at the time was that the problem of incompetence and poorly trained teachers does not disappear when you switch the language of instruction. Here’s evidence suggesting the same thing



In Bauchi and Sokoto, two states of northern Nigeria, 4,000 grade 3 students were assessed in Hausa, which is the language of instruction and the lingua franca as well as the mother tongue for the vast majority of students. Just 29% of students in Bauchi and 18% in Sokoto could read full words. These students were given a reading comprehension test: less than one-fifth of them achieved a score of 80% – accounting for only 6% of all students in Bauchi and 3% in Sokoto


I was planning to write something about education today when this report got passed to me. It’s a very detailed report so perhaps you might want to run a search on Nigeria to get a flavour about it before settling down into it. I found it to be very disturbing.


And you know, my biggest fear in all of this is that by ignoring education for so long, we may have debased it to the point where it has been completely stripped of those things that make it an aspirational commodity. We may have so badly damaged it to the point where, in the eyes of an uneducated man, it has absolutely no value and is no more than a cost to him while he could be doing something better with his time. The quote below seems to lend credence to this


Nigeria, which heads the list with 10.5million of out-of-school children, has experienced the highest increase since 1999


Afterall when you look at a lot of people in government and the elite of our society, it’s not obvious that they got to where they did by virtue of their education is it? 


The signalling power of education is gone. 


What on earth have we done? Given how bad the problem is, can we even trust the government to tell us the truth let alone fix the problem? Well, education is being voted huge sums of money in the budget. Who knows where the money is really going….


The report was commissioned by UNESCO and was carried out by the Education For All Global Monitoring Team and it is titled ‘Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work’.




If you prefer I have it here as a Google Doc as well (click on ‘download’ and then ‘download anyway’ on the next page). You will need to download it as its too large to be viewed in a web browser. 



Download this file


Unhappy reading






15 thoughts on “Look What They Did To Education

  1. To answer your signalling question:
    A few weeks ago, I attended a reception for the head of Unilever’s Africa Division. In his remarks, he had commented that Nigerian graduates were not quite prepared for international competition. Toyosi Akerele also masterfully complained about how education had become a dirty word in Nigeria. And then this guy stands up. He speaks pidgin and says his name is Twi-Twi. He declares that “education is not necessary to make it in life” and that the gentleman should learn pidgin because “when he was in Shy-na, he learn to speak Shy-nese”.
    ‘Nuff said.

  2. Amazing…not only is it now something people dont care about, they go out of their way to sneer at it.
    I dont know any serious country that was built this way.

  3. Any surprise we have terrorists, ritual killers and kidnappers everywhere? Sometimes when people talk about the sheer number of consumers for products in Nigeria I ask them if those consumers are going to use sand to pay?

    I blame religious institutions for being part of the problem. I went to a mission school which was the best in my state until the government took it over and it went to shyte. If we had more good mission schools and less private jets in southern Nigeria maybe things will be a bit better. As for Northern Nigeria the politicians are strictly to blame.

  4. I still think the death of Federal Government Colleges nailed the educational coffin in tthis country. Why did they let go? Now quality education comes at a very high price aand as you said, poor kids have their fates sealed from birth.

  5. In all of this, what I find most disturbing is that we have people of political clout and personal means who know the difference a good, basic education makes in either an ideal or real situation. They are in a position to make policy changes that will benefit the common man, and by extension the community at large. But they will rather send their kids to pricey private schools or out of the country. Nothing wrong with that, but the uneducated and unskilled amongst us will certainly make the country nearly ungovernable and unliveable for those kids that were educated in the Ivy League school environments, albeit with monies derived from the ‘National Cake’. Nigeria is a ticking time bomb. Unfortunately.

  6. Orekha is right: just check where our so-called leaders send their children to school – overseas, of course. The problem with education in Nigeria began a long time ago when university dons began to abandon the classroom to import rice! Once upon a time, education was the meal ticket, but with the advent of the oil doom, that ticket has been devalued so much it can hardly buy you a bowl of gari. Some of us remember the days when the whole community would raise funds to send a son of the soil to school. Well, that communal spirit has been replaced by an incredible individualism: me, me, myself and my family! The rest can go to you know where. So, the stats that Feyi Fawehinmi referred to should not surprise anyone. We’re going back to the days of fiefdom: keep the masses ignorant and plunder the country with impunity. As long as we can keep them bleeting: baba ke! rankai dede! Oga sir! – education works! Sad. The fuse on that time bomb is very short and we don’t even realize it.

  7. Well said all, but the question I ask whenever I hear [or as in this case, read] someone express some opinion about Nigeria and how bad things have gotten is this: what can we do to turn things around?

    How can we as individuals help?
    What can we do in our communities, families, etc

    We keep talking, writing, complaining… when we should be doing something to change the situation we have found ourselves in.

    All I am saying is, lets put our money where our mouth is…

    …pardon all grammatical errors, i am also a product of the failed educational system.

  8. @Ossy, it happened. I forgot to mention that this guy insisted that he was a graduate.

    @Babatunde and @Nunu, unfortunately, this isn’t really a problem that can be solved “outside government”. I think we’re so used to assuming the government doesn’t exist that we forget how much work the government has. We can’t create education policy, only recommend it. We can’t fire teachers in government schools who can’t read, only government can. We can help our own kids and send them to private schools and after-school lessons; we’re already doing that but the millions of other Nigerian children without access to this information are the ones we’re talking about. If you want to help, write a letter to your Senator; and don’t say “politics doesn’t interest me”.

  9. According to Pius Adesanmi, “the diseducation; (yes dis-education) of the Nigerian citizen is purposed”. From the military era when forced University closures were used to suppress student protests against government action, together with the traditional predictable annual ASUU strikes that kept students away from classrooms, and too many other things that have gone wrong in our education sector, successive governments have observed that the citizenry is more docile and easier to cheat if uneducated. It may have been an inadvertent outcome, but with the realization that it works in its favor, now no typical Nigerian government would want to get citizens educated for fear of them getting wiser and rising against the status quo.

    Let’s face it – it’s practically gonna be a war to turn things around in our dear Nigeria.

  10. I agree with Babatunde Olaifa's suggestion that it is time for action. However, for a proper and effective cure, we must have a good diagnosis of the patient's ailments. A lot of Nigerians are doing "something" about the situation: those who can, send their children to private schools or to Ghana if they cannot afford Europe or the US. Of course, this is not the solution that will cure the patient! It is symptomatic of the disease itself – "me, myself and my family" or self-centeredness. No serious collective solution can be offered without access to the bankrupt and corrupt power and policy-making structures of the country. These have to be disbanded, cleaned up, sanitized (to continue with the medical analogy) before applying the new medicine. The system as it is now counts on our individual frustrations not being harnessed for collective remedial action. In other words, it thrives on ad hoc, even if well-meaning, individual measures. I am hopeful that if we can organize, galvanize all the incredible talent and brain power God has endowed the country with, we can turn the tide and restore education in Nigeria to its traditional pride of place.

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