Sunday, December 18, 2005

Fewer Nigerians Receive Basic Education...

The emphasis on education in Nigeria has always been on tertiary education. Primary and secondary education are often overlooked whenever national debate on education occur, and are often the last to receive attention when decisions are made. Yet they are the most important strategically.

One does not have to be “degreed” to be considered educated or literate. The High school/GED (secondary) level of education is the minimum requirement in the United States (and probably in other advanced nations) where holders of the GED certificate are recognized and often enjoy their fair share of employment cake.

It appears Nigeria has a long way to go regarding this basic form of education because only about 6 out of 10 Nigerian children attend primary schools and about 4 in 10 attend secondary schools. This data is derived from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) project (2003), and stated as analyzed and succinctly presented on Friedrich Huebler’s Education Statistics Blog.

Huebler also shows that “many Nigerian children are in school at a level that is not appropriate for their ages.” I extracted the statistics below from one of his postings:

“In Nigeria, children often enter school at an advanced age and leave school well past the official graduation age. The primary school age in Nigeria is 6 to 11 years and the secondary school age 12 to 17 years…Only 36.6% of all 6-year-olds were attending primary school at the time of the survey…”, and “among 12-year-olds, only 13.9% were attending secondary school.”
He demonstrates the existence of gender and socioeconomic (residence and household income) disparities in education, and positive corelations between primary and secondary school enrollments and Gross Domestic Product(GNP) per capital i.e, lower income countries have lower school enrollment. Please, check out his site to read about other interesting education statistics on Nigeria.

This picture depicts by this data is far from rosy, and demands urgent intervention by the relevant authorities. Historically, government agenda on primary and secondary education in Nigeria has been confusing. Even at this moment, policies still appear fragmented and without focus.

My attempt to navigate through the Federal Ministry of Education website with the hope of deciphering current national policies on education was unsuccessful. The browsing through the website was fraught with difficulties and frustration (What were the web designer and department of education thinking with the advertisement slots and junk information loaded on the site?).

There has been a recent spike in the numbers of private primary and secondary schools in Nigeria, but it may be too early to discern their effects on student enrollment and school attendance using the DHS survey data.

I'd love to see data like Huebler's publicly disclosed on government websites, and used in benchmarking achievements and failures as policies are formulated and implemented. Afterall, what is the point in policy implementation and accountability if data are not accessible to the public.