- Basic Education In Nigeria: North, profusely hemorrhagic, by Prof MK Othman
Deep Thoughts with Othman
Northern Nigeria, the region with the highest turnover of political and military leaders is profusely bleeding and desperately needing a saviour. The region is educationally bleeding, economically emaciating, and demographically expanding in geometric proportion. There is a looming dangerous situation in the region akin to sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Save for the empty promises on how to address the situation thereby creating false hopes, there is apparent silence from all quarters. As evils are being machinated in the region, the leaders with some of us as their followers seemed to be muted and prefer to play ostrich either due to complicity or out of fear for our lives or not be accused of disloyalty and lose favours. Those responsible for the development of the region/nation and prevention of the evil machinations are busy manufacturing excuses to justify their incompetence, nepotism, or lack of direction. We are being told “what is happening is what should happen” because of “economic meltdown, Libya’s destabilization, intrusion of ISIS into the country and similar excuses. The situation is so bad that some of our leaders are confused, frustrated, and dishing out conflicting suggestions; “people should acquire arms to defend themselves against insecurity”, “acquisition of arms for self-defence is illegal” and so on. How did the north degenerate to this precarious level?
Poor education crowned with social injustice is the key variable responsible for massive degeneration in the north. With education, knowledge is acquired, optimum human potential is realized and the society would steadily develop and progress to greatness. Without education, the oxygen supporting the life of the society would gradually stall and bleed to extinction.
Educationally, northern Nigeria has been lagging far behind its southern counterpart since its amalgamation in 1914. Over the years, the government formulated policies to bridge the gap and achieve relatively uniform human capital development nationwide. Policies like educational disadvantage states, catchment areas; cutoff marks were part of government efforts to facilitate faster educational development in the north and some educationally disadvantaged areas in the south like riverine areas. Three decades after the policy formulation, the gap in education between the north and the south is still increasing at an alarming proportion. In fact, the condition and educational standards of the primary and secondary schools particularly in the north have nosedived to the lowest level compared to their status three decades ago.
No thanks to ravaging poverty, nepotism, and social injustice piercing the region in addition to demographic factors.
Three years ago, a survey conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) indicated that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria rose from 10.5 million in 2010 to 13.2 million. This was the highest population of out-of-school children in the world. Most of these children are in Nigeria's northern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, where Boko Haram insecurities disrupted academic activities. Today, additional children in the northwest are forced by circumstances to be out of school for almost a year and a half. In March 2020, schools were closed due to COVID-19 Pandemic. This year, 2021, some states in the region directed the schools to be closed to prevent the massive kidnapping of children by the bandits. The directive came after some school children were abducted from their schools. As schools become targets of armed criminals, the children are forced to stay out and await the government’s directive to resume. How long will the waiting last?
To add salt to injury, some weekly rural markets have been temporarily closed to address the insecurity situation in the region. This action has serious repercussions on the economic well-being of the people and thus, causing restiveness. These disheartened events of the last one and half years; the COVID 19 Pandemic and the ignoble acts of armed criminals have confounded the already perilous state of education in the north making the region bleed profusely.
The region cannot survive this hemorrhagic condition and the kind of restiveness being experienced for a long time. The future is being built today and if a rickety foundation is used, the future will not only be bleak but may lead to the total disintegration of the region with the inferno consuming all of us. So, what do we do?
The first is to arrest the haemorrhage and then infuse new blood to inject life and vibrancy of the region. Let us sincerely identify the causes of educational, social, and security challenges in the region and by extension in Nigeria. Systematic corruption, which has been fully entrenched in the Nigerian polity, is a major cause that must be addressed squarely, if not eliminated completely. The systematic corruption has polluted all facets of societal developments; the emergence of leaders in the society, decay of infrastructure, management of common resources, and many others. Identifying and addressing systematic corruption may not be an easy and quick task to accomplish timely. It is as dangerous as a rattle serpent. It fights back gravely when it senses danger. So, the issue has to be strategically planned and executed over time. In the meantime, we have to address the insecurity ravaging the region.
The Nigerian leadership has the sole responsibility to initiate a permanent solution to address the insecurity matter. The government can use both carrots and stick in tackling the issues. The provision of soft landing to genuine repentant bandits should be considered. We have seen how some insurgents surrendered recently and are being reintegrated into society. However, adequate compensation to the victims must go side-by-side when considering any type of soft landings. To use the stick, Nigeria must be well prepared to acquire adequate security personnel, equipment, and prerequisite manpower development. Right now, there are less than 500,000 police officers in the country. They are grossly inadequate to police about 210 million people in the country as currently estimated. We must be honest with ourselves to address this hemorrhagic condition of the north to avoid the looming calamity. Otherwise, none of us will be safe and the future may be doomed when we begin to harvest the outcomes of our inability to educate our children today. There will be no escape for all of us. May God prevent the impending danger.