The problems of education in Nigeria are hydra-headed, but they can be condensed into the following headings:

(1) Wrong/outdated education policies and poor implementation of policies
(2) Insufficient government funding
(3) Lack of competent teachers
(4) Low interest in education and the get rich quick syndrome

Let us examine each of these issues in detail.

Wrong/Outdated Education Policies and Poor Implementation of Policies

This is arguably the mother of all the problems facing education in Nigeria. Every institution, public or private is controlled by government policies which are meant to provide a framework for the operation of the institution within the ambit of the applicable laws of the country. Government policy is also used to steer institutions in a particular direction or achieve a set of objectives.

The National Policy on Education in Nigeria is a statement of the government’s regulations, goals, requirements and standards for quality education delivery in Nigeria. Some vital parts of Nigeria’s national policy on education are as follows:

(i) Education would continue to rank high in the nation’s development plans.

(ii) Expansion would continue to affect education and training facilities, in response to social needs and education would be made accessible and affordable.

(iii) Educational activities would be centred on the student for maximum self-development and self-fulfilment.

(iv) At all levels of the education system, modern education techniques shall be increasingly used and would also be improved upon.

(v) The national educational system shall be structured to develop the practice of self-learning.

The above policies are, by reasonable standards, great education policies that are sufficient for a developing country like Nigeria which needs, above everything else, to invest in human capital development through quality education of her citizens. But the problem here is quite obvious. Most of these policies are outright ignored, or at best, poorly implemented.

For example, the first policy on our list which places premium on education in the nation’s development plans, is a mere lip service. In the 2018 budget, only a paltry 7% was allocated to education. This falls far below the 26% recommended by the United Nations. The effect of this is reflected on unpaid teachers’ salaries, poorly equipped school laboratories, dilapidated structures and so on.

Secondly, regarding the affordability and accessibility of education, government has done very little in ensuring that quality education reaches the far corners of the country. A lot of children are still out of school. According to an official report by the country’s education ministry, Nigeria has the ‘largest number of children out-of-school’ in the world. 10.5 million children are out of school, 60 percent of whom are girls. Cultural factors have been blamed for this but critics point to a lack of money going to publicly funded schools.

Thirdly, on the student-centred approach to education as stated in the policy, much effort has not been made to personalize teaching and learning to suit the unique cognitive capabilities of pupils and students. There is promise in this regard as personalized smart learning platforms are beginning to infiltrate the educational space, but the government is yet to seize the opportunity to make it available to every student by subsidizing the cost of using such platforms or by simply endorsing its use in public schools in the country.

Furthermore, the techniques and methods used to teach in most public schools are still crude. Many public schools lack well-equipped science and ICT laboratories. Only a handful of them can boast of adequate modern teaching aids and instructional materials.

It is therefore obvious that merely having great education policies will not address our problems if they are not followed by proper and meticulous implementation.

Needless to say, the poor implementation of our national policy on education is due to insufficient funding of the sector, which is caused partly by a lack of the moral and political will to do what is right.

Insufficient Government Funding

This is one of the major problems of education in Nigeria. No institution can function without adequate funding and proper appropriation of available funds. In Nigeria education is relegated to the background of fiscal allocation. At the expense of education, other less important sectors are heavily funded. This is a reactive rather than a proactive approach to solving a problem. For instance, the insecurity in the country has its roots in illiteracy and poverty, both of which are like conjoined twins. However, the best and long term solution to insecurity is to address the problem from the very roots. If people are education and empowered they will not be available as tools to perpetrating evil and unleashing terror on others. How long will Nigeria continue to treat the symptoms of a problem instead of the problem itself?

If the education sector receives the much needed funding, teachers will be paid as at when due, and handsomely too. A well paid and motivated teacher impacts the educational atmosphere in more ways than is obvious to the undiscerning eye. A heavily equipped classroom with an unmotivated teacher will be tantamount to a waste of resources. In the same vein, without the right tools to work with, even the most inspired teacher will find it difficult to be impactful in the classroom.

Therefore, for an effective educational system, enough resources need to be deployed to the sector to empower the teachers and equip the classrooms with modern teaching equipment.

Lack of Competent Teachers

The lack of competent teachers in Nigerian schools is a direct function of the poor welfare of teachers which makes the teaching profession unattractive to prospective undergraduates. Very few Nigerian students seek admission to study education in higher institutions. In point of fact, it is mostly those denied their dream courses who go for education courses as a forced choice. This is as a result of the low profile of teachers among other professionals in the country. Competent and highly motivated individuals seek more lucrative jobs and leave the teaching jobs for their less fortunate counterparts.

Aside the recruitment of unmotivated teachers, another factor that creates incompetence in the teaching profession is the lack of regular in-service trainings for teachers. Typically, teachers in public schools teach for years without attending a single capacity development seminar or workshop. Certificates get outdated as new methods and technologies continue to shape how things are done in different sectors, education inclusive. Thus teachers need to be regularly sent for trainings on the latest methods, techniques and technologies in their field in order to keep up with the growing demands of digital age education.

Lack of Interest in Education

Lack of interest in education is another culprit in the inglorious state of education in the country. A lot of Nigerian students go to school not because of the desire for knowledge and self-development in themselves, but because they want to get good jobs when they graduate. This is the worst mentality any person can have. The importance of education goes far beyond merely becoming employable. Education is a tool for the total transformation of the human mind. It is the driver of innovation and discoveries. It is the key to unlocking the full potential of the human brain, and the emancipation of the mind from mental slavery. Because Nigerian students do not seem to understand the value of education beyond employability, they see no need to be educated since the jobs are hardly available when they graduate. Therefore, many Nigerian youths do not see why they should spend years in a higher institution, graduate and start roaming the streets in search of jobs that are not in existence. Instead, they explore other ways to secure their future, some legal, others illegal and many, sinister. The options include learning mediocre trades, travelling out of the country, gambling, internet fraud, armed robbery, kidnapping and money rituals. The effects of these on the psyche of youths and the economy and security of the country is better left to the imagination.

The Way Forward

The problems of education in Nigeria may be multi-faceted, but they are not intractable. To solve these problems and reposition the sector in its most functional state, the major issues listed in the opening paragraph of this article need to be addressed. They include making sound education policies and ensuring they are religiously implemented. Education should receive the much needed attention in terms of funding and development of the sector to meet with international standards. In addition, the wrong attitude of youths towards the teaching profession should be addressed by rebranding the profession and making it attractive to young talents. This is best done by improving the welfare of teachers and empowering them to attain their highest potential. Finally, all efforts to revamp the education sector will be futile if the attitude of Nigerian youths toward education is not completely overhauled.

The youths need to begin to see education from a different angle – as a tool for personal development and self-actualization – as a driver of innovation and expansion – as a vehicle for intellectual growth and freedom from self-inflicted mental slavery. To make this attitudinal transformation possible, efforts should be made to create a viable economic ecosystem which places less emphasis on government jobs, and more on entrepreneurship and enterprise. Young people should be encouraged to innovate and contribute their quota to national development. This will help in creating more jobs and absorbing a large portion of the idle youth population who have channelled their untapped energies to unproductive and destructive activities.

The future of nations rest on the shoulders of their young people. The surest way to prepare the youth for the challenges of the future is through education. And the surest way to ensure that our youth receive the best education is to treat education like our lives depend on it, literally.


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