In a recent briefing by the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr. Hamid Boboyi, a startling revelation emerged. Nigeria, a nation grappling with the challenge of rising number of out-of-school children, needs an additional 20,000 schools and a staggering 907,769 classrooms to accommodate these young minds.
This revelation has sent shockwaves across the education sector and raised urgent questions about the future of basic education in the country. While Dr. Boboyi highlighted infrastructural gaps and the shortage of teaching staff as significant hurdles, it is crucial to recognise that these challenges are exacerbated by a more sinister issue plaguing the nation: insecurity.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, the constant attacks on schools by bandits and other criminal elements have added another layer of complexity to the already dire situation.
Without doubt, the education sector is in utter crisis. The state of insecurity, particularly in the northern states of the country, has led to the abduction of school children and the closure of schools out of fear for the safety of students and teachers.
According to a report last year, no fewer than 615 schools have remained shut in some troubled states owing to attacks by terrorists in different parts of the country. This unfortunate reality has contributed significantly to the alarming number of out-of-school children.
Sadly, in our view, insecurity has become a formidable barrier to education, as parents are understandably hesitant to send their children to schools that are increasingly becoming targets for abductions. The trauma inflicted upon children who witness or experience these attacks is immeasurable, and it has a long-lasting impact on their willingness to pursue education.
It is imperative that we acknowledge the interconnectedness of these issues. Building more schools and classrooms is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but it is far from a comprehensive solution. Without addressing the root cause of insecurity, these new educational facilities could become prime targets for criminal elements.
The federal government, in our view, must adopt a multifaceted approach to address this crisis. Firstly, it is essential to prioritise the safety and security of schools. This involves deploying adequate security personnel and implementing strategies to deter attacks.
Additionally, communities must be engaged and encouraged to play a proactive role in protecting their schools. Furthermore, the federal and state governments must commit to a substantial investment in basic education. The call by the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, for all states to provide counterpart funding is a step in the right direction.
Adequate funding is the lifeblood of quality education. It ensures that schools are equipped with qualified teachers, learning materials, and necessary infrastructure. However, funding alone is not enough. There must be a comprehensive overhaul of the education system to make it more accessible and appealing to students and parents alike.
This includes curriculum reforms that reflect the needs of a rapidly changing world, teacher training programs, and initiatives to promote and incentivize enrolment and attendance.
Moreover, special attention should be given to regions most affected by insecurity. These areas require not only additional security measures but also tailored educational programs that address the specific challenges they face. Education should serve as a beacon of hope in these troubled regions, offering a path to a brighter future for their children.
The private sector can also play a vital role in addressing the education crisis. Collaboration between government and private organisations can lead to innovative solutions and the mobilisation of additional resources.
Needless to say, the revelation that Nigeria needs an additional 20,000 schools and 907,769 classrooms is a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the crisis of out-of-school children.
It is crucial, in our considered opinion, to recognise that this challenge is deeply intertwined with the issue of insecurity, especially in regions where attacks on schools have become disturbingly frequent.
To truly tackle this crisis, government at all levels must take a holistic approach that prioritises not only infrastructure but also security, funding, curriculum reform, and community engagement. In addition, there must be a concerted effort to extirpate corruption from the system. Funding, as already pointed out, is not a cure-all solution. The little that was made available, was it judiciously utilised?
Even worse is the politicisation of the teaching profession. It has become a dumping ground for failures in other fields.
Only through a comprehensive effort can we hope to provide quality basic education to all children, regardless of their circumstances. The future of Nigeria depends on the education of its youth, and we must act decisively to secure that future.