The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that 75 percent of Nigerian children, aged between seven and 14 years, cannot read a simple sentence or solve a basic mathematics problem.
The UN Agency said this recently in a statement by its Country Representative, Ms Christian Munduate, to mark this year’s International Day of Education.
Re-echoing the global call to ‘invest in people, prioritize education’ she urged Nigeria to deliver on the commitments made by President Muhammadu Buhari at the UN Secretary General’s Transforming Education Summit in September 2022 to end the global learning crisis.
Munduate expressed her concern that “In Nigeria, 75 percent of children aged seven to 14 years cannot read a simple sentence or solve a basic math problem. For children to be able to read to learn, they must be able to learn to read in the first three years of schooling.” Sadly, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has also put the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria at 20 million.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, it is a sad commentary that 75 percent of Nigerian children aged between seven and 14 years cannot read a simple sentence or solve a basic mathematics problem. Indeed, this is a clear indication of the dire state of education in Nigeria and the urgent need to find lasting solutions to the problem.
One major contributory factor to this issue is the lack of funding for education. Despite the government’s allocation of a significant portion of the national budget to education, it is not enough to adequately provide for the needs of Nigerian children.
It is instructive to note that UNESCO recommends that developing countries should dedicate 15 to 20 per cent of their annual budget to public education. Experts worry that the education budget between 2016 to 2022 indicate that the sector has not received the recommended 15 per cent.
Indeed, lack of resources such as textbooks, qualified teachers and adequate infrastructure, has led to a poor quality of education. Another major issue is a lack of accountability for educational outcomes. The government must hold schools and teachers accountable for the education of their students, as well as ensuring that educational standards are met.
In our view, this could be achieved through regular inspections and evaluations of schools as well as providing incentives for schools and teachers who achieve high educational outcomes.
In addition, the government must also invest in training and professional development for teachers. Many teachers in Nigeria lack the necessary skills and qualifications to provide a quality education. By investing in teacher training programs and providing ongoing professional development opportunities, teachers will be better equipped to provide the quality learning that Nigerian children deserve.
Furthermore, it is pertinent to increase the involvement of communities in the education system. Community involvement can help to ensure that schools are well-equipped and that children are attending schools at all. Parents, community leaders and other members of the community can play a vital role in ensuring that schools have the resources they need to provide a quality education.
We also call on government at all levels to invest in technology to improve education. The use of technology can help to improve the quality of education by providing access to a wide range of educational resources and tools. This includes the use of digital textbooks, educational software and online learning platforms.
Consequently, it is important to recognise that education is a long-term investment. Solving this issue will not be easy as it will require sustained effort and commitment from all stakeholders. The government, educators, parents, and community leaders must work together to ensure that Nigerian children receive the education they deserve. This can be achieved through a comprehensive approach that addresses all the factors contributing to the problem, including funding, accountability, teacher training, community involvement and the use of technology.
The fact that 75 percent of Nigerian children aged between seven and 14 years cannot read a simple sentence or solve a basic mathematics problem is a tragic reality that should serve as a clarion call to all. This issue requires immediate attention and action from all stakeholders. By addressing the underlying issues of funding, accountability, teacher training, community involvement and technology, we can work together to ensure that every Nigerian child receives a quality education.
Unfortunately, in our opinion, the resources that would have been allocated to the sector is increasingly frittered away through systems that are reprehensibly corrupt. That is the Gordian knot that must be cut for the sector to survive and flourish.