Nigeria is not investing in education – Hassana Alidou of UNESCO

No Comments » February 3rd, 2015 posted by // Categories: Education for Nigerians (EFN)



Spending on education is right, but that should not take a toll on the outcome of the children in the classroom. If we are to invest in education in Nigeria, we need to get more teachers, train them better and get them equipped with new technology tools that are now adequate for teaching and put them on very high and effective teaching cadre. If you invest in the learner and the facilitators you are investing in education; but if you keep spending on travel allowances for education officials, then you are spending on education, which will not bring out an effective outcome.


Nigeria is not investing in education – (UNESCO)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says most developing countries (including Nigeria) ‘spend on’ education, rather than ‘invest in’ education. In this interview with MODUPE GEORGE, the organisation’s Country Director and Representative in Nigeria, Professor Hassana Alidou, speaks on Nigeria’s progress in the achievement of the goals of Education for All (EFA), among other issues.

What’s your sincere assessment of Nigeria’s progress in its achievement of the goals of Education for All, almost 15 years after Dakar 2000?

We are indeed in the process of attaining achievement in the country. There are challenges, because education is an ongoing process. With regard to achievements, we think we have 89 per cent enrolment range in secondary education in Nigeria. But we will like to encourage Nigeria to go further so that it will move from 89% to 100 per cent. This will encourage us; but we would like to also encourage Nigeria to move from 34 per cent enrolment in secondary schools to at least 70 to 80 per cent. With regard to upper secondary (what you call the high school or senior secondary), at the moment the statistics we have is 26 per cent. The goal of EFA is to have 100 per cent enrollment. Again, we will like to say that when you look at the country, you will discover that we have up to 10 million out-of-school children and mountain of youths who are not open to adequate education and about 40 million adults who are illiterates. We have been able to discuss this with the government that a significant effort is needed to come up with a good result. As for UNESCO, we have an ongoing collaboration with the Federal Government of Nigeria, which has allocated $6.4 million to fight against illiteracy, and today we can say the capacity of the Federal Ministry of Education to tackle illiteracy in Nigeria has been seriously enhanced, because at the central, state and local levels today, this fund that the Federal Government has allocated through the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) Office has been able to really reinforce the capacity of illiteracy and adult education at all levels. If we do not enhance literacy, it will be very difficult to achieve the real EFA figure. People will have to be able to read and write in order for them to be able to do so many things in life. So, for us the fact is that the federal, state and local governments are working with UNESCO and other UN agencies and partners. This shows that the government is aware of the magnitude of the situation and giving such an investment to UNESCO. And of course when you have the demography of Nigeria, we are bound to have such demand on education. You can also see poverty; so let the government intervene in the areas where access to quality education is a problem. However, in terms of policies, we believe that Nigeria has put in place policies that if well implemented should allow us see solution and progress in the nearest future.

Specifically, what are the challenges you are facing?

If for instance, you look at the North-East today, the problem of insecurity is really affecting access to education. Even if you have effective policy in place, the problem of insecurity is going to affect the delivery of the programme. This is what we are facing. Also, when you look at illiteracy, the insecurity in the North-East particularly the government has not been able to deliver properly on education programmes and the population is increasingly affecting sending children to school. This is a period of socio-political issues that might undermine education. This is a big challenge. Like I explained earlier, the government has allocated $6.4 million to ensure that at all levels, the capacity of the institutions to combat illiteracy problem on the ground is successful; but at the state level, even if everybody is trained with the fund allocated by the Federal Government, we are advocating that at the state level there will be investment and support in remunerating literacy facilitation, because the Federal Government funds are used to train the facilitators. Now, the states have to take their share to finance the remuneration of literacy facilitating. This an area where we are meeting challenges.

In order for the EFA goals to be achieved in Nigeria and to make the literacy package operational in addressing illiteracy and non-formal education, we want to encourage that all the state governments should invest in the remuneration of literacy facilitation. The fact that the Federal Government has trained facilitators should make the states and the local governments give open invitation to facilitators and say come and teach these people.

Also, we are advocating that the private sector has a role to play in investing in literacy and non-formal education at the local level. Take for instance, the telecommunication companies; they are making a huge profit; everybody is buying telephone, so this is generating funds for the telephone companies. Therefore, they should invest money to improve on education and literacy. Particularly, when youth and adult are literate you can use telephone and computers to teach them even if they cannot go to the education centres. We could use telephone, television and computers to teach and give distance education. This is why we are calling on the private sector to join hands with the federal, state and the local governments and see education as a social, national programme and policy.

UNESCO rates Nigeria as the country with the highest out-of-school children. Why, in your opinion, is this problem so critical here?

Like I said, we have to look at the demography. Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in Africa, and it belongs to the nine most populous countries in the world. So, when you look at the size of Nigeria, it is proportionally huge; therefore, the percentage the children take in the population is high. That is one fact. When you look at the northern part of the country, you see that the enrollment rate is very low. There are different factors responsible for this: the political, economic and cultural factors. The political factors justify why many children are out of school. I have also spoken about insecurity, poverty at the family level and the previous ineffective education policy. Even if we have schools everywhere and there is high insecurity, people are not going to go to school; they will drop out. And that is what is happening in the Chibok area, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa; and these are highly populated areas. On the issue of poverty, though some parents want to send their children to school, they rely on them (children) to contribute to agriculture so as to enable them contribute to the family’s livelihood. There are also some cultures which don’t see the importance of sending their children to school to a certain level. These are dimensions we have to consider in looking at how to deliver on quality education. Also, having considered these factors as what are responsible for the rate of out- of-school children in Nigeria, we will also have to mention the issue of birth rate. The birth rate is very high.

Having been privileged to know what obtains across other developing nations, what would you say Nigeria is not getting right in its approach to basic education?

To me, when you look at the education policy and documents, they are effective, but the problem is with extensive implementation and funding. We will like to advocate for improvement in implementation of the education policy because if the present policy is well funded and implemented, it will achieve more of the goals defined in the documents.

If you could change anything, what would you do differently?

I would rather go into advocacy in all the areas and look into access to quality education. I would also like to prioritise the areas, because when you look at the areas where you don’t need to convince parents to send their children to school, the kind of focus and concentration you are going to have there will be different from where you will have to convince parents. So, the first thing is that I would look at where we have huge statistics and focus more on these areas.

Also, I am going to advocate for distance learning, because where you cannot reach a certain population, you can make use of the ICT – which is part of our literacy programme in UNESCO for men and women. I will also implore the private sector to be involved more in literacy facilitation. There will also be a huge campaign on reading and writing and Mathematics.

UNESCO earlier 2014 in its Global Monitoring Report listed Nigeria among 37 countries losing money they are investing in education because the rate of learning taking place is not commensurate to the investment.

Could you in simple terms identify some factors responsible for this?

A lot of money is spent in Nigeria compared to other countries, but the result is not commensurate. One of the factors responsible for this is the problem between investing and spending. Most developing countries (including Nigeria) ‘spend on’ education more than they ‘invest in’ education. It is one thing to ‘invest in’ education and another thing is to ‘spend on’ education. To invest in education is to invest in the children in the school, the people who are teaching them and how comfortable and competent they are. However, spending on education is about buying new vehicles for the director of education or the minster.

Spending on education is right, but that should not take a toll on the outcome of the children in the classroom. If we are to invest in education in Nigeria, we need to get more teachers, train them better and get them equipped with new technology tools that are now adequate for teaching and put them on very high and effective teaching cadre. If you invest in the learner and the facilitators you are investing in education; but if you keep spending on travel allowances for education officials, then you are spending on education, which will not bring out an effective outcome.

Nigeria is also evidently carrying a heavy burden of adult illiteracy. Where can we begin to effectively address this problem?

First of all, the government has recognised the issue of adult illiteracy and the burden, and that is why it has provided some money to combat it. Now, the UNESCO’s role in that is to build capacities of institutions to be able to develop literacy policies and deliver qualitative education programmes; and that interest should spread across the three levels of governance of education. In Nigeria, education is tripartite. It is shared by the three levels of governance – federal, state and local. The states government are also expected to play their role in developing literacy and adult and non-formal education by providing learning standards, which are operational, and also ensure that the facilitators are well remunerated, so that they will continue go to these learning centres to train people to read and write and develop skills.

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