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Nigeria Must Once Again Make Education A Priority

The West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) has just released the results of the May/June 2014 senior school certificate examination.  As was the case last year, mass failure was recorded by Nigerian students.  Only 31.28 percent of the students who sat for the 2014 exam obtained credits in five subjects and above, including Mathematics and English Language.

No one who has been observing the ongoing attitude towards education in Nigeria will be surprised by this.  In the past year alone, industrial action by teachers have dominated the news headlines.  Primary school teachers in Benue State, for example, embarked on an eight-month strike to demand better conditions and allowances.  Teachers all over Nigeria remain poorly paid, with several jokes being peddled about how parents are reluctant to allow their daughters marry teachers.

In addition to poor welfare, teachers in the northeast of Nigeria face a peculiar challenge not common to their colleagues in other parts of the country: security.  The National Union of Teachers (NUT) reports that the organization has so far lost about 173 of their members to Boko Haram terrorist attacks.  Sadly, with the Nigerian government not yet able to adequately protect citizens from these random attacks, that number could easily increase.

There is also the issue of competence of Nigerian teachers.  Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State recently lost his seat in a re-election bid with poll results that sent shock waves across the nation owing to his well-publicised record of high performance.  One of the reasons political analysts have given for why the people of Ekiti rejected Fayemi is his attempt to improve the quality of teachers in the state by putting each of them through competency tests.  Any employer in Nigeria today knows how challenging it can be to hire staff from the current pool of Nigerian graduates, and trust them to perform excellently without first putting them through additional training.  Our country’s educational institutions are clearly not providing quality learning. Our teachers need to be taught.

This situation is a new development—of the past 10 years or so.  The steady decline of education in Nigeria is a reflection of our country’s relegation of education to the background of national essentialities.  That is where the change must begin.

Teachers are important—as important as senators and doctors.  Indeed, teachers determine the quality of senators and doctors.  And so, the entire country stands to suffer the effects of this neglect in future.

Nigeria must once again make education a priority.  We must return to the basics.

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