The Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, Mr. Alex Okoh has called for total reform of the education sector in Nigeria.
He stated this while delivering the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 15th edition of the Total School Support Seminar and Exhibition, TOSSE, organized by Edumark Consult, held on Thursday in Lagos.
The event was themed: ‘Transforming Education Across Borders’.
According to him, education is the foundation upon which societies strive, having an important role in economic, social development, wealth creation and political stability and that explains why the Bureau of Public Enterprises is about to embark on the critical mission of partnering with key stakeholders to reform Nigeria’s education system.
“It is pertinent to note that in contrast to the economic stagnant attained in the 1970s and 80s, the Nigeria education system has witness the gradual decline over the years, this has been due to a number of challenges including funding, poor educational facilities and infrastructure deficit among others,” he said.
He explained that the significant challenge for the education sector in Nigeria is the lack of adequate funding.
“Nigeria is yet to allocate UNESCO prescribed minimum of 16 to 26 percent of the annual national budget to the education sector for instance in the past 8 years, budgetary allocation to the sector has moved around 5.9 to 10.7 percent.
“In 2016. 10.7%, 2017 6% 2018 7.1%, 2019 5.9%, 2020 6.7%, 2021 5.6%, the lowest in 10 years, 2022 7.9% and the current principal expenditure estimate is 8.2% spent on education.
This is an average annual of 7.2% over the past 8 years which is less than 50 percent of the minimum prescribed by UNESCO,” he explained.
Okoh further pointed that Poor educational facilities existing especially at tertiary level both public and private are grossly inadequate when compared to the number of candidates seeking admission every year.
“In the last 7 years over 1.6million candidates are consistently seeking admission but only between 400,000 and 600,000 are offered admission annually due to limited spaces in tertiary institutions.”
DG said infrastructure deficit in schools is worrisome, many of the available classrooms are not conducive for learning, there are also insufficient laboratories and ICT equipment and high percentage of teachers are either not qualified or lack requisite teaching skills.
“It took COVID-19 to have a reality check on the level of ICT infrastructure especially in Nigeria public schools, basically all of the schools were unable to provide virtual learning capabilities for students. The impact of this challenge can be seen and indeed felt seriously in recent times,” he said.
He explained further: “Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world, with a population of over 200 million and an average annual rate of population change of approximately 2.6 percent.
“It means that every year additional 26 million people are added to the educationally challenged in Nigeria, the majority of the country’s population, that is up to 60 percent is under the age of 25, the indication is that up to 6% of the population if not more have been deny access to quality education which according to the expert is required for the sustainable growth of any economy.
“Furthermore, a recent survey conducted by the United Nations indicated that the population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5million to 13.2million, the highest in the world. It also estimates that one in every five of the world out of school children is in Nigeria,” he added.
The DG also disclosed that experts have found a correlation between insecurity, terrorism and restiveness in countries with higher illiteracy rate.
“It is also no coincidence that Nigeria, with the rising illiteracy rate has been classified in the lower middle income group in the World Bank human capital index, has one of the lowest ratings.
“Gross primary school enrolment is 23% which is lower than the regional average, gross secondary enrolment is 44%, regional average is 48% while the income group average is 70%. However gross tertiary enrolment is 12% which is higher than the regional average level but lower than the income regional average of 24 percent.
“Therefore, except the education sector is reformed, the guiding principles of education in Nigeria, which is to equip every citizens with top knowledge skills, attitude and values to enable him or her derive maximum benefit from his or her membership of society, live a fulfilling life and contribute to the development and welfare of the community may not be achieved.
He said some countries have embarked on the reform of their education sectors having understood the immense benefit this will bring to other sectors of their economy, in particular China, India, Malaysia, who experienced significant challenges have carried out successful reforms or are in the process of successfully implementing reforms and the impact are there for everyone to see.
“That is why we are passionate in the Bureau of Enterprises to engage in this reform programmes,” he further explained.
On the way forward for Nigeria, the DG said reform is the key and BPE is really working on this.
“The BPE, was established under the Public Enterprises Act of 1999 and it is statutory agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria mandated to carry out sectoral reforms, the bureau has over the years successfully reformed telecommunication sector, some of the other sector include banking, power sector, and of course the pension sector in addition to others.
He listed the objectives of the proposed education sector reform to include a sustainable public model for education at all levels which will be implemented through appropriate instruments among the Federal and sub national government; it will improve education delivery systems across levels; achieve optimal and equitable access at the different levels of education and increase the quality of teachers in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions by ten percent annually.
Others include; to produce graduates that are internationally competitive above skills levels of education; ensure that curricular are relevant to the needs of the nation and modern society and to obtain top positions in the ranking of universities in Africa and beyond.
While the previous challenges faced in the education sector in Nigeria is seem extremely taunting, it is crucial to recognise the opportunities that lie ahead because “Nigeria possesses immense potential for educational transformation by leveraging these opportunities, we can create a brighter future for generations to come.
“Development in technology offer exciting prospects for education across borders, the wide availability of the internet, mobile devices and online platforms has the potential to revolutionize learning.
“E- Leaning platforms can reach even the most remote areas providing access to educational resources and fostering lifelong learning.
Embracing digital tools and leveraging technology will enable us to overcome geographical limiitations across borders. This should facilitate an increase in the gross enrolment ratio as well as providing an alternative mode of quality education.
“In addition, Nigeria has a unique opportunity to incorporate indigenous knowledge and cultural diversity into our education systems, by celebrating our diversity we can foster a sense of identity, pride and belonging among learners. This approach for multi-cultural understanding tolerance and global citizenship, preparing students for the challenges, opportunities of the 21st century.
“Collaboration is another key opportunity we must sit on. We should collaborate with schools and policy makers across the globe, share best practices, exchange educational resources and establishing partnerships to enhance the quality of education,” he stated.
The DG said the challenges and transforming education across borders in Nigeria and Africa are significantly inter related and by addressing accessibility, quality of education, teacher quality, educational inequality and funding challenges, “we can create an enabling environment for learners.
“Embracing technological advancements, celebrating diversity and offering collaboration can be a successful recipe for bridging the gap,” he said.
Congratulating the organisers of TOSSE, Okoh said the team at Edumark Consult as they host the fifteen edition of the TOSSE, with over 7000 attendees each year, showed the initiative represents 15 years of passionate committed impactful support of the education sector by creating a platform for all stakeholders to interact, discuss pertinent issues and device creative solutions for current challenges in the sector.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Principal Consultant and Covener of TOSSE, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde said the aim was to bring together educators, school administrstors, policy makers and education enthusiasts from across the globe to learn from each other, exchange ideas and experiences, and explore new and innovative ways to improve education.
“Since inception, the Total School Support Seminar and Exhibition has been dedicated to fostering collaboration and creativity, and to promoting excellence in education.
“We believe that every student deserves access to quality education, and that every educator deserves the tools and responses they need to help their students succeed.”
Ogunde added that attendees will have the opportunity to learn, network and have the chance to explore new technologies, resources, and solutions that are transforming the education landscape.
“Let us work together to create a brighter future for education, one that benefits all students and educators, and elevates the entire education industry, “she added.
Over 30 exhibitors were at the two-day event with several participants which cut across stakeholders in the education sector.
Participants commended the organisers for the event which they said has helped shaped the education sector over the years.