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According to (Awan et al. 2008), investment in education and health are essential for human capital development, economic growth and poverty reduction. The inter-relationship between education and poverty can be understood in two ways. Firstly, investment in education increases the skills and productivity of poor households. It enhances the wage level as well as the overall welfare of the population. Secondly, poverty may constitute a major constraint to educational attainment. This may be interpreted from three perspectives.

The very first one is from the resource-side where poverty may handicap the acquisition of learning and other pedagogic materials (see Awan et al. 2008). The second perspective is that poverty may generate social pressures which mutilate the mindset of poor students and lastly, (Bramley and Karley 2005) have shown that when poverty grabs an institution it deteriorates the teaching standards. It is documented in the literature that education and poverty are inversely related. The higher the level of education of the population the lesser will be the number of poor individuals because education impacts knowledge and skills which is supportive in higher wages (Tilak, 1994).

However, there is still a debate relating to the educational levels whether primary education is enough for poverty reduction or all educational levels (primary, secondary, higher and tertiary) have to be considered. Even the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) recommended by the World Bank focus upon primary education and the education of the girl child as a gateway out of poverty. In developing countries the social returns of primary education are much higher as compared to that of tertiary education (Colclough, 2005).


Perhaps, this may justify the provision of primary education at large scale in most developing countries by attributing a high proportion of public funds towards it. (King 2005) has argued that the agenda of the Millennium Development Goals or Universal Primary Education cannot be achieved by only universalizing primary education. Therefore the provision of primary education without giving right consideration to secondary and higher education will constrain development through absence of up-to-date curriculum, lack of skills in administrative posts and in management.

The formal education system in Nigeria is divided into four levels. There is pre-school education for children below the age of 6. This is not standardized or compulsory and could take between 1 and 3 years. Primary school education takes 6 years (primary 1 to primary 6). Secondary education is divided into two parts—junior secondary school and senior secondary school. Each part takes 3 years to complete. The fourth level is post secondary education which includes universities, polytechnics, and teaching colleges. Children between the ages 2 and 5 should be attending nursery school and kindergarten (pre-school), children ages 6 to 12 primary school, children ages 12 to 18 secondary school, and those above 18 post secondary school institutions. Realistically enrollment does not always follow the official schedule.

This distribution is the official standard, but there are children who enroll later or earlier. In addition, there is the Islamic education system practiced mostly in the Northern part of the country. The Islamic education is run by teachers and Muslim scholars. In the urban areas, children enter Quranic School at the age of 4 to learn to write and recite the Quran (Reichmuth 1989). Enrollment is a bit later in rural areas where children enroll at the age of 7 years (Reichmuth 1989). Islamic school is likely to be important since it provides basic literacy training.


The importance of education for a developing country like Nigeria cannot be over emphasized; government describes education as the bedrock of the development of the Nigerian state (FMINO 2007). Several efforts have been made by the government to ensure high enrollments rates especially at the primary school level. After the civil war ended in 1970, the government viewed education as a vehicle for rapid national development, achieving social change, and uniting a nation split by war (Csapo 1983). To this end, the Universal Primary Education (UPE) scheme was launched in September 1976 to provide primary education for everyone regardless of class or ethnicity (Csapo 1983). The UPE scheme led to a rapid increase in students’ enrollment from 6.2 million in 1975/76 session to 14.8 million in 1992, a 139 percent increase (Denga 2002). The UPE program was, however, not as successful as expected due to shortage of funds. The rapid growth in enrollment led to shortage of school buildings and teachers (Denga 2002). Some state governments decided to impose some of the cost on parents to meet the needs of students (Denga 2002).

In the mid-eighties, there was a renewed effort to ensure basic education for all which led to the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program. This was carried out nationwide from 1991-93 (Denga 2002). In Nigeria, basic education was equated with six years of primary schooling at the time and currently the concept is expected to also cover the three years of Junior Secondary School (Denga 2002). Despite the objectives of the UPE and UBE programs, there have been problems with funding education in the country. Though these programs were intended to provide free education up to a certain level, it is often true that the financial burden on the government forces parents to get involved in funding the basic level of education (Denga 2002).

As the cost of running education in the country increased, there have been more participation of the private sector in schooling and parents are bearing a substantial amount of the cost. According to Denga (2002), since most parents are poor, children remain poorly equipped to learn. There is also the problem of


access to school especially for children in rural areas where the learning facilities are most times far from their homes. Children in rural areas often walk for more than 2 kilometers from home to school and this can reduce the vitality of children and result in lateness, absenteeism and truancy (Denga 2002).

However, this research is therefore set to assess the impact of human capital development and poverty in Nigeria:


Poverty is a multifaceted concept, which manifests itself in different forms depending on the nature and extent of human deprivation. In absolute terms, poverty suggests insufficient or the total lack of basic necessities like food, housing and medical cares. It embraces the inadequacy of education and environmental services, consumer goods, recreational opportunities, neighbourhood amenities and transport facilities. In relative terms, people are poverty-stricken when their incomes fall radically below the community average (World Bank 2000). This implies that such people cannot have what the larger society regard as the minimum necessity for a decent living. In precision terms, the poor can be defined as follows:

•    Individuals and households lacking access to basic services, political contacts and other forms of support;

•  Households whose nutritional needs are not met adequately;

•      Ethnic minorities who are marginalized, deprived and persecuted economically, socially, morally, and politically; and

•    Individuals and households below the poverty line whose incomes are insufficient to provide for their basic needs (World Bank 2001) .

The Poverty situation is Nigeria is quite disturbing. Both the quantitative and qualitative measurements attest to the growing incidence and depth of poverty in the country. This situation however, presents a paradox considering


the vast human and physical resources that the country is endowed with. It is even more disturbing that despite the huge human and material resources that have been devoted to poverty reduction by successive governments, no noticeable success has been achieved in this direction.

The Human Development Report (UNDP, 1999) reveals that Nigeria is one of the poorest among the poor countries of the world. Nigeria ranks 54th with respect to the human poverty index (HPI) - making it the 20th poorest country in the world. It is also ranked 30th in gender related development index (GDI) while occupying 40th position from below in its human development index (HD1).

In any case, the question of whether an increase in education and health causes an increase in human capital development and poverty reduction is a basic concern for developmental economists. Universal access to education has been the prime target for Nigeria in the last four decades and Nigeria is a signatory of World Declarations on Education for all.

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