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1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
At the dawn of the year 2002, Nigeria is still uncertain where it is going. In other words, her destination is still unknown. Nigerians has blamed the woes of Nigeria, and in particular that of the educational sector, to many years of military misrule. There is the common feeling that the military neglected the universities because of their opposition to military rule. But with the re-emergence of civil rule the nation’s educational institutions are still in shambles today, with university professors still not being paid on time. (Some may argue that the universities have started to claw their way back to normalcy with the reprise of civil rule – not democracy. See Bollag Feb 1, 2002). But that remains to be seen and the society is also being rocked by labor unrests prompted by nonpayment of salaries, among other factors. The latest strike action was the police, which the federal government branded ‘an act of mutiny’ (The Guardian On-line Feb 2, 2002; also see Chiahemen, Reuters Feb 2, 2002). If strictly speaking, there are no such things as democracy in Nigeria, it is because its past as well as its present history has become so interwoven into crises, which has often the common man in constant struggle for survival. But for the riches and powerful corrupt politicians, things are very rosy. The role of the ordinary person in Nigeria in the making of democracy is, generally speaking, not regarded or not known at all, after casting his or her vote. And often the positive contributions of the people who struggles, and are still struggling, for the sustenance of democracy in the society have escaped the eyes of those who managed to rig their way into political offices.
This is a terrible deviation from the norm. Nigeria is suffering terrible for that, with socio-political and economic crises strewn all over the society like a straw hut in a typhoon. This project attempts to bring into public domain this state of education in Nigeria, and its effect on the polity. With facts, judgement and understanding of the issues facing the nation, the paper argues that the survival of Nigeria as a viable society will depend on the health of her education institutions, and how well the professors and support staff are treated. It portrays the state of education in Nigeria as a public health issue.
EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: A PUBLIC-HEALTH ISSUE
The role of education in the development of a society has been vastly documented in academic journals, and we do not intend to revisit it here. This section will concentrate on the need for Nigerian leaders to pay close attention to the needs of the educational sector, and treat it as a public-health issue, because the sociopolitical and economic development of a nation and (or her health) is, in many ways, determined by the quality and level of educational attainment of the population. Political leaders should take politics out of education, as the continued neglect of this sector would lead to social paralysis. The youth should be given the appropriate quality academic training and an environment that would enable them to reach their full potential. Nigeria has toilet with some educational programs, which have only served as conduits to transfer money to the corrupt political leaders and their cronies. For instance, the nation launched the Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1976, but as noted, the program failed due to lack of fund necessitated by corruption, among other factors. Nigeria has again launched another mass-oriented education program, this time branding it the Universal Basic Education (UBE).
The President, Olusegun Obasanjo, declared during the launching of the program in Sokoto that the nation ‘cannot afford to fail this time around.” However, not long after that, the federal government reported that the falling standard of education in Nigeria is caused by “acute shortage of qualified teachers in the primary school level.” It is reported that about 23 percent of the over 400,000 teachers employed in the nation’s primary schools do is the minimum educational requirement one should possess to teach in the nation’s primary schools (Ogbeifum and Olisa; The Vanguard Online, July 1, 2001. If one may ask: with the troubling revelations of the shortage and “half-baked” teachers employed to teach in the nation’s schools,
. How are we certain the current UBE program will be successful?
· Has the government trained the required number and quality of teachers needed to successfully implement the program?
· Are teachers going to be motivated to perform their duties well?
· Are the classrooms and seats ready, or are the pupils going to sit on bare floor?
· Are the books and other teaching materials ready?
This writer has noted elsewhere that to improve the standard of education in Nigeria, the society has to first educate the educators, and motivate them to perform their duties well (Dike, July 14, 2000). But the leaders do not seem to want to listen. However, the UNICEF in it’s ‘state of the world’s children’ report for 1999’ pointed out that about four million Nigerian children have no access to basic education, and that majority of those that are ‘lucky’ to enter schools are given sub-standard education (Akhaine, Jan 10, 1999). Today, there are about 48,242 primary schools with 16,796,078 students in public schools and 1,965,517 in private schools in Nigeria. In addition, Nigeria has 7,104 secondary schools with 4,448,981 students (The Guardian, May 6, 1999; and Dike, 2001). Most of these schools are in dilapidating states. This shows that Nigeria has a wired value system: it is a society where priorities are turned to their heads. For instance, the salaries of the less educated local government counselors rate higher than that of university professors; it is a place where well known rouge, a 419 person, is applauded for donating money to local communities and churches; it is a place where nobody cares about how one makes his/her money; it is a place where the roads leading to million dollar homes are filled with potholes; and the society is a place where the streets in capital cities are littered with hips of thrash. And cares! Something is obviously wrong with any society that does not take her educational institutions seriously. Nevertheless, the increased need for higher education during the oil boom of the 1970s in Nigeria, coupled with political pressure, led to the establishment of many universities in the society and ‘an explosive in enrolments’ during this period marked the beginning of ‘the decline in quality’ of education in the society. In two decades, the number of university students increased eightfold, from about 55,000 in 1980 to more than 400,000 today (Bollag, Feb 1, 2002, A40). Now Nigeria has about 36 private universities have been approved and registered by the federal government. They are: Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State; Babcock University; Igbinedion University, Okada; and Madonna University (Oladeji, August 2, 2001).As the tradition of corruption persists, the public tertiary institutions have been left to rot away.Some of the loans received from the World Bank toward education during the 1990s were used to purchase unnecessary, and “expensive equipment” that “could not be properly installed or maintained, and many institutions received irrelevant and useless books and journals” (Bollag, Feb 1, 2002, A40). All these, including ubiquitous corruption, have contributed to the decline in the quality of instruction in Nigeria’s educational institutions that were ones highly regarded. With the news of corruption still filling the pages of Nigeria newspapers and magazines, the apparent war on corruption in the society seem an impossible task, since those wagging the corruption-war are themselves as corrupt as a parrot. Although, Nigeria’s educational institutions in general are in dire need, the most troubled of the three tiers is the primary education sector. The recent statistics on primary education available to this writer shows that there are about 2,015 primary schools in Nigeria with no building of any type. Classes are held under trees. The quality of lectures conducted under such an inhuman condition would not be anything to be proud of. With this dismal statistics the government is still in the habit of allocating less money to the educational sector. If Nigeria’s allocation to education is compared with that of other less affluent societies in Africa, the picture becomes more discouraging.
One can only get what he or she has ordered! Nigeria has to change her value system and invest on education, which is the intellectual laboratory of any nation and the engine that propels the economy. It has been noted that ‘without a formidable intellectual base’ it is not likely that any society would move forward (Anya, June 2001).For that the success of any democratic system (which Nigeria now fiddles with) depends on the individual’s ability to analyze problems and make thoughtful decisions. And democracy, it has been argued, thrives on the productivity of its diverse constituency – a productivity fostered by free, critical, and creative thought on issues of common interest. But democratic values are nurtured on the fertile ground of basic education – a functional education with the right focus and correct scope (Marzano, et al, 1988). With everybody chasing the shadow of money, and with the pittance sum invested yearly on education, how could the system produce the critical and creative minds Nigeria needs to guide and manage democracy system and survive as a viable nation? If the society continues to neglect her schools, it could not educate her citizens.
Consequently, the political landscape would be littered with illiterate politicians, and the society would be incapable of gathering and maintaining a reasonable database for national planning and other development programs. To avoid this, the political leaders should begin now to re-order their priorities, as their priorities have so far been dictated by how much they will gain from any policy decision (by ways of contracts), and not how they will benefit the society as a whole. Thus lack of good education and unemployment in Nigeria would contribute to many social ills, including crime, prostitution, and break down in law and order. For this, the society should invest more on the youth, and educate them to differentiate rights from wrong before they become adults. As Rousseau has noted: “People, like men [and women are] amenable only when they are young; in old age they become incorrigible. Once [bad habits] and customers are established and prejudices ingrained, it is a dangerous and futile enterprise to try to reform them; the people cannot bear to have the diseases treated, even in order to destroy it, like those stupid and fearful patients who tremble at the sight of the physician” (Rousseau – trans. By Betts; 1994, p. 80).
Therefore, to move forward the government should adopt necessary policies to destroy the current bad value system in the society, and create conducive environment that would enable the educational institutions to engage in healthy competitions, raise funds through private donations and grants, and attract and retain qualified students financially positioned to pay tuitions. (Higher education in Nigeria should not be free. If one would pay for any service, one could afford to complain, or move to an institution where he/she should get the money’s worth of service. This, however, does not mean that diplomas should be sold to the highest bidder. Also the universities should develop a system whereby students could transfer to schools of their choice (and change their major) if they are qualified, without it adversely impacting their studies. And university admissions should be based strictly on merit, without ethnically and state-based criteria, which have unfortunately colored the system). All these are not available in system currently. If these suggestions are implemented they would, among other things, help the institutions of higher learning to prepare grounds for more intense academic competition, and to attract better quality teachers by “rebuild [ing] a culture of scholarship which has been eroded by under funding” so as to motive them to be more productive (Bollag, Feb 1, 2002, A40). And any institution that cannot survive should allowed to wither. Improving the condition of things in this sector would pave the way to the nation’s prosperity. It is known (at least in the developed world) that education determines, not only earning capacity, but also the very quality of human life (even longevity has relationship to education). In a society that appreciates educated class, those with good education tend to earn higher incomes; they also are in a reduce risks in life and change their behaviour. As Davies noted, confidence, self-reliance, and adaptability are all earmarks of advanced education (Davies, Nov. 30, 2001, B16 – B17).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Achievement of the goals of secondary education largely depends in the positive dedication to academic work by students and instructional performance of teachers. The continuous existence of the problem of poor academic performance in external examinations, dropout, absenteeism, lateness, and drug abuse among secondary school students is a major task facing educational Administrators. Presently, statistics showed a good percentage increase in the number of quality teachers in secondary schools in Nigeria.
Criminal records also revealed that most of those involved are wither dropouts or students on school uniform but divert from school for other criminal activities. From the experience of the researcher as a secondary school Mathematics teacher, 70% of students involved in continuous absenteeism dropout of school. Also lateness leads to absenteeism. Analytically, the problem of lateness leads to absenteeism, which results in dropout.
These unending problems of dropout, poor academic performance and increase in youth involvement in crimes call for the following questions. What are the causes of male dropouts among secondary school students in Nigeria? Comparatively, many uneducated people, in general, have myriad bad habits that cause or lead to illness. For instance, they can smoke or drink more than it is necessary, and tend to have more children. (As this writer noted during his recent trip to Nigeria, some of the less educated and unemployed villagers have about eight or more children. And they are proud of that – but the children are suffering. Many of them drink and eat whatever that is offered to them without limitation and cognizant of the health consequences). Higher education could be an important part in the solutions to the ills of the society.
As noted earlier, how much a nation progresses has a lot to do with the quality of education and educational attainment of its citizens. That’s why Nigeria should build and maintain good schools and treat the sordid state of educational crisis in society more especially at the rate which our male folks drop out from schools.
1) To what extent has financial hardship contributed to the causes of male dropout from secondary schools?
2) To what extent has geographical area influenced male dropout?
3) To what extent has teachers attitude and school environment influenced male dropout?
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