In 2015, Nigeria and other countries in the United Nations created a number of Sustainable Goals (SDGs) with the aim of achieving them by the year 2030.
The SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. However, 7 years down the line, Nigeria seems to be nowhere in achieving them.
For instance, goal 4 which is aimed at ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning
opportunities for all, is far from being achieved in Nigeria.
Admittedly, the Federal Government of Nigeria, last year said that the number of out-of-school children in the country dropped from 10.1 million to 6.946 million.
The government claimed that 3,154,000 children, who were not in school, were enrolled within the space of a year and seven months, due to several activities.
Unfortunately, recent statistics have shown that the children in school are not learning as 70% of them lack basic numeracy skills they should have at their age.
What Went Wrong?
One of the key factors in achieving the SDGs is the domestication and implementation of the Child Rights Act.
Child Rights are entitlements of a child as a human being. They are inalienable, universal, indivisible and interdependent.
They include: Right to dignity, Right to freedom from discrimination, Right to health and health services, Right of a child to free, compulsory and universal primary education, Right to parental care, protection and maintenance amongst others.
Even though 29 states in the country have domesticated the Child Rights Act, implementation still remains a problem.
UNICEF Nigeria Communication Specialist, Geoffrey Njoku has stressed that there was no way SDGs would be achieved without the implementation of those rights. “You cannot achieve SDGs without inclusion of Child Rights”, he said.
Another recurring factor is the lack of political will in advancing education as indicated in the country’s budgetary allocations.
The UNESCO Incheon Declaration recommends that the government commits 15% to 20% of its budget to education in order to reverse the trend of
decline in the sector; meaning the 2021 budget for education should have been in the region of N2.7 trillion, and not the N1.09trillion allocated.
The allocation to the Education sector in the 2021 budget was N771.5 billion (including the UBEC allocation) out of a total budget size of N13.58 trillion. This means that the sector got a 5.68% allocation.
However, according to the 2021 Education BudgIT Analysis titled “Education Fund: Leaving No Child Behind”, if TETFund (intervention funds for the tertiary institutions) allocation of N323.3 billion were included, then the total budget to the sector would have been N1.09 trillion, that is 8.6% allocation.
Another canker worm contributing to the learning crisis is the unavailability of teachers and presence of unqualified teachers at the basic foundation levels, where they matter most.
According to the 2019 UBEC (Universal Basic Education Commission) personnel audit data, a significant investment is needed to improve teaching staff’s skills in government-owned primary schools and junior secondary schools.
Out of the 594,653 primary school teachers in 2018, only 410,699 were qualified to teach, showing a gap in the quality of skilled personnel in the primary education system. It simply means that 69% of the
qualified teachers would have to impart knowledge into the gross enrolment of 22,384,755 in primary schools across the country.
UBEC places the shortage number of teachers at 280,000, especially at the public primary schools.
In Zamfara, the Education Board Chairman
complained bitterly about the lack of teachers in the state with pupils’ ratio to a teacher placed at 300:1. It is the same situation in most schools in remote areas in Nigeria, where teachers’ shortage has led to the pupils’ lack of interest in education.
Regrettably, majority of the teachers available, see teaching as a means to an end; they are just out to earn a living rather than being passionate in transferring knowledge to the next generation.
They may also be incompetent as they may have been recruited with bias (nepotism), as stated by the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu.
He added that qualified teachers started from having sound lecturers at the Colleges of Education who would impart knowledge to the students – who then become graduate teachers then transfer the same knowledge to the primary school pupils across the country.
Primary education is the foundation of all forms of Education, and if it is not well laid, the damage will lead to having half-educated graduates who cannot write a formal letter nor understand simple
arithmetic. While the qualified teachers are without jobs, unqualified teachers are getting the jobs with its effects seen with the increase in illiteracy.
Research findings have consistently shown that the most important factor that influences students’ learning outcomes is the teacher.
How teachers receive their initial training significantly affects the way they teach, their effectiveness in the classroom and their career-long commitment to the teaching profession.
Can Nigeria Meet the SDG Target? Experts Opinion
Expressing optimism, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, while fielding questions on the possibility of achieving the SDGs told newsmen in New York that the goals were achievable.
She said with sustained investments and political will, developing countries could achieve the SDGs in spite of high debt profiles, mass illiteracy, poor health infrastructure, COVID-19 and poor performance in child rights.
She therefore, urged leaders in developing countries to deliver on their commitments in achieving the SDGs.
In contrast, the Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi expressed doubt as to whether Nigeria would achieve the SDG targets by 2030.
He said: “it appears that the United Nations doesn’t even care about how governments go about achieving these programs because what Nigeria did during Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is enough for them to get a number of sanctions but they take Doctors and Professors’ reports here and there and submit to the committee in charge of MDGs and then we are back to SDGs. It’s the same story over and over, 2030 will come and we would see we are back to square one”, the CHRICED boss said.
Remedy To The Learning Crisis
With the required commitment, achieving the SDGs with regards to education will be a walk in the park.
Topping the list of remedial measures to be taken is increasing the percentage of funds allotted to education and beyond increasing budgetary allocation to the sector, there was need for strict monitoring to ensure that the funds are prudently utilised to have a direct impact on the education system.
Others include: continuous professional development for teachers, migration from project-based to programme-based teaching approach, introduction of digital and blended approach of learning to upset the impact of Covid-19, inclusion of community engagement strategies to ensure accountability.
Experts also suggested the introduction of uniform salaries across all Ministries and Agencies to encourage enrolment of best brains in the education sector.
The future of the Nigerian child remains bleak unless all hands are on deck to fight the illiteracy monster.