The United Kingdom has poured millions into Nigerian school, but an independent group found that money has failed to improve education in the country.
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact concluded in a recent report that:
[The government’s] education programme in Nigeria operates in a very challenging environment, with too few effective teachers, poor infrastructure and unpredictable State funding, all contributing to poor learning outcomes for pupils in basic education. Our review indicates no major improvement in pupil learning. Expectations continue to be modest with no likelihood of Nigeria meeting its Millennium Development Goal for primary education.”
The United Kingdom has already given £102 million (about $162 million) across 10 Nigerian states. Another £126 million (about $200 million) is pledged through 2019, according to the BBC.
A spokesperson for the UK’s Department for International Development told the BBC that report had a narrow focus, but the department would “carefully review the report’s recommendations and respond in due course.”
"When you walk in to [a university admissions] office, they tell you, ‘Go and get a note from a senator. Go and bring a note from a minister, or some director or go bring 150,000 [Nigerian naira]. A poor man like me. What do you expect me to do? I don’t know anybody. I don’t have money."
— Hamzat Lawal, a political science student at Nigeria’s University of Abuja quoted in the Global Post. With too few seats for all the students who want to go to college in Nigeria, bribes to universities are becoming a de facto part of the admissions process. It took Lawal four years to get into school, despite getting passing grades on college admissions tests.
Protests are still raging in Nigeria, set off by by the removal of a government fuel subsidy on Jan. 1. The country’s government has paid billions every year to lower the cost of fuel for its citizens. On the first day of the new year, it ended the practice and the price more than doubled overnight.
The government is now saying that it will invest the money it spent on the fuel subsidy on things like infrastructure, healthcare and education. Schools across Nigeria are currently closed due to the protests. But in the meantime, All Africa questions if the removal of the subsidy will hurt education before it can help:
Parent Sunday Ade says he thinks the removal of fuel subsidy is a good initiative, but Nigerians do not trust the government to fulfill their promises. He said the removal of petrol subsidies would affect his ability to properly care for his children.
“If my salary or income does not increase and my expenses more than double, how do you think it would not affect my children? If you go to higher institutions the facilities are not there. Instead they are all going about establishing their own private schools so their own children would remain on top and less privileged children would remain at the bottom.”
A blog posted today on Nigeria’s Daily Times argues that a growing economic divide between rich and poor, coupled with the rise of private education and deterioration of the public schools, has left the country with a largely overlooked “education apartheid.”
The author paints a bleak picture of the public schools that rich families flee in favor of higher quality private schools and poor students are stuck in, noting that, among other things, 25 percent of teachers aren’t even qualified to teach according to the Universal Basic Education Commission.
Blaming dictator Ibrahim Babangida and cuts he made public education, the blog details how schools in the country were not always in such a sorry state and argues that the government is neglecting its constitutional promises to students, concluding:
The options before our rulers are stark and clear. They can continue down the path of “separate development” in which the best facilities are available to a tiny few, and be prepared to reap the whirlwind when the resentment and tensions reach boiling point. Or they can remember their constitutional obligations and invest in our public schools and create adequate educational opportunities for all according to merit and not ability to pay. UNESCO insists that at least 7% of GDP should be allocated to education. Neither UNESCO nor the World Bank knows what percentage of its GDP Nigeria spends on education. We need to increase public spending in education to recruit more teachers in public schools, offer them decent terms and conditions in order to attract better calibre recruits, invest in their training, improve the infrastructure, build more schools and equip them adequately.
We can’t afford to continue to leave the future of the economically disadvantaged majority of Nigerians in the hands of semi-literate, disinterested teachers in environments that are woefully inadequate for learning. That would be a recipe for disaster.