- Jamal Baig
Faults in Africa’s Up-and-Coming: Education in Nigeria
Despite Nigeria accounting for under 3% of the global population, almost 20% of school-less children reside in Nigeria. As Africa’s rising regional giant, Nigeria’s huge young population offers a chance to invigorate society. However, one challenge looms above all: making sure that this population is educated. With over 206 million people, a large percentage of its population are young people. The Nigerian average age is just over 18, compared to the USA’s 38.1 years. However, Nigeria faces huge hurdles in its education. As with many other developing countries, Nigeria struggles with educating its population: although public primary education is obligatory nationwide, 10.5 million children are not in school.
Analyzing the trends between geography, gender, and school attendance reveals large disparities across the country. In the Northern states, strong political and cultural factors discourage school attendance. UNICEF reports that in the northwestern states, female school attendance stands at a meek 47.3 percent. In addition to these states being poorer on average, many of these students (35% in the northwestern states) attend Islamic schools instead of regular schools to learn the Qur’an. Since these students do not learn other skills such as math and learning other languages, the Nigerian government considers these students as out-of-school.
Northeastern Nigeria's incessant insurgencies also threaten school attendance for boys and girls alike. UNICEF reports that in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, almost 500 classrooms have been destroyed and almost 1,400 have been damaged (but still salvageable), while 800 schools have closed. This has created a dangerous situation where children are unable to attend school while also having to navigate violent insurgencies. Urgent action is needed to make sure that schools are reopened and both sides take steps to protect the need to educate the rising generation.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is struggling to improve its education system. Education spending remains woefully low, and the COVID pandemic has only exacerbated issues with school attendance. In a recent statement, UNICEF and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in Nigeria stated that Nigeria was unlikely to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 by 2030. SDG 4 promises to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and provide lifelong learning opportunities for all”, and is one of the 16 goals the UN has set developing countries to aim for.
Although Nigeria has a long way to go, it still has made considerable progress. Compared to the rest of the region, Nigeria leads West Africa in terms of literacy among young women and school attendance in early childhood, among other metrics. As Africa’s powerhouse, Nigeria is already showcasing its incredible talent its young population boasts. Making education a priority will only benefit its population.