The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently disclosed that 75 per cent of children aged seven to 14 years in Nigeria could not read a simple sentence or solve basic mathematics problem. The unacceptable development underlines the poor quality of teaching and learning at the basic education level. The Representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Ms Cristian Munduate, stated this to mark the 2023 International Day of Education.

The Day, which is marked annually on January 24, is set aside by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to celebrate the role of education for peace and development. The UNGA is convinced that without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind. This year’s Day is dedicated to all the girls and women in Afghanistan, who have been denied their right to learn, study and teach.

With the theme of this year’s Day, “Invest in People, Prioritise Education,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) calls on countries to maintain strong political mobilisation around education and chart the way to translate commitments and global initiatives into action. It also believes that education must be prioritised to accelerate progress towards all the Sustainable Development Goals against the backdrop of a global recession, growing inequalities and the climate crisis.

It urges President Muhammadu Buhari to adopt proactive measures to improve access to education in the country. Some of its recommendations to Nigeria include, reducing the number of out-of-school children by providing safe, secure and violence-free learning environments both in formal and non-formal settings. It also wants the government to engage communities on the importance of education and providing cash transfers to households and schools.

The occasion also calls for improvement in learning outcomes by expanding access to quality early childhood education, scaling up foundational literacy and numeracy programmes, and offering digital skills and, life and employability skills to adolescents to enable the school to work transition. UNICEF is also encouraging increase in domestic spending on education to meet the 20 per cent global benchmark by 2030 and to address the infrastructure and teaching backlog that are affecting all children’s access to inclusive and quality education. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s annual budget for education has hovered between five and seven per cent in recent times. We are yet to reach the 15 per cent benchmark agreed by African leaders in Abuja some years ago or the 20 per cent suggested by some education experts.

Related News

The rising number of Nigerian children who could neither read nor solve basic mathematics problem is alarming. It calls for urgent action to address the ugly development. While the funding of education is not prioritised by the federal and sub-national governments, the situation is worse at the basic education level, where many of the schools do not have adequate number of teachers, libraries, and classrooms.

Having more trained and highly qualified teachers at this level of education can go a long way in improving the quality of instruction. Let more teachers be recruited in all the primary and basic education schools across the country to boost the quality of education. The recent recruitment of 5,000 teachers by Anambra State government is a good development. We enjoin other states to emulate the Anambra example.

Since basic education is the foundation for any country’s future, we enjoin the state governments to pay premium attention to this level of education in terms of funding and provision of teaching aids. Nigeria cannot achieve the desired social and economic development without improving the quality of teaching and learning at the basic education level.

That is why the growing number of Nigerian children outside the school system represents a present danger. These children can easily be recruited for terrorism and other criminal activities by terror groups. Therefore, the government must come up with concrete plans to reduce Nigeria’s out-of-school children put at over 20 million by increasing access to basic education. The federal and state governments are advised to adequately fund education, especially at the basic level. No doubt, education is critical to the development of the country. That is why everything must be done to give it priority attention.