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Out of School Children: Is Nigeria Seating on A Ticking Time Bomb In The South?

January 16, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Written by Tolu Okunade

This is the final article of a two-part piece that hopes to shed light on two key aspects the Minister of Education needs to pay attention to: the number of out of school children in the North and those who fail to get into tertiary institutions on their first attempt in the South. This piece focuses on Southern Nigeria as well as proffers recommendations on how to tackle this problem in both parts of the Country.

Did you know?

In 2019, data from the Joint Admissions Matriculations Board (JAMB) shows that two-thirds of about two million Nigerian candidates who applied for tertiary education in 2019 were not admitted. In clearer terms, two in three students did not gain admission.

Of the two million students who sat for the examinations, just a little above 1.7 million scored 140 and above, the official cut-off. Nonetheless, beating the cut-off is not enough for admission as students are required to have at least five O Level credits, which must include mathematics and English in some cases. This data shows that 1.2 million students beat the cut-off mark of 140, had five O Level credits, including mathematics and English, but half of them were admitted.

Why did this happen? The answer is simple: there is not enough room for all of them. While about two million students applied for the Unified Tertiary and Matriculation Examinations and Direct Entry, the country’s institutions had a target of 600,000, but they ended up admitting 612,557 as of June 2020.

The admission data released by JAMB shows that the nation’s universities admitted a total of 444,947 students; polytechnics and monotechnics, 96,423; colleges of education 69,810; and innovation enterprise institutions, 1,377.

Did you know?

According to the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed at an interactive dialogue commemorating the International Day of Education at the United Nations Headquarters in New York last year, there are 172 universities in Nigeria. 79 are privately owned, largely by churches, some by Muslim organisations and by individuals. Still, we do not have enough room.

Can we not see it? There is an alarming margin between the number of students our schools turn out and the number of those who get into the university on their first attempt. While a few go ahead to make their second, third and fourth attempts, there are hundreds of thousands more who do not. What do our children do in that period? Aren’t we interested? Idle hands are the devil’s workplace; it has been said.

Here would be my recommendations.

For the Almajiris, it’s time to do less talking and start acting. For a nation that talks too much, we do far less. The Federal Government needs to intervene by giving funding. Yes, we know the government’s focus is to feed school children, but if we do not take care of the Almajiris, we might not have school children to feed as a nation anymore. If the Federal Government can’t, then the State Governments should because it directly affects them. While I know that funds might be a problem (because to fund schools such as those might cost a pretty penny), then these governments should reach out to Northern Elders and Influential Members of the Northern Community to help.

As a matter of national urgency, we need to have a total overhaul of the current Nigerian Educational Curriculum. Our curriculum needs to be accommodating to other forms of learning other than formal education. We must make expand the tenets of our current curriculum to accommodate and teach creative learning and education, basic level tech skills and artistry. We need to evolve from traditional methods of teaching and begin to look for ways to nurture talent. A good way to do so is creating specialized tertiary institutions for people with these gifts.

Next, I think the government needs to find what exactly to do to keep these children busy. A free nationwide yearlong tutorial (for those who wish to the university and do make it on their initial attempt) would be a perfect fit. For those who wish to end up as artisans or creatives, they need to organize a Nigeria is the most populous black nation on the earth with over 180 million people and while I know that providing paid employment for all its school graduates might be an issue, giving them a head start in life should not be. That is what these trainings would do.

This would also help reduce the rate of unemployment in the country because whose destinies are to become entrepreneurs wouldn’t even bother attempting to go the university. They would be able to face their businesses squarely and give room for those whose dreams and aspirations require a university education.

To add, I know a few parents would be surprised to hear this, but not every student who leaves secondary school needs to go to a University to succeed. Trying to force them into one is unnecessary. The currency of the next generation is talent and we must not fail to discover, nurture and harness it. When you force a child with a special gift into a normal tertiary institution, more often than not, these kids end up unfulfilled and drops out in pursuit of their passion. Since we do not have enough room for those seeking admission, his/her admission in the first place has hindered one or more person who needed the slot to succeed. I hope parents can realize this soon enough.  

I’d close this piece with a quote from Albert Einstein:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

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