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Youth Day: Transforming the education sector

Monday, 12 August 2019


August 12 is a day set aside yearly to celebrate the International Youth Day (IYD), and expectedly, burning issues that concern young people are brought to the fore. The theme for this year – Transforming education - is so appropriate given the present state of the education sector in the world’s most populous black nation. It’s high time the government took a critical look at how to improve our system of education, reviewing the curricula to ensure education received is relevant, providing conducive learning environment with modern facilities, motivating and training the teachers, and implementing policies that will generally raise the fallen standard of education in the country. Another issue of great concern is the need to reduce the notoriously high number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

Even though August 12 is a public holiday in Nigeria and we are in a festive mood, it would be wisdom for us to add cerebration to our celebration. If we truly desire the greatness of this country, we really need to think seriously about the future of our young ones who are often referred to as the leaders of tomorrow. The pertinent question is this – in what specific ways are we preparing our youths? How relevant is the education they are getting?  Why are some well-to-do parents sending their kids to study abroad? Why is Nigeria still topping the list of countries with the highest number of out-of-school children?  Is there any clear-cut plan that is currently being executed to ensure our youths become globally competitive? These are questions state commissioners of education and our prospective Minister of Education need to give a serious thought to.

As contained on its official website, the United Nations gave a well-researched background information and rationale for this year’s theme: “The theme of International Youth Day 2019, “Transforming education”, highlights efforts to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all youth, including efforts by youth themselves. Rooted in Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” – International Youth Day 2019 will examine how Governments, young people and youth-led and youth-focused organizations, as well as other stakeholders, are transforming education and how these efforts are contributing to the achievement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

“Statistics remind us that significant transformations are still required to make education systems more inclusive and accessible…making education more relevant, equitable and inclusive is crucial to achieving sustainable development. Education is a ‘development multiplier’ in that it plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, be it poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, decent work and growth, reduced inequalities, action on climate or building peaceful societies. Education should lead to effective learning outcomes, with the content of school curricula and pedagogy being fit for purpose, not only for the 4th industrial revolution and the future of work and life, but also for the opportunities and challenges that rapidly changing social contexts bring.” The statement above effectively captures the dire situation in the education sector globally. Thinking in line with the theme, how can we transform the education sector? 

We are faced with multifarious challenges in Nigeria that have slowed down our progress as a nation. To say that the standard of education has fallen is an understatement, particularly in government-owned schools. High quality, topnotch education is available but not affordable. It is needless to mention our global ranking amongst nations of the world in terms of poverty. According to Brookings report, “Today, Nigeria is the “poverty capital of the world”. If it is unable to change its current trajectory, it will be home to 110 million people living in extreme poverty by the year 2030”.  The government needs to be sincere and creative in tackling poverty. Poverty alleviation programmes of successive governments have not done much.

In this day and age when the world is talking about artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other new technological innovations, we need to overhaul our curricula. Research has shown that about 85 per cent of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. Uncertainty looms with the high rate of unemployment. Today’s graduates are faced with a future in an uncertain job market. It is important our schools help our young ones develop in-demand skills that will make them work-ready, skills with which they can solve problems and cause a sweeping transformation across all sectors of our economy. It’s time our education policymakers redesigned our curricula for relevance.

Nigeria is endowed with greatly talented young people who need the right environment to flourish. It is with mixed feelings that this writer receives news of young Nigerians making waves in schools and workplaces abroad. Why is it that our young ones excel outside the shores of this country? Their incredible potential finds a mighty expression and they stay in these saner climes to help develop their economies. Nigeria keeps losing her talents to developed economies. Instead of taking sincere steps to rescue our ailing education sector, some of our leaders send their own kids to Ivy League schools abroad and keep toying with the future of millions of underprivileged youths. 

How many Nigerian youths can beat their chests and say that their future is secured and bright with the state of education and the economy? Not a few are desperately looking for how to travel out to “greener pastures”. The rate of suicide amongst young folks has increased. Teachers are owed salaries in some states. We cannot continue this way. The standard of education in Nigeria urgently needs n. This is not just about coming up with good policies on paper, there must be thorough execution. This writer looks forward to the day when Nigeria’s educational system will come out of its present comatose state. The government, the private sector, civil service organizations, indeed everyone of us need to intensify advocacy for the revolution of our education sector.

Idowu Omisore, a youth advocate, writes from Lagos.

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