UNESCO's Director General, Irina Bokova

UNESCO: Why Nigeria failed to achieve EFA goals

UNESCO’s Director General, Irina Bokova-[In the Pix]

This year’s Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR), released in April by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has come down hard on Nigeria, declaring that the country has lacked progress in almost every target towards achieving Education for All, with the number of its out-of-school children increasing since 2000 and “already the highest in the world.”

According to the report titled: Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges, a combination of corruption, conflict and a lack of investment has resulted in Nigeria having one of the worst education systems in the world.

The report affirmed: “The political leadership has been identified as corrupt, losing $21 million of education funding over two years. Despite Nigeria’s Gross National Product per capita growing substantially between 1999 and 2012, investment in education remains low. As a result, the most basic of resources for education are limited – an additional 220,000 primary school teachers – 15 per cent of the global total are needed.

The GMR, which has tracked progress on the EFA goals for the past 15 years, also finds that the gap between the poor and the average in Nigeria has increased, with the number of children from the poorest households going to primary school falling from 35 percent  to 25 per cent in 2013. “Enrolment rates may fall even more, given the increase in Boko Haram’s campaigns against education.”

The report, however noted that Nigeria is not the only county lagging behind. “Globally, just one third of countries have achieved all of the measurable Education for All (EFA) goals set in 2000. Only half of all countries have achieved the most watched goal of universal primary enrolment. An extra $22 billion a year is needed on top of already ambitious government contributions, in order to ensure we achieve the new education targets now being set for the year 2030.”

UNESCO’s Director General, Irina Bokova said: “The world has made tremendous progress towards Education for All.” Despite not meeting the 2015 deadline, millions more children are in school than would have been, had the trends of the 1990s persisted.

“However, the agenda is far from finished. We need to see specific, well-funded strategies that prioritize the poorest – especially girls –, improve the quality of learning and reduce the literacy gap, so that education becomes meaningful and universal.”

The report, which precedes the World Education Forum holding in South Korea next month, also gave a global analysis of all the EFA goals.

On Goal 1 – Expand early childhood and care education – it found that 47 per cent of countries reached the goal and another eight per cent were close. Twenty per cent were very far from the goal including Nigeria. Globally, however, in 2012, nearly two-thirds more children were enrolled in early childhood education than in 1999.

Goal 2 – Achieve universal primary education:” 52 per cent of countries achieved this goal; ten per cent are close and the remaining thirty-eight per cent, including Nigeria, are far or very far from achieving it. This leaves almost 100 million children not completing primary education in 2015. A lack of focus on the marginalized has left the poorest five times less likely to complete a full cycle of primary education than the richest and over a third of out of school children living in conflict affected zones.

“There have been important successes: Around 50 million more children are enrolled in school now than were in 1999. Education is still not free in many places, but cash transfer and school feeding programmes have had a positive impact on school enrolment for the poor.

Goal 3 – Ensure equal access to learning and life skills for youth and adults: “Forty-six per cent of countries reached universal lower secondary enrolment.  Less than half of adolescents are enrolled in lower-secondary education in Nigeria. Globally, numbers in lower secondary education increased by 27 per cent and more than doubled in sub-Saharan Africa.  Nonetheless, one third of adolescents in low income countries will not complete lower secondary school in 2015.

Goal 4 – Achieving a 50 per cent reduction in levels of adult illiteracy:Only 25 per cent of countries reached this goal; 32 per cent, including Nigeria, remain very far from it. While globally, the percentage of illiterate adults fell from 18 per cent in 2000 to 14 per cent in 2015, this progress is almost entirely attributed to more educated young people reaching adulthood. Half of Nigerian adults (51 per cent) are illiterate. Women continue to make up almost two-thirds of the global illiterate adult population. Half of sub-Saharan African women do not have basic literacy skills.

Goal 5 – Achieve gender parity and equality: “Gender parity will be achieved at the primary level in 69 per cent of countries by 2015. At secondary level, only 48 per cent of countries will reach the goal. Nigeria remains far from the target at both primary and secondary levels. Child marriage and early pregnancy continue to hinder girls’ progress in education, as does the need for teacher training in gender sensitive approaches and curriculum reform.

 Goal 6 –Improve the quality of education and ensure measurable learning outcomes for all:The numbers of pupils per teacher decreased in 121 of 146 countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, but four million more teachers are still needed to get all children into school. Trained teachers remain in short supply in one third of countries; in several sub-Saharan African countries, less than 50 per cent are trained. However, education quality has received increased attention since 2000; the number of countries carrying out national learning assessments has doubled.

On Funding and political will, the report observed that since 2000, many governments significantly increased their spending on education: 38 countries increased their commitment to education by one percentage point or more of GNP. However funding remains a major obstacle at all levels.

The GMR Director, Aaron Benavot noted: “Unless concerted action is taken and education receives the attention that it failed to get during the past 15 years, millions of children will continue to miss out and the transformative vision of the new Sustainable Development agenda will be jeopardized. Governments must find ways to mobilize new resources for education. International partners must ensure that aid is distributed to those most in need.”

However, the report recommends that governments should make at least one year of pre-primary education compulsory. “Education must be free: fees for tuition, textbooks, school uniforms and transport must be abolished. Policy makers should identify and prioritize skills to be acquired by the end of each stage of schooling. Literacy policies should link up with community needs. Teacher training must be gender-focused.

On Equity: “Programmes and funding should be targeted to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged. Governments should close critical data gaps in order to be able to direct resources to those most in need.”

On post-2015 expectations, the report says future education targets for education must be specific, relevant and realistic. “At current rates, only half of all children in low-income countries are expected to complete lower secondary education by 2030. In many countries, even the core goal of achieving universal primary education will remain out of reach”

To close the financial gaps, the reports asks the international community, in partnership with countries, to find the means to bridge the US$22 billion annual finance gap for quality pre-primary and basic education for all by 2030. It adds: “Clear education finance targets must be established within the Sustainable Development Goals where none currently exist.”

 The Report’s observation on Nigeria

  1. Nigeria ranks no 103 in the Education Development index. It’s furthest from reducing adult literacy and enrolling children in primary school.
  1. Rural access in Nigeria worsened between 2003and 2013, increasing rural–urban inequality.
  1. Nigeria has made far less progress than would be expected given their initial starting points on enrolment ratios and current per capita income.
  1. In Nigeria, primary attainment among the poorest households actually fell, from 35% in 2003 to 22% in 2013, with the gap between the average and poorest households increasing by about 20 percentage points.
  2. Low-fee private schools have proliferated in urban slums in Nigeria.
  3. In Nigeria data on displacement were produced for the first time in 2013 and, at 3.3 million people, far exceeded earlier estimates of the scale of the problem.

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