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Solving Educational Inequality

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This Space is For Sale

Solving Educational Inequality

Folawe Omikunle

The Teach for Nigeria Case Study.

Nigeria’s population will double in thirty years, becoming the 3rd most populous nation in the world. Yet, over half of its school-aged children currently attending school in Nigeria will not acquire the basic skills they need to live healthy and productive lives. Today, Nigeria is not at war, yet it faces a crisis that reflects the indices of a country at war. The latest data by UNESCO Institute of Statistics reveals that in Nigeria, almost 40% of children are not in primary school – approximately 13.2 million – accounting for almost one in every five out-of-school children in the world. Of those who do graduate primary school, fewer than 25% can read a paragraph.

The transition examinations to tertiary education written at the end of the secondary school level (West African Senior School Certificate Examination – WASSCE) reveal low achievement levels. Of the four million students that sat for WASSCE in 2009, only 26% obtained the minimum number of credits in Mathematics, English Language and at least three other subjects in one sitting to gain consideration for entry into tertiary institutions. In 2010, this figure sunk to 24.9% and in 2011, stood at 30%. The 2014 results indicate that only 31.3% of WASSCE candidates passed the examination, while the 2017 results indicate that fewer candidates – 17.1% – passed the examination. These results highlight that the outcomes expected from 12 years of education investment are not being met.

In the same vein, the recent World Bank report, titled, “Learning to realize education promises” asserts that among 18 to 37-year-olds in Nigeria, only 19 percent of primary school completers have basic literacy proficiency. This situation presents serious concerns about the future of Nigerian children.

The current structure of education has failed the Nigerian child. And even if they do manage to get educated, the structure is not aligned to the future of work that these children will face. Even after 16 years of education, many Nigerian youth are unemployable.

Education is the game changer responsible for driving economic growth and human development and the potential of Nigeria’s rapidly increasing human capital is far from being fully exploited to deliver value to the nation’s economy. If education is to adequately prepare Nigeria’s youth to contribute to the global economy, there must be swift action to repurpose the educational system for the changing times.

Teach For Nigeria understands this urgency and believes that to change the trajectory of children in Nigeria, and to transform the systems that are holding our children back from reaching their potential, will require dynamic, determined leadership, where Nigerians are addressing the existing challenges and innovating for the future at all levels and sectors — in schools, in government, and in communities, through leveraging technology, developing more teachers and better curriculum, strengthening school leadership, improving child nutrition, and much more. Teach For Nigeria recognizes that Nigeria already has much of what it needs to thrive and overcome its challenges-There is a wealth of incredible talent among university students, recent graduates, and young professionals, so they are working to create a new future for Nigeria by galvanizing the rising generation of leaders to develop the potential of its children.

Teach For Nigeria is marshalling not just a few but many of our nation’s graduates towards unlocking the potential of our children. Since 2017, Teach For Nigeria has recruited about 250 university graduates to teach in some of Nigeria’s most under-resourced public schools for two years.

The kinds of teaching we need are personified by Adesuwa Ochonma, a Teach For Nigeria Fellow, who took her students on a class trip to the lagoon, where she showed them huge islands of plastic trash built up in the water, and explained its devastating effects. This is not education, as usual, it’s innovative and contextualized to the reality in our society. In Ikenne, Ogun state, students of Sobanke Yusuf, a Teach For Nigeria Fellow, are learning about planting and harvesting crops like maize, cassava, vegetables, pepper, and pineapples, while helping to lift his community out of hunger and poverty.

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Addressing the challenges facing children in Nigeria require many interventions including developing teachers, improving child nutrition and more.  But for all these interventions to work, many more of Nigeria’s most educated, capable recent graduates will need to imagine and implement them in partnership with communities. The benefits of leadership development are not simply theoretical. Outcomes in Nigeria point to the real-world benefits of supporting teachers to become leaders. With only about 50 alumni so far, at Teach For Nigeria, graduates have started a girl’s school; created technology tools, brought solar-powered lights to pupils; mobilized resources to buy school uniforms; and created an initiative to educate students on sexual health. Like the majority of the 67,000 alumni in the Teach For All partner organizations worldwide, these graduates will continue to effect change for children by remaining as teachers, leveraging technology to transform teaching and learning, shaping policies in ministries of education, becoming social entrepreneurs, and leading schools.

Teach For Nigeria has set itself the ambitious goal of supporting 9,000 alumni leaders by 2027, who, deeply rooted in a common vision of collective impact, will follow various pathways inside and outside the classroom to solve the problem of educational inequity in Nigeria.

The challenges in the sector may seem daunting but they are not insurmountable. Teach For Nigeria believes that to achieve the kind of progress we desire to keep our educational system ahead of the curve, we need to act collectively, ensuring that all stakeholders in the society participate in advancing the country’s educational system. The government, teachers, private citizens/investors, and even students all have a part to play in achieving the kind of educational system that maximizes the potential of all Nigerians. 

To make the most of Nigeria’s great potential, they believe we must build a formidable network of determined leaders who understand the root causes of inequity and injustice, and the many problems wrought by an undereducated citizenry.

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