The complement to improve education in Nigeria

By Ridwan Issa. Ridwan studies at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria


No matter whom you are,
Or who you may be,
You can do something to change the world for the better.

Edward Kramer

Education is succinctly put as a form of learning in which knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, research, or simply through auto-didacticism (Bello, 2008).1 With no modicum of doubt, without education, it is difficult to advance in life not only at a personal level, but also on a more global scale. The reason is because education prepares people for the ability of reasoning and judging thereby preparing such people to face the “world”. Do you know that Nigeria is the most populous black nation in Africa with almost 168 million people, 30 million of which are students? (Nigeria Education Fact Sheet, 2013) Can you believe that the literacy rate in Nigeria had reduced in shame from an estimated 72 per cent in 2010 to 61 per cent in 2012? (Jamila, 2010). Disgusting!

The Legal Educational Acts

Education is one of the fundamental human rights. Internationally, the right to education has been recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. Article 26 of the Declaration proclaims that: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.”

Despite the fact that the right to education is universally recognized, the way it is interpreted at the national level differs substantially. In Nigeria, education is a shared responsibility of the Nigerian federal, state, and local governments. According to Chapter II, article 18 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, the Nigerian “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels [primary, secondary and tertiary education,] shall promote science and technology[,] shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end shall when practicable provide [… ] adult literacy programme.”

The Nigerian educational system

The 8-6-2-3 system of education was the primeval educational system initiated in Nigeria by the British colonial rulers in 1954. It implies 8 years for primary education, 6 years for secondary education, 2 years for attainment of higher school certificate and 3 years for university education. The naive 8-6-2-3 system was modified into a mediocre 6-5-2-3 system of education due to agitation for self-rule by Nigerians (Bello, 2008). This was sustained until after autonomy of which, was replaced with the 6-3-3-4; Universal Primary Education (UPE) due to its lack of relevance and vitality. (Fafunwa, 1974). In 1999, the UPE was replaced with an innovative Universal Basic Education (Ibid).

Educational reforms in Nigeria

In 1999, two basic reforms were instigated into the Nigerian educational system which was the Universal Basic Education (UBE) and the conversion of Schools of Technology, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education into degree awarding universities. UBE combines both the 6 years of primary education with the 3 years of Junior Secondary education to a single indivisible tier of 9 years free and compulsory education, 3 years in Senior Secondary School and 4 years in tertiary Institution (9-3-4). (Lawal, 2007)

The complement

It’s so unfortunate that, the Nigerian educational system only invests on knowledge acquisition with a cold shoulder on vocational training. This is obvious in this slogan “read very hard, get good grades and gets a job after graduation”. Acquisition of skill-based knowledge by students becomes a mirage in schools where there is a shortage of facilities meant to empower students, enhance entrepreneurship, increase growth and accelerate development in various sectors of the nation’s economy. It’s an open truth that, countries like Japan, China, Germany and United states had their breakthrough and successes in the field of science and technology through robust and practical based educational systems which is lacking in most Nigerian. The more reason none of them is among the first three thousand universities in the world.

The bitter consequences of this are ill-bred graduates from the Nigerian tertiary institution as you can see graduates of computer of science unable to operate a computer perfectly. English graduates students struggle to make simple and correct sentences. Law graduates cannot draft a flawless legal document. The list is endless! Let’s face it: the majority of Nigerian graduates are unemployable. This is a complete sorry state for a nation that aims to be one of the world’s leading economies by the year 2020. According to Charles Soludo, Central Bank Governor: “71 per cent of Nigerian graduates, like bad cherries, will not be picked by any for the requirement labour employers because they are not fit for job requirement, despite their educational status” Why? The reason is because the Nigerian educational system is indifferent to technical skill acquisition but focuses only on knowledge acquisition or paper certificate.

My notion for complementing technical skills to improve education in Nigeria

According to the international Edition of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, education comprises both “knowledge and development”. An old adage says “A man may not be good for everything, but no man is good for nothing”. You will agree with me that, not everybody can become lawyers, teachers, medical practitioners, accountants, engineers, to mention but a few, but each person is gifted with a talent. The bitter truth is that, not every man can afford higher learning but each man can afford meaningful utilization of his brain-child. If a few persons can afford the pursue of a course or other in Institutions of higher learning, good and fine, then, others who cannot or prefer the use of their hands can resort being a technicians after their basic education. Isn’t it? In order to become an expert at anything, it is advisable to start learning at an early stage.


From my submissions above, it is incontrovertible that education is a tool of liberation from ignorance, poverty and disease as a spade is a tool for digging. You will certainly agree with me that, no modern society can survive without education, for education is the chief means of acquiring and teaching the essential knowledge and skills in all other sectors of the national economy. If priority attention is given to education, skilled manpower will be in abundance. Thus, we will have many qualified teachers, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, nurses, to mention but a few, with this, Nelson’s Mandela aphorism “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” vehemently holds. Otherwise, it would be a clever devil as said by L.S Lewis in his maxim “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man a more clever devil”.


  1. Bello Garba (2008): Educational reforms in Nigeria: Successive years of inconsistencies and confusions. Retrieved from Benin Graduate’s Survey. Faculty of Education, University of Benin. Benin City, Nigeria.
  2. Nigeria Education Fact Sheet (2012).
  3. Jamila Shu’ara (2010): Nigeria experience in data collection. Paper presented at the UNESCO Institute of Statistic Workshop on Education Statistics in Anglophone Countries, Windhoek 17-21 October 2011.
  4. Fafunwa, A. Babatunde (1974): History of education in Nigeria. London: George Allen and Unwin. The first serious attempt at reforming the educational. See here.
  5. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948): International law and the right to education.
  6. Lawal Rabiu (2007): A cybernetic appraisal of reforms in the Nigerian educational.

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