Focus on Nigeria: The Intersection of Education, Human Capital Development and Economic Prosperity

Updated: Aug 9

Nigeria has the largest African population, with figures expected to reach 206 million by the end of 2020. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Quality Education for all, she'll require an educational budget to match her large population.


While this should be common knowledge, in reality, the budget allocation continues to haemorrhage causing more casualty for years to come. In 2020, the Federal budget allocated to the Ministry of education was around 5%. This is a decrease from the previous year which was 5.9% in 2019 and 7.2% in 2018. Not only does it fall below the UNESCO recommendation of countries allocating 20% of their budget to education, it stunts the country’s economic growth.

The neglect of the educational budget has wide-reaching implications for a country with a young population. The median age in Nigeria is around 18 years old. (Nigerian population, 2020). The lack of investment in education has the strongest possibility of hindering other sustainable goals such as Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth and Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Within the Goal of Quality Education, the lack of expansive budget allocation for any country an result in less money available to upgrade and/or build adequate facilities which are safe and sustainable for pupils to learn, fewer funds available to train and pay teacher salaries and ensuring that the necessary care is available for pupils with disabilities to also succeed within the educational sector.

As the population of the country grows, accordingly, the pressure on the educational institutions also grow. I believe that to close the gap on educational poverty, Nigeria must assign at least 15% or more of the federal budget to the ministry of education, specifically in infrastructure and learning resources as a minimum first step. There needs to be other ways of raising funds for the educational budget, in absence of government, that does not put the onus on already poor parents.

Furthermore, instability in Northern Nigeria due to militancy has meant that implementing educational progress to reach the SDG for education by 2030, has stalled. The abduction of 276 schoolgirls in the North-Eastern town of Chibok in 2014, by Boko Haram, magnified this obstacle. Boko Haram, which means "western education is forbidden" not only presents an obstacle to closing the gender gap that exists in the North of Nigeria but the education gap in general. In seeing education as Haram, their presence in the North prevents many parents from feeling it safe to send their girls to school, which can mean the pupils lose out on the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty, through education.

Moreover, there is a social issue that has leaked over to the education sector. Corruption, lack of adequate teachers and sexism within Nigerian society has found its way. The release of the ‘Sex for Grades’ scandal, in 2019 highlighted some of the issues that prevent female students from being able to pursue their education to the end - without hindrance.


Without these issues properly addressed, it will be difficult to then measure the rate of Nigerian progress.


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Effects of corona lockdown on education?

Another negative effect of the lockdown for many Nigerians will be the assumption by many schools that all parents will be able to follow the e-learning materials, ensuring that their children are still learning at home. In a country where the quality of education has a direct correlation with parents’ income, this will mean that many children will be unable to e-learn. This will further delay Nigeria’s goal of achieving the Sustainable development goals by 2030 for quality education without parental support.

One of the biggest effects of lockdown on the education sector is exposed to the disparity between private and public educated pupils. Public school, which are funded by the government will be at a disadvantage during this time as they will not have access to the quality of learning resources necessary to ensure students do not fall behind.


Those who tend to be educated from public schools come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. They will have parents who are either part of the over 50% who live below the poverty line or illiterate. Whereas, pupils of rich parents will be able to afford the necessary materials needed to ensure the continuation of learning from home.

With Internet penetration in Nigeria at 42%, as of January 2020, there is a short term and long-term impact of the lockdown for students who are unable to access the internet when at home. Of those who can access e-learning resources, the proportion is significantly skewed towards those of the middle and upper socioeconomic backgrounds, further widening the inequality gap which already exists within the Nigerian educational sector.


Another negative effect of the lockdown for many Nigerians will be the assumption by many schools that all parents will be able to follow the e-learning materials, ensuring that their children are still learning at home. In a country where the quality of education has a direct correlation with parents’ income, this will mean that many children will be unable to e-learn. This will further delay Nigeria’s goal of achieving the Sustainable development goals by 2030 for quality education without parental support.


A possible solution could be to implement government-backed schools for mature and older students, not only to be in a better position of supporting pupils but also because higher literacy rates can have a direct impact for business and commerce, thereby raising a county’s GDP.

However, I do not believe Covid-19 will set Nigeria back any more than it already is with regards to meeting the SDG for quality education. The issues that plague the Nigerian education system existed long before the pandemic called for a global lockdown. Only when the points previously mentioned are resolved, will we then be able to find out what the true long-term impact of the lockdown is for education.


Conclusion and Possible Solutions

This is especially important if Nigeria is to “eliminate gender disparities in education”. For the south, there must be measurements and extra services that are placed to adequately support parents from pulling their children out of school. How that is implemented will require a consensus to be collected so that the solutions answer the problems parents have.

Though there are obvious negative effects as a result of Covid-19, I also believe that it places Nigeria in a great place:

1. Policymakers now have an opportunity to introduce educational continuity plans into the system. I believe it will be great for Nigeria to look to her neighbours such as Sierra Leone, where the Ebola crisis led to school closures for about nine months. This is especially important for regions in Nigeria that are affected by instability and militancy. There needs to be a continuity plan that allows education to continue even in desperate times.

2. Secondly, I believe that the federal government must create a base curriculum that can be used in uniformity. This will allow the government to assess the rate at which the SDG is being met. To do this, it would require the necessary resources needed to collect accurate data for each school. This needs to set specific goals for each age group as they work up the education ladder. It must tackle fundamentals in Maths, English and the local languages that Nigerians use for business.

3. Also, I believe there must be a separate committee that is set up, to monitor how the educational budget is managed. Otherwise, misappropriation of finances will continue to persist. The federal government of Nigeria must work harder at ensuring that data on expenditure is accurately recorded, especially as the population of Nigeria increases.

4. Finally, Figures have shown that there is a clear North and South divide when it comes to education in Nigeria. Children in the South are less likely to stay in school due to financial pressures at home. However, in the North, students are less likely to go to school at all. To tackle this issue, there needs to be a varying degree of amendments in the methods used by the government. For the North, the federal government must work with local chiefs and religious leaders to convince them of the benefits of education for boys and girls. This is especially important if Nigeria is to “eliminate gender disparities in education”. For the south, there must be measurements and extra services that are placed to adequately support parents from pulling their children out of school. How that is implemented will require a consensus to be collected so that the solutions answer the problems parents have.

Written by: Sandra Tetteh. Sandra is our communications officer. A graduate of International Relations from the University of Leicester, she's very passionate about research and loves condensing complex issues in a way that all can grasp and understand. She's also interested in conversations around education, race equity and gender studies.




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