In the beginning

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) emphasizes the importance and linkage of education to the development of any society when it highlighted that education satisfies a basic human need for knowledge, provides a means of helping to meet other needs, and helps sustain and accelerate overall development.

Thus, with Nigeria’s attainment of 54 years of self rule, education in the country has passed through different times from the formative period in the hands of the various Christian missions, to the control of the colonial masters that came up the stage between 1882 and 1940s.

During the time, the teaching staff comprised the missionary, his wife and other employee(s). Consideration for quality was almost nil as there were no barrier, whatsoever, to entrance of pupils either. Teaching and acquisition of knowledge took place in the same building used for religious service.

Though, the colonial era admittedly recorded some improvement compared to the missionary, the dominant perspective then was that the system was still far from the ideal.

A 2009 report by Joshua Oni in his project titled, “Management of Primary Education in Nigeria: Trends, Constraints and Solutions’, said the Phelps-Stokes Funds of United States of America and the International Education Board set up a commission to study education in West, South and Equatorial Africa. In 1922, it published a report entitled: Education in Africa. Members of the commission revealed this stark truth: The record of the Colonial Government in Africa is a mixture of the good and the bad, the effective and the ineffective, the wise and the unwise (Lewis, 1962).

As the colonialists prepare to leave the stage, the regional governments between 1954 and 1960 were said to be self-serving to a large extent with each governments coming up with laws essentially to regulate the education system. The Western and Eastern Regional Governments, for instance, enacted laws, among other things, for the free, Universal Primary Education (UPE) schemes launched in 1955 and 1957, respectively.

Post independence era

Through the whole course of the time, the government puts in place rules and regulations, codified into ordinances and codes, essentially to direct the actions of all and sundry connected with the education system.

The post-independence era witnessed a lot of developments as government takes charge of the administration and management of the education with support from the missions especially at the primary and secondary levels of learning.

Growth of Secondary Education

With primary education sector as the oldest dating back to about 171 years ago, precisely 1843, the importance of secondary education in the educational system to provide an opportunity for a child to acquire additional knowledge, skills, and traits beyond primary school led to the establishment of secondary education in Nigeria as primary proved to be insufficient to acquire adequate literacy, communication skills and numeracy.

Thus, reports have it that the establishment of a CMS Grammar School, Bariga, Lagos in 1859 by Church Missionary Society and the establishment of Kings College, Lagos in 1909 as the first government owned secondary school. According to Adesina (1977) and Fafunwa (1974), many ordinances, edicts and bye laws were promulgated to improve the state of secondary education in Nigeria.

Throughout the period of stewardship of the Colonial Governments in Nigeria, there were few secondary schools to provide secondary education for those that were then willing to acquire it. Statistics indicate that the number of secondary schools increased from 161 in 1955 to 275 in 1956, 297 in 1957, 303 in 1958, 305 in 1959 and 311 in 1960 (Adesina, 1977).

Since the attainment of the country’s independence status in 1960, secondary education has continued to grow in number and enrollment. In particular, the number of secondary schools increased from 1,227 in 1960 to 1,654 in 1965; 6, 231 in 1985; 6,279,462 in 2004, 6,398,343 in 2005 and 6,536,038 in 2006 while also enrollment increased from 168, 309 in 1960 to 252, 586 in 1965, 3, 807,755 in 1985 and 6,536,038 in 2006 (Ukeje).

Evolution of tertiary education

The origins of the university system are in Yaba College, founded in 1932 in Yaba, Lagos as the first tertiary educational institute in Nigeria. It attained autonomous status in 1969 by virtue of Decree 23 which granted it the mandate to provide full and part time courses of instruction and training in technology, applied science, commerce and management.

Today, federal, states and private universities has risen to 129, 82 polytechnics, 36 colleges of agriculture, 159 technical colleges, 55 colleges of health technology and allied institutions and 26 monotechnics.


A careful appraisal of the education sector has shown that from time immemorial, the funding pattern of the sector has not recorded any significant improvement since independence. In an interview with Daily Independent, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Lagos, Efe Ikponmwosa, who spoke on poor funding of tertiary education said tertiary education has been faced with serious challenges of inadequate funding in the past two decades.

“When the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced its policy of free education in all public schools and at all levels in 1997, it was expected that adequate provisions will be made in the annual budget proposals to fund the education sector.

However the sector has experienced over the years gradual decline in funding. The government continues to claim that it has increased budgetary allocation; but when placed side by side with students’ population in Nigerian public tertiary institutions, the provision has been found to be grossly inadequate,” he said.

Speaking further, Ikponmwosa in a paper titled, Funding of Tertiary Education In Nigeria: University of Lagos as Case Study’, said the quantum and quality of funding of the education sector in Nigeria, when benchmark with international standards, will not only determine the rate of growth of the sector, but also determine the quality of the outcomes as well as the extent the objectives of the sector are fulfilled.

He added, ‘In Nigeria, the inadequate funding of the university system has become a major societal issue, which calls for a sustainable and lasting solution. The sector has continued to experience unrests with no hope for a permanent solution insight as all stakeholders have continued to take for granted the nation’s future glory which rests on provision of qualitative education at all levels to her citizenry’.

A World Bank descriptive statistics of annual budgetary allocations of 20 countries in major countries of the world rated Nigeria in the last position.

Annual budgetary allocations of 20 World Bank sampled countries to education (World Bank, 2012)

According to the above statistics, Nigeria’s percentage of the total annual budgetary allocations to education is significantly lower than those of the 20 World Bank sampled countries making her actually the worst of the all.

Also, the country’s score on the Education Sub-category of Ibrahim Index for African Governance is significantly lower than the average score of all African countries. Of 52 African countries, Nigeria’s position is 43rd among the worst countries with respect to the attribute under investigation.

In an assessment of the education industry since independence, a University lecturer from Ajayi Crowder University, Oyo, Dr. Ademola Adejumobi who disagreed on the notion of fallen standard, argued that it was performance by students that had actually gone down because the standard has not changed.

‘It is pathetic to find out that a graduate cannot communicate both orally and in written forms. Communication is vital and it is an important aspect of learning. Where students’ find it difficult to communicate, ability to comprehend is limited and hampered. Where this is the case there will be limited or no knowledge at all.

Making a comparison of education and learning in the 70s and what obtains today, he said modern day students learn new subjects like Information technology that has given students more advantage to learn at a very fast rate.

He added that students of today are also exposed to a lot of opportunities in the areas of skill acquisition and entrepreneurship education among others. He lamented that civics and history education that afforded students of yester years to learn about the past is missing because they were no longer taught in schools.

“Where you have history as a subject, students are exposed to the life and times of leaders and learn from their mistakes and things they did right. One big factor that is responsible for good learning is quality of motivation. In those days, education was not free and many of us from poor homes cannot afford to fail because if you fail and your parents are not able to raise money to rewrite the examination or re-enroll, that might signal the end to the educational pursuit of such candidates.

“Students of those years were serious but the reverse is the case today because many students are very comfortable with little or no quality motivations to make them learn with deliberate seriousness,” he added.

He blamed the present day pleasures and economic demands for the reasons why children lack adequate parental supervision as many parents care less for their children in order to make ends meet, adding, ‘parents leave homes early hours of the day when children are still in bed and return late in the night when the children are already in bed’.

Speaking on government neglect, poor funding and attention on the education sector, he lamented that governments at the three tiers of governance have sequentially failed in the provision of necessary facilities for learning and that it has resulted in routine truncation of the learning process as teachers go on strike at the least opportunities.

He added, “It is the children that are the causalities of situations like this that had become part and parcel of the school academic calendar. Refusal and failure of government to pay teachers salary has made a non-sense of the education system. Students’ are too distracted and the whole learning system is upside down. Though there are some good schools around but government has the biggest proprietor have failed.

Commenting on the free education programmes of governments at the three levels, the Don said implementation of the project in modern day Nigeria lacked discipline that was the contributory factor to the free education programmes of the then Western region government.

“The free education of those days had discipline incorporated into the system. There were strict measures and discipline for both teachers and students while parents at the home front were also not found wanting in any way. A man without discipline cannot make anything meaningful in life. Discipline stands out the free education of those years in comparison to what obtains today.

Contributing to the issue, the Vice Chancellor, University of Abuja, (UNIABUJA), Professor Micheal Adikwu blamed present day education for excessive emphasis on theory instead of practical and that the area will have to be strongly looked into, adding that the Nigerian curriculum too has been largely based on foreign ideas.

He suggested that “We need to naturalise and nationalise our curriculum more and more. Our curriculum should emphasise those materials and products in our environment.

Generally, he opined that the Nigerian education system has done well that with just about two universities in 1960 and there are now over 129 universities.

Describing the growth rate as tremendous, he added that in those days, one has to travel almost across the country to attend a secondary school, but now every village has, at least, a secondary school.

“The Nigerian education system has done well. With just about two Universities in 1960, we now have over 129 universities. That is a tremendous growth. In those days, one has to travel almost across the country to attend a secondary school. Now every village has, at least, a secondary school,” he said.

Speaking on the numerical strength of schools in the country, Professor Adikwu stated that the country have done well adding that the more ‘the number of people that are educated, the more the geniuses that will be discovered to solve our teething national problems’.

He added, “Even in terms of quality too, we have not done too badly. The set of skills needed to carry out various functions in the society then was less complex than what we have today.

“The people educated then were trained to meet the demands of those days. I am sure that they will not fit into the complex society of today. They too were the foundation upon which the educational system of today was built.

“If that structure was strong, then today we would have a strong educational system. I do believe that that structure was not very strong and easily underwent dilution in the later years as the number of schools and the people that placed demand for space in the schools increased,” he said.

However, on funding, he said government funding has been fair, saying ‘all that is required is that the schools themselves should try to generate funds to be self-sustainable’.

Emphasizing on innovations that can be introduced to move the sector forward, the VC said the schools should be product and service provider oriented; stressing that many foreign institutions thrive on the commercialisation of their research finds and also provide services such as consultancy that this is the area our institutions must focus to excel.

Also, Principal of Kings’ College, Lagos, Dele Olapeju who affirmed that the system has been challenging, added that the country has done well in the area of sustaining education in spite of the various challenges and that by now Nigeria should not be groping in darkness.

He said at independence, the university system was good with lots of expatriates coming to Nigeria to study, he lamented that the reverse is the case and the present situation has not in any way helped the system.

“when we took off, the university system was good there are lots of expatriates that came to Nigeria to study but now we are now having a geometric progression of our population, that means our population has been growing in gallops, galloping population, things are no longer the way it should be so we have to go back to the drawing board in order to deliver quality education.

He, however, tasked Nigerians from all walks of life to live a responsible life by having a sizeable family that can be adequately taken care of without putting additional burden on the government.

“I think Nigerians are too used to free things, nothing is free anywhere in the world, for education to thrive and have quality, it requires the contribution of every stakeholder, education for all is the responsibility of all, it is not for people to just be giving birth to children and say it is the responsibility of government to take care of them’

“There must be shared responsibility and people must be responsible enough to see that the children they bring forth must be taken care of.

“Education is an investment, when you educate a child you are investing in your future so that when thing are no longer working for you, the children will now take over and take care of you. We should see education as an investment; parents must invest in quality education of their children if you don’t give in much you cannot take much from your investment,” he added.

An educationist and Administrator of Petraville Schools, Lagos, Dr. Peter Kudaisi said the present system of education lacks quality and substance that made education and learning thick in the 60s and 70s.

Emphasising that products of early post independence era were more grounded in education, he lamented that incessant strikes in the sector has done more harms than correcting the reasons for which labour unions call their colleagues to strikes.

“The incessant strikes in the education sector has not helped the standard of education and the products been churned out now cannot match with those the same institutions churned out in the past. Some of the graduates now cannot match with the then standard six.

“Education in the past cannot be compared with what we have now, because in the present day education, teachers are not well trained because they are also products of incessant labour struggles”, he added.

He extolled the commitment of stakeholders in the 60s to the sector and selfless interests to impart knowledge as stated in the curriculum that was stable.

“While I was in school we did 6-5-4, six years in the primary, five years in secondary and four years in the university it was later moved to 6-3-3-4 and now there is 9-3-4, we can see the inconsistencies. For example if our government see a system of education in European countries, what they do is that they will import everything into the country without looking at its adaptability to the local system.

“Also, children’s phobia for reading and the advent of internet that had helped developed and enrich the knowledge of children elsewhere, to my surprise the reverse was the case in our own education system”.

Calling for eradication of the various distractions that had taken books away from the tables of students, Dr. Kudaisi emphasized that for the standard of education to move forward, the reading culture must be revived, adding that another challenge is the lack good libraries in many schools.

He however said there is need for holistic reappraisal of the education sector so as to find lasting solution to the dwindling education standard.

Ikpowomsa in his submission called for decentralization of the learning system. He said the existence of the central control system for education generally, has been so poor that many good things have been done away with.

According to him, “The free education at all levels” syndrome is a product of this central control mechanism, which, has resulted in serious under-funding of the universities and education in general. Poor funding should be seen as a great obstacle to sustainable education.

He suggested, “Public expenditure on higher education should be a significant part of total public expenditure. This is justified by the critical role higher education plays in the economic development of a nation. Like modern societies, Nigeria needs to invest more on higher education, in teaching and research, than she is doing now in order to keep up with the growing competition in the rapidly evolving global economy.

Education is all efforts, conscious and direct, incidental and indirect, made by a given society to accomplish certain objectives that are considered desirable in terms of the individual’s own needs as well as the needs of the society where that education is based (Fafunwa, 2003).

Peter James Kpolovie and Isaac Esezi Obilor in their essay “Adequacy/Inadequacy: Education Funding in Nigeria wrote, “Education is a key index of national development. It improves productivity, empowerment and health, but reduces negative features of life such as child labour, prostitution, crime and other vices.

By Oyeniran Apata and Seyi Taiwo-Oguntuase, Lagos.



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