As a means of proffering solution to the rot and decadence in basic education in Nigeria, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) requested that the Federal Government ensures an allocation between the range of 45-50 percent of the country’s education budget to primary and secondary education. This call was made by the Chief of Education, UNICEF Nigeria, Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan, at a one-day seminar on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in Nigeria. She lamented concerning the low investment in Nigeria’s basic education as it has greatly affected the results of learning at that level of education.
UNICEF Nigerian Chief of Education emphasized that the primary and secondary school sub-sector requires more investment, stating that basic education in the nation is confronted with challenges of out-of-school children and learning crisis. However, concerning inadequate qualified teachers in the country, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) asserted that an estimated 175,000 qualified teachers are required to fill the gaps in capacity so as to address the challenges of shortage of qualified teachers in the nation.
Majority of children enrolled in schools cannot read a simple sentence.
It was also stated that the one day seminar was mainly organized for promotion of the awareness of the Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) models and lessons from the enforcement of foundational learning programmes in Northern states in Nigeria. Some of the programmes which, according to the UN Agency, have improved learning outcomes in the North include Early Grade Reading (EGR), Reading Numeracy Activity (RANA), and Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL). Previously, RANA was implemented in two states but is currently being implemented in nine states where it reaches about 750,000 Northern learners.
Panday-Soobrayan affirmed that it was necessary to ensure sustainability of these programmes, boost them and make them accessible in the Northern regions of the country; UNICEF has likewise been trying different interventions to address the learning crisis in Nigeria. Asides from the country’s 10.2 million out-of-school children, those enrolled in schools are not learning as they should. A recent report disclosed that three out of four Nigerian children are unable to read a simple sentence or solve a simple math equation.
Interventions improve literacy and numeracy rates.
According to the Chief of Education, these challenges are complemented by the current low public fund allocation on education in Nigeria. Currently, only 1.2 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is allocated to education, defiling the international benchmark of 4-6 percent of GDP. It was further stated that even the little allocated to the education sector is not spent appropriately. Higher education takes about 28 percent while children in primary schools are unable to read, write and count.
Therefore, UNICEF has saddled itself with the task of improving the successful interventions across the country. These interventions have undergone independent assessments and evaluations, and have proven their effective to aid improvement of literacy and Numeracy rate. The director of Basic Education of the Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Folake Davies, affirmed that the Nigerian government commends the initiatives and would be interested in domestication of the programmes, given evidence of its effectiveness in the Northern region of the country.
National Language Policy, needed to replicate literacy programmes.
Dr. Davies added that the Federal Government has reviewed Nigeria’s National Language Policy (1985) which enables the use of mother tongue to teach school children. This is because the policy will help replication of some of these interventions in every part of the country as programmes like RANA are also taught in indigenous language. Majority of these are conducted in the immediate environment’s language. As a result, children should be taught in languages they understand.