1Department of Education
Plateau State Polytechnic, Barkin-Ladi;
2Department of Building/Woodwork Technology
Plateau State Polytechnic, Barkin-Ladi
Education for All (EFA) is a global movement led by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), aimed at meeting the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015. The article traced the history of the declaration of education as inalienable right of all humans and focuses on the attempt to pursue the goals of EFA, especially the 6th goal of providing quality education at the junior secondary level in Nigeria. The authors observed that in the midst of the good intentions of government and non-governmental agencies to achieve the goals of EFA, achieving quality education by 2015 may be a mirage because of the constraints that stand in the way of achieving these goals. Some of the constraints identified as impediments include unqualified teachers in the classroom, poor remuneration of the teacher, inadequate infrastructural facilities and equipment, examination malpractice and insecurity of the schools. The article recommended that audit of all public teachers in the junior secondary schools be undertaken to determine qualifications of the teachers, compulsory retraining of unqualified teachers should be pursued, annual reward of committed teachers and in-service training should be regular exercises, promulgation of a law to make it illegal for school proprietors not to pay the wages and salaries of teachers, infrastructure and facilities should be provided and improved upon by all proprietors; the safe school initiatives should be owned and vigorously pursued by government at all levels and community development associations.
Key words: Education for all, Nigeria, UBE, Junior Secondary Education, Quality Education, Constraints.
Over sixty years ago, education was declared by the United Nations as a basic human right for every person, and this was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 (Leona, 2013). Since then, it has been reaffirmed in the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1979) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) among several other international human right instruments.
In 1990, about 180 governments adopted the World Declaration on Education for All (EFA) at Jomtien, Thailand with the aim of boosting efforts towards delivering the right to education. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) is the programme which grew out of that Conference (Leona, 2013). Ten years later, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization report (UNESCO, 2010), the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal reaffirmed this commitment and adopted the six goals for Education for All (EFA). The sixth of these goals is aimed at “improving every aspect of the quality of education, and ensuring their excellence so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.”
Governments, development agencies, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the media are some of the partners working towards achieving the six goals of EFA. Leona (2013) observed that 180 countries signed up to make these goals happen, committing to putting legal frameworks, policies and finance in place so that everyone, no matter what their circumstances, could have an education – one that is available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. The EFA agenda assumes that public policy can radically transform education systems and their relation to society given adequate political will and resources, and that national policies and implementation must emphasize inclusion, literacy, quality and capacity development.
In pursuance of the EFA goals in Nigeria, the UBE programme was launched on 30th September, 1999. The programme was intended to be universal, free, and compulsory. Since the introduction of western education in Nigeria in 1842, regions, states, and Federal Governments in Nigeria have shown a keen interest in education. This can be seen in the introduction of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) in the Western Region on 17th January, 1955, its introduction in the Eastern Region in February, 1957, and in Lagos (then Federal Territory) in January, 1957(Unagha, 2008). Other developments include the adoption and publication of a National Policy on Education in 1977 with a review in 1983 and 2004, launching of the Universal Free Primary Education on 6th September, 1976, and the subsequent launch of UBE in 1999. The goal of all these programmes is providing functional, universal, and quality education for all Nigerians irrespective of age, sex, race, religion, occupation, or location. When the Federal Government re-launched UBE in 1999, the scheme aimed at achieving the following specific objectives:
- Developing among citizens a strong commitment to the vigorous promotion of education.
- The provision of free, universal basic education for every school age child.
- Reducing drastically the incidence of drop-outs in the formal school system through improved relevance, quality and efficiency.
- Catering for school drop-outs and out-of-school children/adolescents through appropriate forms of complementary approaches to the provision and promotion of basic education.
- Ensuring the acquisition of the appropriate levels of literacy, numeracy, manipulative, communicative and life skills, as well as the ethical, moral and civic values, needed for laying a solid foundation for lifelong learning (Iliyasu, 2005 p17-18).
It will seem as if the attainment of these laudable objectives may be a mirage looking at the various constraints hindering the attaining of these goals by 2015. The purpose of this paper therefore is to critically examine the constraints that will hinder the attainment of quality education at the junior secondary education level in Nigeria with a view of drawing the attention of all stakeholders in education to pay particular attention to the issue of quality education in the pursuance of the goals of EFA by 2015.
The Junior Secondary Education in Nigeria
The Nigerian National Policy on Education (1977) stipulates the operation of the 6-3-3-4 system of education to include 6years of primary education, 3 years of junior secondary, 3years of senior secondary and 4 years of tertiary education. The junior secondary education is now the second part of the 9-year Nigerian Universal Basic Education programme. The reforms introduced in UBE were to provide greater access and ensure quality basic education throughout Nigeria. To achieve the objectives of the UBE programme, the following implementation strategies are to be adopted:
- The Federal Government shall provide assistance to the states. The Federal Government intervention shall provide assistance to the states and local governments in Nigeria for the purpose of uniform and qualitative basic education throughout Nigeria.
- Every level of government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age
- Every parent shall ensure that his/her child or ward attends and completes
- Primary school education; and
- Junior secondary school education.
- The stakeholders in education in Local Government Areas shall ensure that every parent or person who has the care and custody of a child performs the duty imposed on him/her under the Universal Basic Education Act, 2004.
- Transition from primary to junior secondary school (JSS) should be automatic; as basic education terminates at the junior secondary school level thus entrance examination may no longer be necessary. Emphasis will be placed on effective continuous assessment, while final examination and certification will now be done at the end of the 9-year basic education programme.
- The secondary school system should be restructured so as to ensure that the JSS component is disarticulated from the senior secondary school as stipulated in the National Policy on Education (Suleiman, 2012 p28 &59).
Generally, the education that is offered at the junior secondary school level has two purposes; to prepare pupils to exit school with the necessary skills to find employment, and to prepare them to continue with academic careers. For career in higher education, the students are channeled through placements into specific programmes after the completion of junior secondary education. The options are Senior Secondary Schools, Technical Colleges, Vocational Training Centres or Apprenticeship Schemes. Placement into different streams is determined by the results obtained from the continuous assessment processes and tests that are supposed to determine academic ability, aptitude and vocational interest. In addition to individual results, a formula aimed at achieving 60% streaming for senior secondary schools, 20% for technical colleges, 10% each for vocational training centres and apprenticeship schemes is used(FGN, 2004).
Underlying the goals of education for all in the junior secondary school is the realization that mere access to education is not sufficient; the quality of education is equally important. The quality and/or standard of education offered to and received by learners in the Nigerian system of education have been subjected to a lot of criticism. These criticisms, according to Osuji (2008) tend to be pervasive, cutting across all levels of the educational enterprise. This implies that the quality of Nigerian education has been criticized from the lowest to the highest level.
Quality in education is concerned with the products, the process and the practice. Under the products, quality is concerned with the level of learning attainments, the ratio of educated people at various levels to the total population, proportion of educated women, pass/fail employment status of graduates, performance of graduates in the labour market etc. There are several definitions or descriptions of quality ‘found’ in the literature. According to Whiteley in Osuji (2008) quality is linked to service that is distinctive or special; while Osuji (2008) defines quality in education as the worth or appropriateness of the resources available to education.
Some descriptions of quality in education have been given for instance Ebiere and Adediran (2013) described quality in terms of the worth, appropriateness, validity and relevance of resources available for the achievement of educational goals and priorities. Fuller (2014) described quality in education as the level of material inputs allocated per students and the level of efficiency with which fixed amount of material input are organized and managed to raise students’ achievement.
On the government side, quality in education can be viewed from the angle of pass/fail ratio, the enrolment and dropouts (Ijaiya, 2013). In other words, from the government’s standpoint, quality in education implies as many students as possible enrolling and finishing their programme of study within the scheduled time, with a degree of international standards and with reduced costs. The employers of labour see quality as knowledge, skills, training and attitude obtained during the period of study. In this case the ‘product’ in question is the graduate while the process is the educational system. As for the students, quality in education is seen as the contribution of education to the individual’s development and the preparation for a position in the society. It implies that education must be linked with the personal interest and aspiration of the student and the educational process has to be organized in such a way that he can complete the study within a given period. The academic takes quality to mean a good knowledge transfer, good learning environment and a good relation between teaching and research.
Quality education in the Nigerian system is obviously in doubt. It is anything but at its low ebb. This issue has assumed an alarming proportion; it has been widely discussed in different information media. Experts in education have shown concerns that the standard of education in the country as at present is falling. Adebanjo (2012) and Duze (2011) amongst several of these experts have attributed this to the utter neglect of education in the 1980’s when the decay in education set in and the quality of education started dropping. These experts expressed the need to raise the quality of Nigerian education but observed that cases of infrastructural decay, moral decadence, indiscipline, cultism, laxity, brain drain, fraud and a host of abnormal cases have raised their heads high in the educational circle in Nigeria. These evil practices, including examination malpractice, cheating, certificate forgery, impersonation among others, help to water down the quality in the educational system at all levels. We see mass failures in Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) conducted by WAEC and the National Examinations Council (NECO) year in year out. Okonjo-Iweala(2012) for instance noted that only 5.75 percent of the 803,360 private candidates that sat for the WASSCE in May/June 2010 passed with 5 Credits and above (including English Language), while only 10 percent passed with 5 Credits and above (including Mathematics).The performance of pupils in post-primary schools in science-related subjects like mathematics remains a perennial challenge. A lot of these performances are related to issues such as quality of teachers and availability of teaching materials.
The quality of education in Nigeria has fallen so badly that the tendency for affluent families and members of the ruling class to send their wards to foreign educational institutions has gained ascendancy (Rafsanjani, 2011). Rafsanjani noted that in an attempt to reverse this trend, the government has approved increased participation of the private sector at every level of education including the tertiary level but that these are however largely expensive and require such huge resources that are outside the reach of the average Nigerian household, thereby making it exclusive.
In order to improve accessibility and quality of education, the Federal Government has shown some level of commitment in the Nigerian school system over the years and has demonstrated this by injecting funds into the sector for the purpose of improving the standard of education (Alli, 2013). Alli however regretted that even with this effort, it is common place to see students still sitting under makeshift shelters or trees outside the school building because of inadequate classrooms. To compound the issue of inadequate classrooms, Dikko (2014) observed that some of the state governments had recorded poor utilization of UBEC allocations, even when the commission had insisted that funds allocated to the states must be utilized strictly for the purpose for which they were disbursed. Dikko further indicted the states for not accessing funds allocated to them because of the nonpayment of counterpart funds. Idoko (2014) collaborated the assertion by Dikko when he noted part of the report by the Minister of State for Education as of June 2014 that none of the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory had accessed the N397 million allocated to them each for 2014.The report also showed that Ebonyi State is top on the list of states that lagged behind in accessing the intervention fund, and currently has N3.4 billion un-accessed funds with the Universal Basic Education Commission, followed by Cross River State (N3.1 billion). Other states like Abia, Benue, Enugu, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ogun, Oyo and Plateau have over N2 billion each yet to be accessed from UBEC. States like Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Borno, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Niger, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, Yobe and the FCT have over N1 billion each left unaccessed with UBEC.
Constraints of Quality Education and EFA
The following are noted to be some of the constraints militating against quality assurance in the attainment of education for all by 2015 in the junior secondary schools; these are unqualified teachers in the classroom, poor remuneration of the teacher, inadequate equipment and infrastructural facilities for teaching/learning, examination malpractice and insecurity in the schools.
- Unqualified Teachers in the Classroom
Teacher education and preparation have always been the concern of every society knowing well that the foundation of quality and relevance of education rests on the teaching profession. The National Policy on Education (FGN, 2004) clearly stated that “no education system may rise above the quality of its teachers”; therefore preparing teachers for their assignment of imparting knowledge is paramount especially for the global age.
In Nigeria today, there are so many unqualified teachers currently teaching in the public schools with very little experience in the teaching profession. Onuaha (2008) observed that government in an attempt to combat the problem of inadequate and unqualified teachers went ahead to establish the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) in 1993 with the aim of determining the standards of knowledge and skill to be attained by persons who would want to become professional teachers. Most Nigerians in recent times have continually blamed the drop in academic standards in schools to poor teaching. The Head of the West African Examinations Council National office in Lagos in Abayomi and Arenyeka (2014) was quoted to have said “We are very worried about the drop in students’ performance in public examinations and from our analysis, we discovered that there is a general decline in the quality of teaching and learning, and even those assigned with the responsibility of teaching are not properly equipped to do so, and if teachers do not have the competences to teach the students, there is no way students can perform well” (p2). Also lamenting on teachers’ non qualification to teach, Modibbo (2012) reported in an audit of all public schools in Nigeria, the UBEC discovered that most states in the North-west of the country had large numbers of unqualified teachers.
In order to improve the quality and competence of teachers, the Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Education, Universities and Colleges of Education have had to organize many conferences, seminars and workshops on regular basis. The reform efforts of government on education to address the issue of quality include among others:
- Compulsory registration of all professional teachers
- Making the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) the minimum qualification for teachers
- Mandatory professional continuing education programmes for in-service teachers.
These reforms according to Onuaha (2009) created a number of challenges for teacher education and basic education, which he stated include:
- The recognition of NCE as the minimum requirement of teachers had resulted in the phasing out of the Grade II Teacher Training Colleges where the bulk of the nation’s primary school teachers were trained.
- That the inception of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) in 2000, brought about a high demand for teachers to meet the short fall in teacher demand for the implementation of the UBE programme.
- All teachers with certificates below the NCE were required to upgrade such certificates through re-training within a limited time. Those that were affected by this requirement had to upgrade their qualification to NCE but about 49% of the teachers still possess qualifications below the NCE (Onuoha, 2009.p109 – 110).
If quality improvements are to be made within a reasonable time period and for sufficient numbers of teachers to gain the skills required to teach in primary and junior secondary schools, teacher preparation must be a priority.
- Poor Remuneration of the Teacher
A serious problem affecting the delivery of quality education in most states in Nigeria is the poor remuneration of the teacher. Teachers’ salaries, allowances and entitlements are always paid in arrears; at times they are denied these entitlements even though their remuneration is poor. In 2009, there was an attempt by all the state governments to increase the Teachers’ Salary Scale by 27.5% but very few states have implemented the new salary scale as noted by Alogba-Olukoya (2012).The poor remuneration and welfare are responsible for the poor attitude to work of most teachers, who go about doing their private businesses instead of concentrating on how to improve teaching and learning in the school. These factors have rendered teachers ineffective thus affecting the quality of teaching.
- Inadequate Equipment and Infrastructural Facilities for Teaching and Learning
The shortage of equipment and facilities can affect the quality of teaching and learning, quality diminishes when the facilities required for imparting and learning are inadequate or at times not available. Osuji (2008) lamented that most secondary schools and tertiary institutions lack equipment for training, lack workshop and workshop facilities, have ill-equipped laboratories and libraries. The graduates of Junior Secondary Schools are supposed to be prepared for the world of work and so the students are supposed to be exposed to a work environment which will enable them to fit in and outside the school environment but this is not the case because of the dearth of infrastructure in the schools. Alli (2013) noted that since the launching of the Universal Basic Education Act, much has been achieved in the reconstruction of dilapidated school buildings and construction of new ones, supply of desks and other needed furniture as well as the provision of toilet facilities. But it is still not enough as there is still a wide divide in what was proposed to be the basic provision in schools and the apparent lack in electricity, running water and sanitary provision in schools.
- Examination alpractice
Examination malpractice is one of the biggest constraints to achieving quality education in Nigeria today. Udoh (2011) noted that examination fraud has been deeply entrenched in the bones of Nigerian students to the point that controlling and eliminating it has become very difficult.
For a country to be bedeviled with this kind of attitude, quality is certainly compromised and EFA goal number (6) which is aimed at improving the quality of education is unattainable. Ugwu (2008) observed that even though a lot of researches have been carried out in this area, which revealed the origin, causes and forms of examination malpractices and the consequences, solutions were also proffered but it appears to be on the increase with new forms being adopted. The Nigerian government has also been working hard to curb this academic menace in our educational system but to no avail. Akpotu (1998) in Ugwu (2008) described examination malpractice as “a form of intellectual crime, intellectual fraud or intellectual dishonesty” while Ugwu described it as a cankerworm which is not just good for the integrity of our educational system and nations but is a threat to the foundation of our future leaders. According to Udoh (2011), examination
malpractice has brought about the falling standard of education in Nigeria and that our certificates and degrees are in doubt. The only solution in promoting quality is to stop emphasizing the possession of certificates as the bases of employment but skills and on the job performance of individuals in their chosen careers.
(v) Insecurity of the Schools
Insecurity could be seen as that state of being open to danger or threat to life and property; a lack of protection from exposure to vulnerability (Bassey, 2004). Insecurity could be seen today in the light of violence, rape, bombings, abduction, kidnap, elopement, child marriage, stealing, killing and destruction. The maintenance of internal security in the country of recent seem elusive as a result of the activities of insurgent groups like the Boko Haram and other religious militia groups rampaging and sacking several communities in the North East and North Central States of Nigeria. The consequences of these attacks are the displacement of school age pupils/students without the hope of continuing with their education while other students have been adopted like the Chibok girls for forced marriage, rape, prostitution and even the loss of their lives like the students and teachers of Buni Yadi (Idoko, 2014).
If the schools are not safe, how can the students and teachers run the educational system? How can the goals for achieving education for all be attained by 2015 when the students and teachers have abandoned the unsafe schools?
The desire for quality education in Junior Secondary Schools in Nigeria on the twilight of the attainment of the goals of education for all in 2015 is generally a shared feeling in Nigeria and other countries. Achievement of the EFA goals especially that of quality education is however bedeviled by several constraints amongst which are unqualified teachers in the classroom, poor remuneration of the teacher, inadequate equipment and infrastructural facilities for teaching/learning, examination malpractice and insecurity of the schools. Though these constraints seem daunting they are not insurmountable if stakeholders in education from the policy makers, the students, teachers, parents to government at all levels fulfill their expected roles.
The following suggestions are proffered in line with acheiving the goals of education for all by 2015 by the Junior Secondary School education level in Nigeria. These are:
- Audit of all teachers teaching in the public junior secondary schools should be conducted to determine the qualification of the teachers. Teachers that are unqualified should be compelled to undergo further training at government expense after which they are reabsorbed into the school system.
- Incentives of annual reward for service should become the feature of all junior secondary schools initiated and implemented by proprietors of schools to reward teachers that are dedicated to duty.
- All employers of teachers including governments at all levels should ensure regular payment of teachers’ salaries/allowances. Any administrator found to contravene this order should be sanctioned by the law.
- Government should double her effort in providing infrastructure and other facilities that aid teaching and learning in school.
- The safe school initiative should be vigorously pursued by government and community development associations.
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