NATIONAL ECONOMIC RECESSION AND INSECURITY: SAVING EDUCATION TO SAVE NIGERIA

Hello and how is the week going. Here is an essay I wrote earlier this year for the Sigma essay contest 2017. Kindly take your time to go through it, like and criticize. Thank you.

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​On a hot afternoon, the 14th day of April, 2014, the atmosphere was still and calm. The dust laden air blew gently on the burning topography of the Government Secondary School in Chibok. Rakiya Abubakar and her friends were preparing for their O’level examination in their respective corners, buried in the deep sea of study. Nothing more will have been greater than to take a phantom leap on the ladder to achieve the best legacy; education. But nothing is ever constant than change. Rakiya had proposed a parallel “A” in her upcoming exam, but fate disposes that she becomes a victim of Boko Haram’s insurgency. 

Today, she is the mother of a six months old baby with her hopes of continuing her studies hanging in the air.  Amidst this security threats, she and majority of Nigerians are also faced with the negative effects of an unstable economic status; recession. So the question beacons; in the midst of national security and economic tensions, how can education survive?

With a view to clarity, the major terms of this treatise (insecurity and recession) and their effects need to be explicit enough for the readers understanding. 

First, Insecurity is defined by thefreedictionary.com as the quality or condition of being erratic and undependable. In another version, it is defined as the condition of being susceptible to harm or injury. It is also explained to be the anxiety a person experiences when he/she feels vulnerable. Therefore, the fear of a sudden show off of the Niger Delta Avengers or some Fulani Herdsmen constitutes a quintessence of insecurity.

The ambiance of insecurity, as elucidated above, have had devastating effects on education. Apart from deadly visits, educational institutions located along the radar of attacks also shut down all operations. If not so, the school activities still get paralyzed. In light of this, families will not send their children to a school which exists at a time when danger is written all over its atmosphere. 

This is the ugly trend especially in the Northeastern parts of Nigeria. Schools have been closed and those still functioning record low attendance as children and teachers are afraid to attend (Unicef.org). Many parents are unwilling to enroll their children and are withdrawing those already in school. Statistics also paint ugly pictures of 1 out of every 3 primary school age children is out of school totaling 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria if not more.

In an article titled ‘The Indirect Impact of Insecurity on Education, published on hrw.org, insecurity not only keeps children and teachers home and shut down schools, it also exacerbates factors like the quality of education offered which is evident in the mass failures recorded in external examinations like the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) organized by the West African Examination Council (WAEC). Poverty, which is highlighted by the United Nations Human Development Index to have engrossed 70.8 per cent of Nigeria’s population who live below a dollar per day, requires school age children to work for income. Also, insufficient developmental aid and services constitutes part of the effect of insecurity on education as no new classrooms will be built nor any facility refurbished considering the option that it might get destroyed in no time. 

Second, on recession; the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) defines it as a significant decline in economic activities spread across the economy and lasting more than a few months. It is also said to be a negative growth rate in the real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a nation for two consecutive quarters.

Lessons from the great depression that started from the United States of America (1929) provide inkling to some major causes of economic recession. Some are; the high rises in the price level (inflation); fall in demand due to less purchasing power (an aftermath of lesser disposable income); accumulated debt servicing due to concurrent running of deficit budgets; and mass unemployment which stands well above 13 per cent according to the National Bureau of Statistics. 

In addition, Nigeria’s economy is exacerbated due to poor economic planning with respect to budget delay and exchange rate policy, high interest rates (between 26.77-27%) which discourages investment, high taxation characterized by a regressive system; and conflicts in policies (tight monetary policies and expectation of expansionary results) (Noko, 2016).

This economic killing monster was made official by the Minister for Finance, Kemi Adeosun on 31 August, 2016 to affirm a long feared outcome. High prices resulted in upward review of tuition fees. The University of Ibadan, for example, recently reviewed the acceptance fee from N20, 000 to N30, 000 for its newly admitted students. The tuition fee also had its fair share of increase. It is then easily deduced that when a subsidized Federal Government educational institution increases its cost, a more non-uniform increase is expected on the side of those institutions that are privately owned. And so for the family that falls below the $1 consumption bracket, increase in expenses may place a heavy burden on the financial capabilities of sponsoring their child’s (or children’s) education. 

High interest rate also scares away investors. Infrastructures in Nigeria are inadequate and with investors being chased out, the already insufficient facilities will be left in the hands of poor maintenance. The quality in education is therefore deteriorated. And for the premier University in Nigeria; University of Ibadan, to be ranked so low in comparison with other tertiary institutions of world depicts the low level of education in Nigeria.

However bad the current situations are, our greatest glory, as said by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Oprah Winfrey), is in rising up every time we fall. The future of Nigerian education has fallen into the Bermuda of recession and Insecurity, how will it then be rescued? This beacons on wisdom and carefully taken steps because the experiences from past crises suggest several priorities. Thus, to borrow wisdom from those who once had (and survived) the experience is never a crime in this situation.

Past crises have demonstrated that net effects are unevenly distributed. It is then imperative to identify the areas that are hit the hardest and that are mostly going to cut down on investing in their human capital. A monitoring system should therefore be created to follow the trends and changes in educational indicators such as enrolment and dropout rates, maintenance of schools, students’ absenteeism rate, delay in teacher payments, et cetera. This educational monitoring system is crucial because it serves as a feedback and foundational information that influence the decisions of the policymakers. When data systems identify the impact of economic crises in the educational sector, there is a feedback to policymakers for the purpose of formulating appropriate response to the crises.

Programs like scholarships and grants can mitigate the impact of crisis in investment on education. Scholarships that are targeted at poor students have been shown to increase net enrolment in low-income neighbourhoods without overcrowding public schools. Some of these scholarships include that of NNPC/Total, Shell, and Nigerian Scholarship Scheme, to mention a few. Evidence from such subsidy program in Pakistan shows a significant increase in the number of students enrolled, teachers employed, and school infrastructure, without significant increase in student-teacher ratio or student classroom ratio.

In addition, school feeding programs should be introduced. For instance, Jamaica improved their scores by 0.25 of a standard deviation for providing breakfast to malnourished children (Jukes, Drake, & Bundy, 2008). 

It is pertinent to mention that child health and nutrition have positive impacts on cognitive development through feeding. Therefore, knowledge about these programs will go a long way in saving education from the pangs of recession. It relieves the family whose total disposable income cannot cater for all their needs due to high prices.

Sometimes, crisis such as this, offer opportunities for improvement and long term reforms. I believe that the level of development in a country depends on education. Therefore, the Nigerian government should take a pro-active approach in rebuilding all basic school buildings been hatched by the insurgent group.

Furthermore, security personnels should be deployed to man every school around the insurgent stricken areas. They should however be properly motivated with early payment of salaries and provision of ammunitions powerful enough to stand the fire power of attackers. 

Technology should also be deployed to foil plans on suicide bomb attacks. The doors and windows of the schools should be replaced with ones that are bullet-proofed and provision must be made for bomb resistant tanks to escort school buses.

Similarly, Olowoselu, Adaobi, and Obioma (2015) recommended that;

“Peace and security studies should be incorporated in to Nigerian school curricular. The Nigerian Immigration Service should be overhauled with new strategies for effective monitoring and control of all Nigerian boarders against the influx of illegal aliens that support insurgent group. All schools should be properly secured with a unit of Nigerian security force, especially the schools in the boarder communities. This unit will also serve as security checks for intelligence gathering on the activities of the youths in boarder communities.” 

As my pen goes to rest, this treatise will be incomplete without a definition of education. The National Education System Law no. 2 of 1989 says education is the conscious effort to prepare students through mentoring, teaching, and training for their role in the future. In its version of 2003, no. 20, education was defined as a conscious effort to create an atmosphere of learning and the learning process so that learners are actively developing the potential and the skills needed for themselves and the society.

It is then crystal clear that the definition above cannot be achieved with recession and insecurity plunging education into their quicksand. So, from the wisdom drawn from a popular television series, Merlin; we live in a land of abundant resources and a time of difficulties, but the destiny of this great nation rests on the shoulders of its educated citizens. 

REFERENCES

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Barrera- Osorio, F. a. (2008). Evaluating a test-based Public Subsidy Program for Low-cost Private Schools:Regression-discontinuity evidence from Pakistan . World Bank mimeo .

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HRW. (2005, December 5). The Indirect Impact of Insecurity on Education. (M. A. Karbalai, Interviewer)

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