A write-up trending on the social media, written by Ahmed Joda, a one-time permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education, indicates that in the early 70s, northern Nigeria had a school enrolment of only 5% as against 100% for Lagos State, 90% for Mid-West and over 60% for the West.
Fifty years later, there is no indication that the north has changed that unacceptable position.
It is true that from 1970 to 2020, a lot of schools have been constructed and quite a lot of pupils enrolled in schools; the incongruity, remains that the figure for 2020 may still not be greater than 5%.
This is in view of the total population of the region in 1970 and what the population is today.
More worrisome is that while the number of schools continues to grow vis-à-vis the student population, quality of education has continued to plunge.
Enumerating the factors causing the decline of quality education in the north is beyond the scope of this write-up.
However, one inescapable truth is that the insouciance of northern governors is one big factor.
Over the years, particularly since 1999, the concern of most governors has been the award of contracts for the construction or renovation of schools apparently because of the ‘benefits’ therein.
But today, in many states, even the renovation of schools is no longer being undertaken and pupils sit on the bare floor under leaking roofs.
It is also alleged that in some states in the north, recruitment of teachers has been ‘commercialised’.
Offers of teaching appointment are being sold; hence, being a teacher in such states is determined not by qualification and the capacity to teach, but by the capacity to pay.
Perplexing about the state of education in the north is that concerns are not being raised by anyone.
This may be because those who have a voice are content that they can send their children to good schools while those of us who cannot, do not have a voice.
We have become obsessed with complaints about insecurity and hunger; forgetting conveniently that lack of quality education is the predisposing factor for these and other evils bedevilling the north and the country at large.
The opinion of this piece is that whoever is qualitatively educated – not just schooled – will never ever forego the comfort of his/her home and take shelter in the forest (enslaved by unknown persons) killing innocent people for nickels and dimes.
As the north continues to contend with insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, etc., an army of boys and girls of school age is seen wandering aimlessly on our streets.
Some of these misguided youths are used as thugs by politicians during political rallies; they are however abandoned to their fate immediately after.
On impulse, they resort to stealing, robbing, raping and even killing when the ‘opportunity’ presents itself.
For the uneducated, spending on education is like pouring resources down the drain.
The result is not instantaneously recognisable and that is why our leaders prefer to channel more money into construction projects.
What they fail to realise all the time is that keeping our young minds in school (and thus away from susceptibility to negative influences) is, in the long run, far better than borrowing to construct bridges and flyovers.
We thus call on our governors and national leaders to have a rethink about education.
Make it compulsory and qualitative.
For the youths above basic school age, provide skills acquisition centres (like Governor Zulum of Borno State has done) to give them permanent means of livelihood.
Remember Your Excellences that whoever is wise will never neglect education.
We are nevertheless consoled by the fact that Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i is demonstrating genuine commitment to quality education even though Kaduna is only one out of the nineteen northern states.
It is therefore hoped that other northern governors will emulate him.
Abubakar Atiku Alkali (PhD), Senior Lecturer, Department of Modern European Languages and Linguistics, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto email@example.com