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The role of mathematics in lives of Nigerian youths

The youth in Nigeria includes citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria aged 18-35 years according to the new Youth Policy (2009). However, the African…

The youth in Nigeria includes citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria aged 18-35 years according to the new Youth Policy (2009). However, the African Youth Charter recognizes youth as people between 15 and 35. Nigeria has been stated as the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country on earth, with an estimated population of over 200 million people that is still growing at a rate close to three per cent per annum. The country’s population is primed to double and reach over 400 million by 2050.

The national youth policy (2009) aims to, “Promote the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and protect the health, social, economic and political well-being of all young men and women in order to enhance their participation in the overall development process and improve their quality of life”.

According to former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo,  “Youths constitute Nigeria’s only hope for a greater future”. Also, the Nigerian government characterizes youths as ambitious, enthusiastic, energetic and vulnerable in society because of the rapid changes they experience at this time in their lives.

Despite its potentials, the youth demography in Nigeria, as in many economies, projected as spurring enormous growth for increased social provisioning, remains largely in the realm of rhetoric.

In a developing country like Nigeria, youth interests and roles have being undermined,  resulting to poverty, alienation, destabilization and conflicts.

Since independence, youth within the political and governance space have had fairly complex, if not contradictory roles that were both progressive and less than fortunate. They occupied both a messianic and destructive continuum.

As an instance, it was the youths who took over government from the colonial powers, and drove huge national advancement in terms of human and infrastructural development. Also, it was a youth who led the first military coup of January 15, 1966, and the counter-coup of July 1966 which accentuated the slippery slide of Nigerian politics into the ethnic cauldron.

We are in the middle of an election cycle already imbued with a disregard for facts; that is charged with lots of emotions. Politicians deploy a lot of tactics to elicit an emotional response from us. They know how to play with our emotions. And they succeed too often because relying on emotion and defaulting to unquantifiable criteria like moral and religious to make decision or to take position is often easier than analyzing the data and numbers to do so. Elections are all about numbers. Numbers are important for winning. The election process, elective periods, and progress factor are dependent on numbers.

The inability to scrutinize and distinguish between bad and good math in political contexts is detrimental to effective citizenship. Greater numeracy leads to greater agency in political decision making and can make us better consumers of democracy. As long as we are fooled by unsubstantiated math or perplexed by its rigour, our democracy is in peril.

The only substantive solution to this problem is more education aimed at cultivating political numeracy. Knowing the mathematics behind some key democratic processes such as voting, distribution of legislative seats etc, is quite important, as this will provide the tools to identify political matters that should be tackled mathematically.   

Mathematics can help students and youths to analyse different choices and possibilities, and therefore make better sense of their upcoming duties as voters and members of civil society. That goes for issues of national importance like healthcare etc.

The kids and youths are going to run this country one day and make the rules and determine the policies that govern everything in this nation, and mathematics is a prism for understanding that. And it may be the most powerful prism. The role of mathematics in youths’ lives fits a vision of citizenship that includes functioning in society and becoming economically productive members of society.

In conclusion, mathematics is a core subject in the Nigerian education system at the basic education and secondary education levels. It touches every aspect of life of the beneficiary. The reality of the change and the birth of a new Nigeria we clamour for are dependent on classroom mathematics. Character transformation as well as the ability to engage meaningfully to take civic action are possible through effective mathematics classroom instructions.


Joshua Ibeazor a PTA Maths teacher, wrote from Wuse, Abuja

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