ABUJA — While Nigeria’s population is booming, it’s public education sector is not.
Overpopulation in Nigeria, as with most other sub-Saharan African countries, is a problem that affects all aspects of life. With children under 15 making up almost 45 percent of the country’s population, the burden on education and other sectors has become overwhelming. Many organizations have stepped in to help, but more work must still be done.
In that work, educating Nigeria’s vastly young population will be crucial. Overpopulation in Nigeria has led to a scarcity of resources to support its young people. Forty percent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend primary school. Despite a significant increase in net enrollment rates in recent years, it is estimated that about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school. According to the United Nations, 8.73 million elementary school-aged children in 2010 did not participate in education at all, making Nigeria the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
Increased enrollment rates have also created challenges in ensuring quality education and satisfactory learning achievement as resources are spread more thinly across a growing number of students. It’s all too common to see 100 students trying to fit into small classrooms, two at a desk, or sitting under trees outside the school building because it cannot accommodate the overflowing class size.
Overpopulation in Nigeria is not overlooked by its government. In 2014, the compulsory, free Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act was passed into law and represents the government’s strategy to fight illiteracy and extend basic education opportunities to all children in the country. Yet, despite recent improvements in total enrollment numbers in elementary schools, the basic education system is still underfunded. Facilities are still poor, teachers inadequately trained, and participation rates are low by international standards, making any means of population control unsustainable.
The Nigerian government has also had some help from its friends. The Education Sector Support Program in Nigeria was an eight-year partnership between the U.K. Department for International Development and the Nigerian government. The program, finishing its work in 2017, developed effective planning, financing and delivery systems to improve the quality of schools, teaching and learning. The program built the capacity of thousands of state and district staff, teachers and school-based management committees to improve education in their primary schools. Using this partnership as a precedent, other countries should again fill that role to continue making progress.
Nigeria, already the world’s sixth-most populous nation with 167 million people, is a crucial test case in population control that would have a dramatic influence on the world. In that test of political will and strategy, the country and global community must not forget to foster the next generation who will be bearing the burden and continuing to work and improve the current situation. The lack of adequate education for its children weakens the Nigerian system at its foundation, but with funding and support, the developing world could become a much more stable place.
– Allie Knofczynski