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What Does the Future Hold for Nigeria’s Education Sector? The Teachers and Head Teachers Speak

What Does the Future Hold for Nigeria’s Education Sector? The Teachers and Head Teachers Speak

Did you know that the COVID-19 pandemic created “the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents?”[1] According to the United Nations, the closure of schools and other educational institutions impacted approximately 94% of the student population globally, with up to 99% in low and lower-middle-income countries, including Nigeria.1 The education system in Nigeria has remained in a state of disarray due to the lack of effective strategies and drivers to sustain potential growth. This has led to various issues throughout the years, some of which include: 2

  • As of 2017, most students in Nigeria lacked access to early childhood education.
  • The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) reported that approximately 50.8% of Nigerian children between the ages of 5 and 17 are involved in child labour. Child labour continues to be a major challenge in Nigeria at the expense of the children’s education.
  • Up to 12 states were not able to pay teachers their salaries; some teachers were owed for up to 30 months.
  • Nigeria’s education sector is still largely underfunded, with little or no funds to support the sector’s growth and development.

These facts show that Nigeria’s education sector has been faced with challenges that cut deep across the entire system and requires the input of stakeholders to ensure its development and sustainability. The term “stakeholder” in this context refers to “anyone who is invested in the success of a school and its students”[2]. This includes the students, parents, teachers, school heads, alumni, donors, school board members, regulatory bodies, advocacy groups, state representatives, and the government.

The first series of this article highlighted the students’ and parents’ views about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian education system. Reportedly, the closure of schools had a negative impact on 83% of the parents interviewed, while 45% of students showed dissatisfaction with learning from home. Some key issues identified from both parents and students are reduced learning capacity and work productivity; insufficient resources to cater to the needs of the children; increased level of uncertainty regarding the continuity of their education; and negative effects on the wellbeing of the children, especially for those who have certain disabilities and require social interactions for adequate development.

[1] (United Nations, 2020)

[2] (Franchise India, 2018)

However, the closure of schools also led to several positive occurrences which are significant to the development of the sector, some of which included:

  • Increased discipline and exposure to new methods of learning using the computer and other technology devices.
  • Increased level of independence and trust in the students’ capabilities.
  • Opportunity for parents to monitor the teacher’s tutelage and the children’s ability to comprehend, which further contributed to increased confidence about the children’s preparation for the likely future of digital education.

Although the inadequacies in the Nigerian education sector has been widely reported, Ciuci Consulting further investigated the views of the internal stakeholders –   teachers, principals, and headteachers – of both primary and secondary schools across Nigeria. Randomly selected respondents from public and private schools in Lagos, Kaduna, and Ogun were interviewed.

The data collected was analysed based on the following parameters:

  • Perception and effectiveness of the use of alternative learning methods
  • Challenges experienced with the closure of educational institutions
  • General views about the closure of educational institutions
  • Methods of learning post-pandemic and recommendations for the development of the sector

Here are some insights from respondents.

  • Perception and effectiveness of the use of alternative learning methods

The majority of the respondents in private schools noted that online learning platforms were adopted as alternative methods of teaching in an attempt to reduce the learning gaps. A mixture of online platforms was adopted by some schools, as reported by one of the respondents.

“We started with an app that didn’t encourage much interaction. We recognized that attention span was low, so we changed to other platforms such as zoom for live classes, Moodle for exams, and our interactive online platform and website for assignments and additional resources.

As the education of the students was highly dependent on these newly adopted learning platforms, the study examined the effectiveness of the alternative platforms provided by the institutions. 64% of the teachers and educational heads indicated that they considered these methods to be “above average”.

This contradicted the results from the students and parents, who considered the effectiveness of the alternative methods to be average/below average standard. The discrepancy validated the suspected ineffectiveness of online learning, particularly for teaching courses such as Sciences, Mathematics, and Arts.

  • Challenges experienced with the closure of educational institutions


The study results revealed that a significant number of teachers experienced challenges ranging from technological constraints to the lack of adequate support. 45% of the teachers experienced technological issues mainly due to inconsistencies in the effectiveness of the internet service used to teach i.e., bad network; and difficulties in accessing the content uploaded on the adopted platform.  

Also, despite the acclaimed provisions from the federal and state government to cushion the effects of the pandemic on the sector, 19% of teachers considered the lack of financial and technological support, their major challenge.

  • General views about the closure of educational institutions and the method of learning post-pandemic

Most of the respondents expressed their unlikeliness to teaching remotely post the pandemic. This response is not far-fetched given their concerns about teaching remotely, the state of the economy, and the poor education system.

Some of the concerns expressed included:

Also, many teachers feared that the closure of educational institutions would lead to a great setback for many students, particularly those who did not have access to digital learning resources, as they may never catch up and will continue to feel the effect of the learning gaps long after the pandemic is over.

Approximately 55% of the headteachers/experts interviewed were not in agreement with the initial decision to close up schools due to the unavailability of alternative learning platforms for the underprivileged students and public schools, and the lack of proper planning prior to the federal government’s decision to close the schools.

Below are quotes from some of the experts interviewed:

Although the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic is revolutionizing digital learning all over the world, in Nigeria, there are significant gaps that need to be addressed to catch up with the trend. In March 2020, the government closed up schools as a proactive way of curbing the spread of the virus. Subsequently, in August 2020, they announced that schools should gradually reopen nationwide. The government required schools to comply with the necessary COVID-19 guidelines as they reopened. However, it was reported that some schools eventually felt the outrage of the virus. For example, there were over 180 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a private school in Lekki, Lagos. Also, following the nationwide protest to end SARS in October 2020, student learning was negatively affected as schools had to close up again.

With schools gradually reopening as of November 2020, what is next for the sector?

Evidently, it is crucial to identify the requirements necessary to mitigate the current learning gaps caused by the closure of educational institutions due to the pandemic. Though some high-end private schools have found a way to continuously provide education to their students through the use of blended learning (face-to-face and online), some low-cost private and public schools had to wait for resumption in November 2020.

The inadequacy of the system and inequality in accessing learning remains a key issue in the Nigerian education sector. Before now, getting an education was all that mattered – whether quality or not – currently the norm for some students is not getting an education due to the system’s inadequacy.

Seeing as every child deserves an education;[1] the system has to be built in a way that every child gets access to inclusive and equitable quality education to promote lifelong learning opportunities during and after the pandemic.

Because the sector has remained underfunded for years, adequate funding and support from the government would be needed to equip public schools with the necessary infrastructure to provide a safe and effective learning environment. The government should also look into investing in research and development in the education sector and education as a whole. This would inform subsequent policies, processes, technologies, and growth plans that the sector would require to address long-standing needs, and align with global best practices.

Most importantly, technology is required to support the current state of education in Nigeria. This would not only improve the quality of education but also provide access to learning in multiple ways. Some recommendations include the provision of solar-powered educational devices pre-loaded with offline academic resources and the incorporation of e-learning in the Nigerian education curriculum. These solutions will target more students and make up for the myriad of disruptions experienced in their academics.

[1] (UNICEF, 2019)

Although schools had remained closed for longer than expected, this has presented an opportunity for the education sector to apply lessons learnt in creating a continuity of learning plan and shaping the future of education in Nigeria. Some of the lessons learnt include:

  • Being mindful of children’s basic social and emotional needs
  • The ineffectiveness of students being in classrooms for extended hours without a break
  • The resulting digital divide due to the inaccessibility of technology and lack of school readiness, amongst others

To address the sector’s long-standing needs including the academic losses incurred in the year 2020, it is imperative for all relevant stakeholders to contribute to shaping the future of education in Nigeria. An illustration of the future of education in Nigeria could involve:

  • Some parents opting for home-based and hybrid learning;
  • Teachers and interested volunteers providing remedial classes for students that are lagging academically;
  • Headteachers developing pedagogical strategies to update the curriculum to ensure that students are concentrating in classrooms whilst ensuring that their psychological and emotional needs are being attended to; and
  • Government and relevant educational bodies making every effort to ensure that systems and infrastructure are put in place to cope with future disruptions.

The relevant stakeholders in the education sector should not allow challenges to stand in their way of ensuring that all children have equitable and quality access to learning. Now is the time to learn from our past experiences as it would pave the way for an even brighter future!

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