SIR: Since May 1999, when democracy re-emerged on the political surface called Nigeria, it has been a tough and tumble ride for Nigerian workers. The practice of democracy, contrary to earlier beliefs, have not helped to stop the pangs of socioeconomic challenges experienced by Nigerian workers or reduced strike actions to the barest minimum; no thanks to government’s progressive non recognition of the right to education as a human right despite their membership of a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right is respected.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that education is a fundamental human right for everyone. Quality education aims to ensure the development of a fully-rounded human being. It is one of the most powerful tools in lifting socially excluded children and adults out of poverty and into society. UNESCO data shows that if all adults completed secondary education, globally the number of poor people could be reduced by more than half. It narrows the gender gap for girls and women. A UN study showed that each year of schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by five to 10 per cent.
However, there must be equality of opportunity, universal access and enforceable and monitored quality standards. There must be in place primary education that is free, compulsory and universal; secondary education, including technical and vocational, that is generally available, accessible to all and progressively free and a higher education, accessible to all on the basis of individual capacity and progressively free.
With the nation’s current Nigeria population of over 195.9 million, 45 per cent of which are below 15 years, there is a huge demand for learning opportunities translating into increased enrolment. This has created challenges in ensuring quality education since resources are spread more thinly, resulting in more than 100 pupils for one teacher as against the UNESCO benchmark of 35 students per teacher and culminating in students learning under trees for lack of classrooms. The challenge has increased in the last few years.
Why has it become an impossible task for Nigerian leaders to build an economy that is all-encompassing improvement, a process that builds on itself and involves both individuals and social change? Why is it taking our leaders at both state and federal levels eternity to engineer growth and structural change.
The only answer is that we must be holistic in approach. Achieving this feat will assist citizens enjoy prosperity while the nation would automatically thrive and survive the challenges of modern statehood.
Failure will again reinforce the notion that Nigeria keeps wasting resources on payments of dues to the international organisations without learning something new or domesticate good governance policies and ideals that these organisations represent.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the programme coordinator, Media and Public Policy, Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.