On the 20th March an adjournment debate was held in the House of Commons to discuss how Nigeria is addressing its major educational challenges, particularly education for girls and community involvement in education. The debate was called by Bob Blackman MP, who along with Mark Williams MP and Helen Grant MP, was part of a delegation of UK parliamentarians from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education for All which visited Nigeria in February. (RESULTS provides a part-time secretariat for the APPG, working closely with the Global Campaign for Education UK). The delegation visited schools in the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos, and also met with Nigerian politicians, school governing bodies and saw the impact of British aid on the ground. Nigeria has 10% of the world’s children of primary age who are not in school (an estimated 8.5 million, the largest number of any country in the world), the majority being girls.
Mr Blackman raised the perennial issue of corruption, which is crippling the improvement of Nigeria including its education system.The first question, posed by James Wharton MP for Stockton South, was how the UK’s Department for International Department (DfID) is responding to the threat of corruption. DfID’s work at the country level, Mr Blackman responded, minimises the opportunity for corruption as funds are goings towards localised projects to ensure they reach the proper destination. Key players in Nigeria such as Farouk Lawan, Chairman of the Education Committee in the Nigerian House of Representatives, support DfID’s approach in assisting the minimisation of corruption in his country.
Yet corruption is only one amongst the many factors affecting students’ participation in education in Nigeria. Mr Blackman brought up a few others: the issue of fees and levies which are unaffordable for poor families – resulting in the high student drop-out rate Nigeria experiences; the inadequacy of teacher training and qualifications of teachers; forced early marriages for girls by families who do not recognise the value of their education; and lack of sanitation or even fresh water acting as a barrier for girls to be educated.
On the latter, Mr Blackman touched on the delegation’s visit to schools in Abuja and Lagos where DfID funding is making a difference through providing toilets. On the issues of girls’ education and sanitation, Helen Grant MP pointed out the importance of girls’ clubs in schools such Yangoji near Abuja (the girls’ club is funded by the ActionAid TEGINT project), which play a key role in empowering young women by giving them a platform and a safe place to address the difficulties which prevent them from being educated. Girls are able to support and encourage one another.
As a former teacher, Mark Williams MP discussed the huge challenges facing teachers in Nigeria, who are frequently faced with huge class sizes and ill-equipped due to inadequate training. Mr Williams argued that DFID’s support to education in Nigeria should not focus solely on quantity but on quality and equality. The quality will stem from improvements in the teacher training structure he said, including an increase in female teachers “who are essential as role models for young girls in school”.
Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development, provided the government response to the debate. He emphasised DfID’s commitment in working with the Nigerian government through its Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) project to ensure the remainder of the 39% of out of school children in the country gain access to education and to close the gender gaps especially in northern Nigeria where education issues are more acute.
You can read the full text of the debate at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-03-20b.765.0&s=nigeria We would be very interested to hear your views on the discussion!