Digital education to keep Nigeria’s young workforce competitive

Securing appropriate funding for Nigeria’s education ecosystem remains one of the sector’s most important goals, and is key to improving outcomes. Underinvestment has created knock-on effects for the nation’s employment rate, with the private sector struggling to find qualified workers. More than half of all wage-paying jobs in the country are in the public sector – with around 80% of those associated with the hydrocarbons industry – and many educated Nigerians would prefer to wait for a secure public sector job than work in the private sector, according to a World Bank report. The state of the education system has resulted in brain drain and a diaspora of around 17m people. To address these issues, the government is encouraging more collaboration between the private sector and educational institutions to equip students with the necessary skills to find employment in areas beyond oil and gas.

Private Funding

The Ministerial Strategic Plan 2018-22, known as Education for Change, is the government’s most recent roadmap of key challenges in the sector and how to address them. Under the strategy, the private sector is highlighted as a major source of potential funding to bridge the fiscal gap; the federal government allocated 5.8% of the 2021 budget to education, or approximately N1.2trn ($3.2bn) – significantly below UNESCO’s recommendation of 15-26% for developing countries. In particular, the plan calls for more public-private partnerships (PPPs) and direct funding for infrastructure and materials.

Higher Intervention

At the higher education level the government is encouraging private sector intervention to help upgrade the quality of polytechnics, colleges and universities, while working to accredit more private higher education facilities in the country. The government approved 20 new private universities in February 2021, taking the number of private institutions to 99. Education for Change also calls for more PPPs to provide on-campus accommodation for students at the tertiary level.

Vocational and technical education for skills development is another priority of the plan. In 2015 the government approved the establishment of private facilities known as Vocational Enterprise Institutions (VEIs) and Innovation Enterprise Institutions (IEIs) to provide employment-focused education aligned with the private sector ’s needs. VEIs and IEIs offer technical, technological and professional education and training at the post-basic and tertiary level to secondary school leavers and working adults to equip them with the skills necessary to meet the demands of new industries. There were 78 VEIs and 158 IEIs as of end-2019.

Force for Change

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the education divide in the country, and is spurring change in the sector. The number of out-ofschool children is estimated to be as high as 10m-12m, and children in rural and underserved communities are at risk of falling behind peers who are able to transition to new modes of learning. The pandemic is redefining digital and online education, with the educational technology (edtech) segment transforming delivery via virtual classrooms, online content solutions, mobile and cloud technology, and hardware such as in-classroom tablets and interactive whiteboards.

The government has called for the private sector to help bridge this technological gap, and multiple startups, NGOs and private companies are working towards this end. For example, Nigerian edtech start-up uLesson, which launched at the beginning of the pandemic, allows students to take lessons and tests through a mobile app, while universities such as Lagos State University and the American University of Nigeria have created e-learning alternatives for students at home. Meanwhile, in early May 2021 the Lagos State government began distributing 1m ICT devices to secondary school students and tech-focused teaching instruments to 15,000 teachers in public primary schools to bridge the digital divide, with the authorities saying that there is a need for private partnership in this area.

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The Report: Nigeria 2022

Health and Education chapter from The Report: Nigeria 2022

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