A governorship aspirant under the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in Oyo State, Prof. Adeolu Akande has said the nation cannot achieve anything meaningful if skills acquisition and vocational training in the educational system are not given adequate attention.
Akande, who spoke while presenting a keynote address at the commissioning of the dormitory of the International College of Arts, Science and Technoloy, ICAST, in Ibadan, the state capital, said that the dysfunctional education system is one the factors that contribute to youth unemployment in the country.
According to Akande, who was a chief of staff to Oyo State governor, “although there are other contributing factors to the crisis of youth unemployment, dysfunctional education system remains a major factor,” adding that ”I have examined the state of our education and the crisis of youth unemployment in Nigeria. As a nation, we need to walk the talk about skills acquisition and vocational training in our education system. To be sure, such emphasis requires more commitment of funds to education over and above the average 8 per cent that federal and state governments presently commit to education. However, a proper appreciation of the role of education in society will necessitate the commitment of more funds to the sector.
He revealed how, many decades before now, “education was a sure meal ticket. Many Nigerians who received university education in the 1960s up till the early 1980s still tell the story of how they had to choose between several offers of jobs even before they wrote their final year examinations in the universities.”
He added that “the situation dramatically changed with the economic slowdown of the early 1980s, worsened in the 1990s and crystallised into a crisis in the early part of the present century.”
He reeled out statistics, indicating how 36 per cent, about 8.73 Million of Nigerian children of primary school age are out of school, making Nigeria the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. “This is in contrast to global records of 88 per cent enrolment of children of school age. While the national statistics is bad, it is actually worsened when broken to regional levels where records show that some states in the northern part of the country have less than 25 per cent enrolment of children of school age.
“However, the problem is not limited to the enrolment of children of primary school age in school but also that of keeping them in school. National statistics show that about 25 per cent of pupils who enrol in primary school drop out of school at primary six. A further 20 per cent drop off the 7,104 secondary schools (2010 figure) before tertiary education. A high percentage of Nigerian youths who seek tertiary education also do not get space in higher institutions. In 2017 for instance, 1,428,379 applicants sat for the entry examination to tertiary institutions but only 415,500 were provided admission. This is about one-third of the aspiring undergraduates. In essence, the Nigeria education system leaves out about one million youths out of tertiary education admission every year. This is in spite of recent growth in the number of higher institutions leaving Nigeria currently with 40 federal universities, 44 state universities, 68 private universities, 107 polytechnics, 27 monotechnics and 220 colleges in specific disciplines as well as 84 teaching training colleges.
One consequence of this is the high number of Nigerian youths seeking tertiary education outside Nigeria. The number of Nigerian youths seeking oversees degrees increased by a ridiculous 164 per cent from 26,997 to 71,351 students in the decade 2005 to 2015.The United Kingdom, the number one choice destination of Nigerian youths is home to 17,873 Nigerian students in 2015. Ghana houses 10,674 Nigerian students. The United States of America is home to 10, 674 Nigerian students. Malaysia, the most popular country among Nigerians of northern stock, is home to 4,943 Nigerian students. Another 1,915 Nigerian students are in Saudi Arabia. It is important to note that 40 per cent of these students are on scholarship by Nigerian governments. The capital flight in this enterprise is demonstrated by the sum Nigerians commit to education in the United States of America which stands at $324M (about N113 Billion) in 2015 alone.”
He continued: “Education is not just about the preparation of children and youths as productive members of a nation’s economy. Education, fundamentally, prepares the child to be a responsible member of society who has been groomed to respect others, respect the laws of the land, perform civil responsibilities of paying tax, responsibly electing leaders in elections, and contribute to the general well-being of society. Education prepares the child to cater for his health there-by reducing in the long run, government expenditure on health. An educated person is almost certain to educate his own children, creating a domino effect for society in the grooming of responsible members of society.
“Fundamentally, an educated citizen who is groomed to be economically productive is a security asset to society. A youth that is uneducated and unskilled remains a security threat to society. They form the bulk of the One Million Boys who have become a nightmare for the residents of Oyo State, for instance. Although many of them were driven to it by the harsh economic condition, many of our youths who engage in Okada riding are uneducated and unskilled. Their lack of education contributes to the high incidence of accidents on our roads. Today, accidents involving Okada riders constitute the second major cause of death in the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan. Such accidents no doubt hike government expenditure on health; they also constitute a drain on human resources through the incapacitation of citizens and death.
“The society and indeed, government at all levels should fund skills acquisition and vocational training as a major strategy to confront youth unemployment. Additional strategy should be the engagement of entrepreneurship programmes, funding of youths with testable business ideas and a mentoring system to encourage youths to establish businesses to employ themselves and other youths,” he advised.