Created: 20 March 2012
Further to his recent visit to Nigeria on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education For All, Bob initiated an important debate to discuss education projects in the country. The visit was aimed at understanding how Nigeria is addressing major educational challenges, specifically in terms of the education of girls and community involvement in education. The delegration also took the opportunity to meet Nigerian politicians as well to see the impact of British involvement on the ground.
Nigeria has a population of about 165 million people and has 10% of the world’s children of primary age who are not in school. Most of those are girls. There are considerable barriers to girls accessing education. This is cultural and physical and both those challenges are being addressed. The delegation also wished to examine the use of Department for International Development funding and to ensure that taxpayers money is being used wisely and that value for money results.
The challenge in Nigeria is, to make sure that proper action is being taken to address corruption. An inquiry, chaired by Farouk Muhammad Lawan, is being undertaken into the operation of Nigeria’s oil industry. He is also the chairman of education in the Nigerian House of Representatives. Transfers of funds from the Federal Government of Nigeria do not always seem to reach the proper destination, whilst this may be a problem of bureaucracy, it makes the monitoring of DFID funding all the more important.
One of the key barriers to participation in education is that of fees and levies. It is clear that there are mixed messages about whether young people are required to pay fees and what happens if they are unable to afford them. The adequacy of teacher training and the qualifications of teachers are a severe challenge. Girls are particularly challenged, as traditionally they are not educated. They are often forced to marry when very young—even as young as 12. They are seen to be needed in the home or as part of the farming community, so families do not recognise the value of their education. The role of traditional rulers is key in promoting education, particularly that of girls. Where that happens, the results are dramatically improved.
Most schools do not have proper sanitation or even fresh water, and that is a considerable barrier preventing girls from being educated. Bob warmly welcomed the DFID funding being used to provide these basic facilities. No mention of Nigeria can be complete without referring to the security situation. The work of churches, charities, Comic Relief and other organisations is extremely valuable in promoting the educational opportunities that are required in these areas. Bob visited schools in Abuja and Lagos and saw at first hand that DFID funding can make a big difference on providing toilets and new classrooms. In Abuja, Bob visited a school where thieves had stolen the water pump that provided fresh water for the children. In Lagos, Bob visited a school that had had a new toilet block installed with DFID funding. However, we expressed concern that the cost of that—£37,000—seemed excessive compared with the cost of building generally in Nigeria. Bob has enquired about this project and the procurement costs involved.
Bob also met with a number of politicians and officials and argued that a bilateral relationship is crucial as we increase the UK’s influence in the world. As a key member of the commonwealth, there can be little doubt that Nigeria will become the key economy in Africa very soon, so it is in our vital national interest to continue to invest in infrastructure projects in Nigeria and particularly to invest in education.
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