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How Can Literary Artists and Other Creatives Contribute to Sustainable Development and to the Sustainable Growth of the Book Sector?

Article by: Abdullahi-ismaila |

Nigeria's Education System and The Garbage School Mantra

Author: Dr. Abdullahi Ismaila

Paper delivered at the panel hosted by UN SDG Book Club Africa at the Nigeria International Book Fair 2022 - 11 am, Saturday 14th May 2022

Panel Topic: How Can Literary Artists and Other Creatives Contribute to Sustainable Development and to the Sustainable Growth of the Book Sector?

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The importance of education cannot be overemphasized. Education is the bedrock of any society; without education, no meaningful progress and development can be achieved. The developed countries of the world have reached their current state of development today because of the premium they place on functional science and technology education. This is not to say that they neglect arts and humanities education; theirs is an elaborate approach to education that has resulted in the kind of progress and development they have today. This is however not the case in Nigeria. Instead of achieving progress and development with education, African countries are recording a backward movement and underdevelopment. This is because, in the case of Nigeria, the government simply pays lip service to matters of education.

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Nigeria's Education System

Nigeria currently operates a 6-3-3-4 system of education, that is, six years primary education, three years junior secondary, three years senior secondary education, and four years university education. This system was grafted from the American system of education as against the British system. Without gainsaying the facts, the 6-3-3-4 system has contributed to making Nigeria's education ineffective as students are disconnected from their previous learning thereby making them lazy and noncommittal. The system requires that pupils in primary schools as well as students in secondary and post-secondary schools do not carry forward or revisit what they learned in the previous terms or semesters as they move from one term or semester to another. As such, they simply abandon the previous terms/semesters and sessions and just move on unless they failed certain subjects/courses.

All of these coupled with the dilapidated facilities, obsolete equipment or instructional materials on which the students/pupils are weaned and with the demotivated teaching staff complete the circle of degeneracy in Nigeria's education system. There is no doubt that this is a gloomy picture of what Nigeria's education system represents. This situation is brought about by the unwillingness of governments at all levels to fund the education sector. A cursory look at the funding pattern from 2015-to 2021 reveals a progressive downward trend. In 2015, the budgetary expenditure in the education sector was 10% of the budget but in 2021 it has come down to 5.6%. This is grossly contrary to the UN funding benchmark of 26% of the national budget and 6% of the Gross Domestic Product for education.

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The Garbage School Mantra

The above picture of the sorry state of Nigeria's education system can best be described as a 'Garbage School System '. This is what the book The Garbage School projects. In the book, the pupils of a primary school are herded to farms every day by their teachers who should be guiding their studies. This is in addition to the dilapidated and poorly equipped classrooms staffed with unqualified teachers with which readers are confronted in the book. According to UNESCO, 27% of Nigeria's teachers are unqualified. With this unconducive learning environment, the future of the pupils is in jeopardy. Fortunately, the pupils themselves rise to the occasion to demand better and quality education by revolting against the teachers. This story is intended to awaken the consciousness of the entire society to the menace that is threatening the future of our young ones and the sustainability of education generally.

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In terms of the sociology of education, it is argued that ''the purpose of education should be to develop every individual to their full potential and give them a chance to achieve as much in life as their natural abilities allow''. Education is meant to enable individuals to overcome handicaps, achieve greater equality, and acquire wealth and social status. Therefore, education is seen as a 'place where children can develop according to their unique needs and potentials'. To sustain education, quality must be ensured at all levels but especially at the basic level. It is only when this is made possible that the future of our young ones can be secured. Similarly, the government must stop paying lip service to education by making sure it provides adequate funding for the sector.

Abdullahi Ismaila has written a screenplay of his novel.
Watch the excellent screen adaptation of The Garbage School on

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