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LIDC Podcast: Learning Lessons from Education in Nigeria

The challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria and potential ways of overcoming them are analysed in the second episode of LIDC’s monthly podcast Development Matters. Emeritus Professor Pai Obanya, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and Emeritus Professor Lalage Bown, University of Glasgow, discuss the influence of politics on education policies and the importance of lifelong learning
during the interview.
Politics and education policy
Set against the context of current educational problems, including an adult illiteracy rate of 28% and debates over the allocation of resources, Obanya begins by emphasising the relationship between politics and education policy. He says:  “What is happening at the political level is also affecting the choices you are making and where you direct the resources…If you have good politics, you are more likely to generate good policies.” The rapid succession of education ministers and their differing priorities has meant that even though policies, such as universal basic education, exist on paper, “in practice you are not achieving these results because as ministers change, your emphasis also changes.”

The importance of lifelong learning
Bown, an adult education expert, draws on her decades of experience working in Nigeria to criticise the tendency towards the fragmentation of education policies. Obanya agrees: “I think strictly speaking the moment we start talking about education as education and not education as schooling we’ll be solving the problem.” He discusses how education can be viewed along a continuum from incidental education to informal, non-formal and formal education and shows concern that people denied basic education lose the capacity to learn from experience, and society loses out as a result.

Obanya and Bown also respond to last month’s conversation on Development Matters with Professor Calestous Juma, of Harvard University, about the use of ICT in education and the One Laptop per Child initiative. Obanya expresses reservations about the usefulness and feasibility of such initiatives, especially as there is a need for technical back-up, teaching training and local capacity to produce the software and educational materials.Bown emphasises the value of traditional media, such as radio and television, which remain “hugely valuable for education,” particularly for less formal education.

The future for education
The two education experts also agree that the future of education in Nigeria relies on communities helping themselves rather than dependence on foreign aid. Obanya explains the benefits of using domestically-generated funds in better ways, and also that progress is not always dependent upon spending money. Bown echoes his concerns about foreign interventions, saying that organisations such as the World Bank are “capable of incalculable damage” when allowed to set policy conditions for developing countries.

They also fondly recall being present at the birth of independent Nigeria 50 years ago and they will be celebrating when the country marks its anniversary this October. Bown expresses her optimism, saying there is “plenty, plenty, plenty to celebrate” and that Nigeria is “ready to change and move forward.”
This episode builds upon the lecture given by Obanya at LIDC on 27 January. The event was organised by the Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE).

By Davida Gatlin, an MA student at the Institute of Education and a work experience placement student at LIDC