Education & Jobs

A learning environment

A school classroom in NigeriaEducation is seen as key to development, for individuals and the nation as a whole.

Universal Primary Education was introduced in 1976. In 1999, the government introduced Universal Basic Education (UBE), which gives each child 9 years of compulsory schooling (6 years of primary and 3 years of junior secondary).

Under the new UBE programme, the government’s aim is to provide more classrooms, teachers and materials for the growing young population. But much more investment is still needed.

Nigerian children are mainly taught in the official language of English, but the main local languages – Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo – are also used.

A girl at school

Girls more often lose out

While all children are meant to have access to free schooling for nine years, families have to buy uniforms and learning materials. Therefore children from very poor families often drop out of school, particularly girls, who are expected to help with household chores.

This explains the difference in literacy rates between young men, where 78% of 15-24 year olds can read and write, compared with young women, where only 65% of girls the same age are literate (UNESCO 2009).

In northern Muslim states, some families choose to send their children to Islamic schools. Many of these have been in operation for centuries and focus on the teaching of the Koran and Islamic texts. However, local and national government officials are worried about the rise of fundamentalism in northern Nigeria. New government-funded schools are being set up to teach a broad range of topics such as science, maths, computer skills, English and Hausa, as well as Arabic and the Koran. Meals will be provided to pupils from poor families.

Higher education and finding work

The Nigerian diaspora

Over a million Nigerians have left the country to seek work abroad (according to the World Bank).

Nigeria’s higher education system is one of the largest in Africa, with over 40 state-funded universities and at least 125 technical colleges for vocational skills in subjects such as agriculture, health and petroleum science (for the oil sector).

However, with such a large number of hopeful students (nearly half the population is under the age of 18), demand for places far exceeds supply. To increase courses, a 1993 law was passed allowing private universities.

Even with a degree or tertiary education qualification, jobs can be hard to come by. With low levels of investment in the country – see Economy & Industry – around a fifth of the workforce are unemployed.