The challenges of higher education in Nigeria

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The challenges of higher education in Nigeria

By Ezinwanne Onwuka

According to the most recent ranking of universities by Webometrics, no Nigerian university is in the top 1,000 globally and amongst the first 10 in Africa.

The highest-ranked Nigerian university, the University of Ibadan, is placed 1,219 globally and 18th in Africa, far behind universities from South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

Indeed, this is not good news for a country that prides itself as the giant of Africa. Little wonder then that Nigerians will jump at any opportunity to study outside the country.

Higher education in Nigeria is characterized by many lapses. These challenges are alarming and have over time watered down the quality of our higher education.

Poor funding is one of the key challenges of higher education in Nigeria. The education sector in Nigeria is known to be one of the few areas that have been neglected by the government, in the sense that it does not get the right budget allocation year after year. That is to say, the government’s disbursement to the educational sector is not commensurate with the growing demand for higher education. This has been a bane to educational development in the country. Tertiary institutions cannot perform optimally without adequate funding. Shortage of funds affects job performance and the growth of the institution.

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Perhaps, the most pressing problem for Nigeria’s higher education system remains the incessant strike actions by educational pressure groups such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU). Over the past years, strikes have become an almost ritual occurrence at Nigerian tertiary institutions, disrupting lectures, causing delayed graduations, and further eroding the already low trust in the system of education.

Inadequate infrastructure is another critical challenge that continues to threaten the attainment of quality higher education in Nigeria. infrastructural facilities such as buildings for the purpose of lectures, laboratories, electricity, staff offices, libraries, students’ hostels, administrative blocks, recreation centres, good road network within the school etc. have often described as being in a state of decay.

Starting from lecture halls to accommodation for staff and students and basic facilities for teaching and learning in a conducive atmosphere, the country’s universities are deeply in want. The importance of infrastructural facilities cannot be overemphasized. The adequacy of these facilities will favour effective teaching and learning and the inadequacy will hamper effective teaching and learning result in poor quality of education.

Another big challenge to the quality of higher education in Nigeria is the problem of brain drain. Over the past years, there have been a mass exodus of brilliant lecturers and/or professors to either other sectors of the economy, such as politics or foreign universities.

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The best brains leaving the “frustrations” of Nigerian higher institutions of learning for more rewarding sectors or seeking better opportunities outside the country is causing a major lecturer-gap in the Nigerian higher institutions, most especially in the science disciplines. And it must be emphasized that while the best brains are leaving the university system, the broad aim of producing high-level manpower from the system for national development cannot be achieved.

Finally, corruption also militates against the provision of quality higher education in the country. Just like other sectors of the economy, Nigeria’s education sector is vulnerable to corruption. Corruption in tertiary institutions is multifaceted. These include, but not limited to bribing of lecturers for unmerited grades by students, monetary extortion from students before they see their results, misappropriation and misapplication of funds meant for capital projects, offer of admission to undeserving students for a fee while deserving candidates are by-passed, and demand for sex from female students for high grades by male lecturers. The prevalence of corruption in tertiary institutions negates the core values of education at this level.

Given the aforementioned challenges that have bedevilled higher education in Nigeria, is it any wonder why no Nigerian tertiary institution made it to the top 1,000 in the world ranking of Universities, or the top 10 in the African ranking?

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It is therefore imperative that the challenges in the Nigerian educational system be brought to the limelight in order to see ways of reducing or eliminating most of them.

Given the importance of education and the role it plays in a country, all stakeholders concerned, especially the government should give the education sector the attention it deserves.

It has been said that no nation can rise above the level of its education. It then follows that if we do not want to be left behind, we must begin to fix the sector, as the future of the country is at stake.


Ezinwanne Onwuka is a teacher, public speaker and writer. She writes from Cross River State.

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