What is Education for?

What is Education for?

Education has been described as light that liberate recipients from darkness. In 1974, a notable Nigerian professor of education, Fafunwa, said education is aggregate of processes by which a child or young adult develops his abilities, attitudes and other forms of behavior which are of positive value to the society in which he lives. The mention of young individuals in his definition provides opportunity to mention some other forms of education namely – adult education, accompanied by informal and non-formal education. While adult education is the education based largely on andragogy or adult-based curriculum, the other two are not age dependent rather they are described based on the form each takes. Adult education is any form of learning opportunities available to adult. The term adult is defined in context because while some societies see under 18 as a minor or a child, others see 13 years married girl as a woman and adult. Whatever the determinant of categorization, structured basic or post basic education provided to such category of people is delineated as adult education. When a learning process is ‘not structured’ or curriculum is not defined, such education is categorized as informal, different from non-formal. These two concepts are often used interchangeably due to overlaps but they are quite different, especially to professionals and practitioners of the field. Non-formal education is any structured education taking place outside conventional school aimed at certification or some other attainments. Adult and Non-Formal Education (ANFE) has become a popular concept based on learning experiences adults have enjoyed during acquisition of certificates, professional advancement or acquisition of new knowledge helping us to understand more the meaning and benefits of education.

A case study of education as a process is a Gbagyi girl in central Nigeria. Traditionally, she is trained to develop capacity in tree identification as she collects fuelwood with her mother, or other older women in her community. She also learns how to bear load on her shoulder to enable her convey the woods from the wild back home. According to the culture, Gbagyi girls must accept this burden bearing and hiking as physical, mental and social activity that makes them agile and fit into the society. This indigenous knowledge, is a traditional ecological knowledge aimed at making her resilient and to live in harmony with other humans and nature. In future, when she grows to become an independent female (woman), she is expected to manage natural resources adequately without compromising the future generation. This education for sustainability, though without written curriculum, is a medley of informal and non-formal teaching-learning process stemming from an enduring legacy since existence of mankind, or Gbagyi culture. It is erroneous to describe such traditional knowledge as unstructured just because of lack of modern formal characteristics books and other forms of documentations. Oral communication, traditional in Africa, is not to be undermined by western educations methods no mater its limitations. Hence for a contemporary child in rural area for instance, myriads of opportunities abound to learn from classroom to nature and the other way round. Comprehending agriculture, biology and geography becomes easy for such a grounded child. Expectedly, effort of teachers and mentors blending these forms of education – formal, informal or non-formal – should produce educated generations of system thinkers and future leaders capable of contending with global changes and challenges like climate change, food and human insecurity and global emerging diseases. When behavioral changes become this obvious, education will be appreciated in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. For any individual or society to attain this state, education plays an important role. So many evidences prove that health is associated with education. It has been observed in both developed and developing countries that adults with low education attainments are of correspondent health status. The implication is that functional education solves problems of poor access to healthcare and tardy decisions on health by individuals, families and societies. For instance, it’s been found that educated women are most likely to seek antenatal and allied cares compared to those that are not educated. This is evident in the high disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa that has more uneducated women. The rate of maternal, and infant, mortality is significantly higher in Nigeria than records of the global north (developed countries). How is education influencing health and decisions? Largely, educated people are elites of higher economic status hence higher capability to afford healthcare. In addition, cognitive development resulting from learning exercises and knowledge to make informed decision is more available with educated people. Lastly, healthy behaviors inform educated people to respond swiftly to symptoms of ill health by seeking medical interventions. If education is beneficial in Nigeria, then high life expectancy is one expected dividend.

Unfortunately, UNICEF reported in 2018 that one out of five out-of-school children (OOSC) in the world is a Nigerian and the report is not any better in 2022. Currently, the country’s 18.5 million OOSC is the highest index recorded by any country on the globe. OOSC phenomenon is predominant in the north and girls have the lowest rate of enrolment, retention and completion of school. For decades, this menace has been driven by sociocultural issues and exacerbated by insurgency, poverty, poor governance and corruption. The northeast has for over a decade faced insurgency and insecurity issues by Boko Haram sect of extremist. These attacks have exacerbated cultural barriers and further hinder participation and performance of especially girls since the abduction of Chibok girls in 2014. The curve of low attendance has never flattened instead on the rise perpetually. Consequently, research has been focused on gender and stalled statistics from UNESCO reveal more than 5 million school age girls are out-of-school. Dropout rates are at sensitive teen age bracket. This has reflected in girls leaving schools at sixth grade, or primary school graduation phase, and never to transit to secondary level. As important as the 9-year basic education is, girls are not enrolled into the lower secondary school. So girls have persistently made more than 60% of OOSC in Nigeria. Most specifically, recent policy research outcomes reveal similar decline in girl education primarily due to gaps associated with poor implementation of National Policy on Education on gender.  Nigeria achieving global girl-child education goal in the midst of overwhelming socioeconomic issues becomes a daunting task. That is not to say efforts to educate girls and women are halted. No. There may be need to adapt new strategies of solving an old problem. 

Foregoing data and statistical information calls for the need for parents and other older ones to ensure all children of school age are in school. Policy makers and implementers must ensure that while these children are in school, relevant knowledge for problems solving is available so that the students are able to tackle current challenges confronting Nigeria. In addition, young adults must take advantage of various available educational opportunities for economic empowerment and national development. The 21st century digital revolution provides ample opportunities for ANFE to thrive. Diverse virtual learning environments abound in various platforms and no one should be left behind uneducated. Asking ‘what is education for?’ must be a daily question from parlors to parliaments, to say the least. If Nigeria is able to sincerely answer this question, then light will surely come with intensity to destroy corruption so that insurgency, hunger, poverty, climate change, pandemics and syndemics will not comprehend it.