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Education Takes a Hit From the Covid Crisis

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COVID crisis

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s labour market had been plagued with precarity and informality. With over 30 million youths (people aged between 15 and 29 years of age) projected to enter the labour market in 2021 (which accounts for over 53% of that age group), the COVID crisis couldn’t have hit at a worse time.

The impact of COVID-19 felt on the labour market is not without precedent for Nigeria’s young workers. At the onset of the oil recession in 2016, young people entering the labour market in Nigeria faced similar hardships.

In consequence, a significant number of young Nigeria opted  – or were compelled – to abandon their schooling in favour of work. At the onset of the oil recession – much like what happened at the onset of the COVID crisis – the percentage of young people in Nigeria who entered the labour market jumped by over 12%.

While working certainly can provide short-term relief during a crisis, unfortunately, this comes to the detriment of Nigeria’s already low human capital. The human capital index (or HCI), as defined by the World Bank, aims to quantify the effects that education and health have on the productivity of the next generation of workers.

Over the last four years, Nigeria’s human capital index has remained at a steady and concerning 0.35%. To offer a comparison, this score ranks Nigeria slightly below Afghanistan which comes in at 0.4 and significantly lower than leading countries such as Singapore and Australia whose scores reach above 0.9%.

Hit From the Covid Crisis

With so many young Nigerians being forced – for all intents and purposes – to forego their education in exchange for immediate economic relief in precarious low-paying jobs, the country is facing an uphill battle in terms of improving working conditions, seeing a rise in salaries and a decrease in long-term unemployment. All trends point to the fact that technology is a good career path. But entering this field – much less excelling in it – requires a certain level of education that young Nigerians are being deprived of.

This causal chain can snowball quickly as the country continues to produce a relatively underqualified workforce, the better-paying jobs will continue to go elsewhere. And while the oil and gas production career path certainly has its benefits, as the oil recession of 2016 showed us, the field is vulnerable to rapid and wild fluctuations.

Whereas receiving a quality secondary education will broaden one’s scope of work options, raise their standard of living and those around them, and give them the arms to combat against potential recessions and crises, without an education, the chances of these crises having lingering effects is increased dramatically – if not outright guaranteed.

Due, in part, to the COVID-19 crisis, economists are predicting that Nigeria is headed for its worst recession in 40 years. A staggering 20 million Nigerians are expected to fall below the poverty line in 2022.

The GDP is projected to dip, as well, which would mean a significant loss in government revenue. This, in turn, would likely lead to cuts in both education and the health care system. And the snowball gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

Despite the pessimistic projections, government officials such as Shubham Chauduri, the World Bank’s County Director for Nigeria, is quick to point out that initiatives have been put in place, and we are already seeing positive results.

In 2021, The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiated a weakening of the official exchange rate for the naira. This was done in a concerted effort to try to converge the official rate with that of the NAFEX (the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate).

“We acknowledge the steps to reform exchange rates,” said Shubham Chaudhuri. “But that’s one part of it.”

Other measures that have already been implemented include the introduction of a market-based pricing policy for petrol; the reduction and potential elimination of subsidies for electricity; and the adjustment of tariffs.

The projected savings these measures would mean for the government are meant to allow Nigeria to redirect its resources toward COVID-19 response and relief. The sooner we get through the crisis, the sooner those resources can be reallocated. To where, and to what end remains to be decided.

If ever we can look at this crisis and see a silver lining it would be that the dire circumstances and woeful projections are forcing officials to take practical actions – many of which have been a long time coming.

Nigeria’s farmers are a high priority in the current wave of economic reforms. Some notable examples of initiatives that have begun to be rolled out include:

  • Additional funds allocated to the research of improved crop and livestock varieties
  • Additional funds released to help support the infrastructure associated with farming – this includes storage, transport, and market access.

While these initiatives are likely to yield long-term benefits, there is potentially no greater long-term return on investment than that which comes from investing in education. For the time being, however – much like in prior crises – education is being made to take a back seat.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Education

Entries for Ecobank National Essay Competition Close Saturday

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essay competition

By Dipo Olowookere

The national essay competition organised by Ecobank Nigeria Limited to commemorate Children’s Banking Month is gradually gaining momentum, especially as the window for the submission of entries draws closer.

According to the financial institution, all entries are expected to be filed to AllENG-ConsumerProductsTeams@ecobank.com, with the contact details of the parent/guardian on or before Saturday, May 21, 2022, at 12 noon.

Results would be sent on all entries by Wednesday, May 25 at 12 noon and winners will be celebrated and given their gifts on May 28, 2022, as part of activities to mark the International Children’s Day.

The contest is for children between the ages of 13 and 16 and the topic is What will you consider as the future of banking. Participants are required to write the essay in 400 words, in font size 12 with one and a half line spacing. Winners would be given laptops, educational tabs, and several consolation prizes.

The Head of Consumer Banking at Ecobank Nigeria, Mrs Korede Demola-Adeniyi, in a statement made available to Business Post, explained that the bank initiated the competition to expose children to financial education early in life, adding that it is also part of the lender’s commitment towards the Nigerian child.

According to her, “the month of May is set aside by the bank to celebrate childhood and how our children enrich our lives. We acknowledge the importance of our customers, young and old, to Ecobank’s ongoing success story. The bank, whose vision is to build a world-class pan-African bank and contribute to the economic development and financial integration of Africa, sees educational development as a fulcrum for positive integration.”

Mrs Demola-Adeniyi called on school proprietors, administrators, parents, and guardians to encourage their students, children, and wards to participate actively in the essay competition, stressing that beyond the prizes, the competition is also part of the process to push the frontiers of academic excellence among the young ones in society.

She stated that Ecobank has a MyFirst Account which caters for children and young ones, noting that, “This is our savings account specifically designed for children and teenagers aged between 0-16 years old.”

“If you are a parent, the account allows you to save money in your child’s name, which they can redeem when they are older. It is the perfect way to save for their education or kickstart a fund for future projects. It gives your child the best start in life,” she added.

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Education

Stanbic IBTC Funds University Education of 100 Students

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Increase Funding to Education

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A total of 100 students will receive funding support for their university education in Nigeria from Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, a member of Standard Bank Group.

Each of the undergraduates in 33 universities across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, will receive scholarships valued at N400,000, which would be disbursed in tranches of N100,000 across four academic years.

The beneficiaries were chosen through the scholarship scheme of the financial institution designed to provide financial aid needed to fulfil their educational needs and pursue their dreams.

The 100 Nigerian youths selected this year excelled in the University Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) organised by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

Asides from the first tranche of disbursement, subsequent disbursements would be subject to beneficiaries maintaining their enrolment in their respective universities and degree programs they were admitted into, adhering to the academic and administrative policies of the university, and the provision of a letter of good conduct issued by their respective departments.

Also, beneficiaries would be required to maintain a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of at least a second class upper range, amongst other requirements.

Commenting on the initiative, the chief executive officer of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Mr Demola Sogunle, stated that it was borne out of the need to empower hardworking and diligent young Nigerian undergraduates, who aspired to pursue their tertiary education in any state or federal university in Nigeria.

“We believe that everyone deserves a chance to access quality education and we believe in rewarding students who have shown remarkable academic excellence.

“This initiative will go a long way in easing the financial burdens of these undergraduates who participated in the UTME and gained admission into various Nigerian state and federal universities for the 2021-2022 academic session.

“We are pleased to announce the 100 winners of this year’s scholarship scheme for undergraduates in 33 universities across the 36 states and the FCT. We wish them great success in their academic journey.”

Mr Sogunle further added that education remains one of the keys to facilitating a nation’s prosperity, hence the introduction of the scholarship initiative.

Stanbic IBTC remains committed to driving value-added initiatives like the university scholarship programme to contribute to the educational development of the Nigerian youth.

The scheme, which commenced in 2019, now has had almost 200 recipients. The beneficiaries were chosen across the six geo-political zones in Nigeria through fair screening processes.

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Education

Consider Plight of Students and Suspend Strike—Buhari Begs ASUU

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plight of students ASUU

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been urged to consider the plight of students and suspend the ongoing strike.

Speaking at the 19th National Productivity Day in Abuja on Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari said efforts are being made to resolve the lingering issues between the union and the federal government.

ASUU had earlier embarked upon a two-month warning to force the government to honour the agreement signed in 2009 but after nothing was done, it extended the industrial action for another three months.

At the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award (NPOM) on 48 eminent Nigerians and organisations in both the public and private sectors, for their high productivity, hard work and excellence, President Buhari disclosed that his administration recognises that the future of any nation is contingent on the standard of its educational system, promising to uplift the standard of the educational system in the country.

According to him, he earlier directed his Chief of Staff, the Ministers of Labour and Employment, Education, Finance, Budget and National Planning to immediately bring all parties to the negotiation table to again critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU.

Mr Buhari expressed optimism that all the issues would be resolved, appealing to the lecturers to exercise patience. He also urged students in Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions to give the government time to address the nagging issues in the nation’s university system within the ambit of the resources available.

While speaking on the theme of this year’s celebration, Achieving Higher Productivity through Improved Education System, the President disclosed that efforts would be made to “transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy.”

“Quality educational system is good not just for the national economy; it is also good for the citizens,” he disclosed, emphasising that, “Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion.”

According to him, “It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity, without improving our educational system.”

He stated that the administration was aware of “the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system.”

Some of the awardees were the late Dr Stella Adadevoh and Mr Babatunde Lawal.

Other were recipients the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Abdullahi Adamu; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha; immediate past Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chike Ihekweazu; Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi; Chairman and Founder, BUA Group, Mr Abdusamad Rabiu; Chairman of Globacom, Mr Mike Adenuga Jnr; Professor Stanley Okolo, Director General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO) and Allen Onyema, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, among others.

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