Over the past week, the nation was again caught in the web of controversy and public discussions around wearing of hijab to schools in Kwara state; as a result of an incidence which has already snowballed into a full-blown religion crisis in Kwara state.
The intervention and the decision of the state government led by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, to reopen the contested schools could not mitigate the controversy, and it has expectedly created two divides among the two religion proponents arguing against and in favour of their ideologies.
While it is true that the nation, unfortunately, has been deeply trapped in religion, so that it is difficult for an average Nigerian to divorce his religious belief with his public life, making Nigeria, and indeed Africa, to be so labelled as excessively and “notoriously religious”; it is unfortunate that the discussion around our education system at this time is not how to improve its quality, but what students should wear or not to schools.
To understand the decay in our education sector better in comparative terms, UNESCO reports stated that Nigeria ranks 1st in out of school children, South Africa (6th) and South Korea ranks 54th; hence, Nigeria ranks 126th in the global literacy index, South Africa ranks 92nd, and South Korea ranks 34th; and it is also a fact that one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria; and despite the fact that primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are out of school. Only 61 percent of 6–11-year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
In particular, Statista recorded that only 177,996 children out of the over one million of persons between age 0-14 are enrolled in public elementary schools in Kwara state, hence, Nigerians should not be distracted from the real conversation about education in Kwara state which should be about improving early school enrolment, school infrastructures and welfare of teachers, instead of politicizing public schools and spreading intolerance and division among students on the basis of religion.
For us at SING Nigeria, we believe that the critical intervention in the education sector in line with global best practices is in the area of creative intelligence and digital skills development which will prepare our children for the inevitable future which is already with us. Through our Code 3 project which aims to make digital technology accessible to undeserved communities across the nation, it is our believe that our education sector needs this revolutionary approach for the next generation of workforce.
We believe therefore that the focus of Nigerians at this time should be about ensuring quality education and preparing our children for the rapid developments in creative intelligence and digital skills, and not about some religious inspired controversy.
SING Nigeria calls on the various religion supervisory bodies, especially, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) to find a progressive reconciliatory ground based on mutual respect in the lingering hijab controversy, while focusing more attention on how they can assist government in ensuring quality education and equipping our children with the requisite skills for their future.
The state government should also step up its effort to pacify the two parties, and get our children, who have already lost several months to the Covid-19 pandemic, back to classrooms.
PRO, SING Nigeria