“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The words of a man who came to be the embodiment of courage, strength and human resilience, Nelson Mandela.

These are timeless words that are utterly true. The less we know of our world, the less we can shape it. Yet millions around the world are being denied the opportunity of gaining an education. The recent kidnapping of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the militant group Boko Haram, which has sparked global outrage, has also placed the spotlight on education in Nigeria. The spotlight has been mostly a negative one, with the actress Anne Hathaway recently being quoted as stating that only 5 percent of girls currently receive an education in Nigeria, which implies that 95 percent of girls supposedly do not, which, according to the statistics, is not quite the case.

Whilst it is positive for the country that there is worldwide interest in the nation’s education system, this still gives room for exaggerations, distortions and grossly mistaken assertions to be made about Nigeria’s education system. However,Nigeria has made gains in recent times and with organisations such as ESSPIN (Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria- an NGO with British government backing) amongst others, there is arguably increased effort being made, especially by grassroots organisation towards the promotion of education across the country.

Obafemi Awolowo, one of the former Presidents of Nigeria once said, “Any people that is starved with books, especially the right type of books, will suffer intellectual malnutrition, stagnation and atrophy”. It appears that in spite of the fact that Nigeria has been ruled by minds, such as Awolowo, that appear to have recognised the power in education, it has however yet to make lasting surge forward in the area of education.

An improvement in the education system that increases the access, affordability and quality of education could no improve the literacy rate in Nigeria, which is currently thought to stand at 61 percent. Not only does the education system of a nation equip the nation’s development but it is also  instrumental to the future of a nation. Education is not only the seed of greatness that creates a nation’s future leaders who will take the country forward, but education is itself the substance of greatness that lifts a people out of the chains of mediocrity and out of the cycle of poverty that only weakens the capacity of a nation to stand up to its challenges.

The recent events in Nigeria, relating to the kidnapping of the schoolgirls, has reportedly made families to either withdraw their children from schools or to temporarily bar their children from schooling. It is this climate of fear that paves the way for many more to be denied the empowerment and knowledge that is required for a people to rise above limits and reach heights that defy barriers and obstacles. It has been reported that in recent weeks Gordon Brown, the former UK prime minister, has sent a delegation to Nigeria in order to discuss how to put in place educational provision for the 10.5 million children in Nigeria who currently do not have a place at school. These children are arguably put at a disadvantage in comparison to their peers in other nations where more are being educationally provided for.

For Nigeria to be able to compete more fiercely in the future and have a more secure and advanced infrastructure in place, the foundation of education for the masses is arguably the key. It has been reported that following the meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan and his government, which were said to be productive, $500 million has been invested into education, with half of the money coming from the international community and the other half coming from the Nigerian government. It remains to be seen how the impact of this investment will play out for those who are currently not receiving education in the nation.

Evidently, no problem works in isolation. It could be said that there are a variety of factors and issues that arguably work together to give rise to the educational challenges faced in Nigeria. One of such issues is that of poverty, with many young people having to trade their education by reason of the financial demands that education in Nigeria can require. But with increasing focus on the notion of education as a right, it is evident that in the near future present challenges shall become part of the nation’s yesterday and shall give way to a new dawn of increased hope and positive change when it comes to the education system in the country.

The kidnapping of the young girls should not be allowed to compromise the development of education, particularly for the girl-child. Brigham Young once said, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” It is no wonder that personalities such as Oprah have invested millions into education institutions in the country of South Africa. When there is increased recognition of the power of education in a country like Nigeria, rather than spending millions on warfare, more money will instead be spent on books. Rather than spend millions on military machinery, more could be spent on building learning institutions and transforming the education system to enable improved access, safety, quality and affordability of education.

The greatest war to fight is that of advancing the education of a people, which must remain the earnest pursuit of Nigeria.

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