To Get Personalised contents and be able to add items to your favourites, please Sign In or Sign Up          

Education in Nigeria in 2016: By King Ifeanyi Oruruo

News » Business

IMAGE: Bell Schools Ogun State »


By Kingi Ifeanyi Oruruo

Formal education in Nigeria is based on the British System with some borrowed features of the American System. It is a residue to British colonial rule in Nigeria which ended officially in Oct, 1, 1960 and consists of Nursery School (3 years from ages 3-5) Primary School (6 years ages 6-11) Secondary School – which is broken down into Junior and Senior Secondary School (6 years ages 12-17) University or Higher  Institutions (Ages 18 and beyond). Vocational institutions, Almajiri schools, Quaranic schools and other various local and international education standards/options exist.

Literacy in Nigeria is estimated at 61% and even among the trading or farming population who have little formal education, an obvious sign of educated intelligence is visible and the possibilities of communication in both Native and English language is at 80% among people under the age of 65.

In Nigeria the dominate providers of education are Government (#1 in Volume), Missionary/Religious Schools (#2 in Volume) and Private Schools of the Western order (#3 in Volume).

The Government schools cover nursery schools marginal and dominate Primary and Secondary Education.

The Missionary/Religious schools also play a heavy role in Primary and Secondary Education.
The Private School started predominately in Nursery Education and now covers a large span of

Primary, Secondary and University options.

Nigeria houses the largest population in Africa (170million) and over 30million are students although it is estimated that up to 10million school age children are out of school, mostly in the Northern Parts of the country.

There is a severe lack of statistics when trying to put together quick answers to questions like the quantity of academic staff at each level or quantity of pupil or quantity and capacity of facilities. To the best of our knowledge there are;

In tertiary/higher education there are 40 Federal Universities, 39 State Universities, and 61 Private Universities accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Nigeria as at the end of 2015.

There are also 81 Polytechnics in Nigeria, 22 Private, 38 State owned and 21 Federal Polytechnics according to the Nigerian Board for Technical Education (NBTE), there are altogether 132 different mono, poly and other technical institutions in Nigeria as at 2014.

In primary and secondary education, the average Nigerian city averages 10 primary and 5 Secondary schools from the government, nearly the same from missionary/religious schools  and four times that amount from private providers. In villages and small towns, the government and religious institutions are the major suppliers of education although private participants also play a role.

In nursery schools the average city has about 50 such institutions due to the need for close proximity to homes and most of them are provided by small private operators.

Education in Nigeria is regulated as follows;

  • Federal Ministry of Education (FME), State Ministries of Education

Regulate the broader policies and budget allocations for all institutions related to education.

  • Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB)

Issues examinations for entry into all Higher Institutions.

  • National Universities Commission (NUC)

Regulates the creation, operation and accreditation of Universities, their faculties, departments and degree levels.

  • National Board for Technical Education (NBTE)

Regulates the creation, operation and accreditation of Polytechnics and Technical Institutions.

  • National Commission on Colleges of Education (NCCE)

Regulates the creation, operation and accreditation of colleges of education.

  • National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)

Regulates the 1 year service regime demanded by the Federal Government by all graduates prior to the start of formal careers.

  • West African Examinations Council (WAEC)

Nigeria as a member of the Economic Community of West African States administers this test which qualifies candidates for admission in higher institutions across West Africa.

  • National Examinations Council (NECO)

NECO is Nigeria’s local equivalent to WAEC, its foundation is on the Senior School Certificate Examinations, evidence of adequate proficiency for advancement into a University.

On a qualitative scale, education in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. Many accuse it of being overly focused on cramming and others claim it fails to maintain its own preset standard. I have a few issues with education in Nigeria but I reserve such opinions for a different article. I will however discuss some challenges, as well as opportunities I see for education in Nigeria all with a view at exposing its workings from an economic perspective. This article is an industry review, low on opinion and more focused on facts.



  • Nigeria is the largest source of students from Sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S. With over 7,000 students studying in over 700 U.S. colleges and universities in all 50 states with Texas being the most popular state for Nigerian students, followed by New York. And Nigeria contributing the 17th largest volume of foreign students to the U.S System. This based on official figures at LIVEN Capital we expect the unofficial version to be double this figure due to the high forum of illegal immigrant Nigerians in American Colleges especially.

Nigerians are some of the most educated people in the world, most especially across the Southern parts and among the Igbo and Yoruba Tribes. These two as some of the larger tribes in Nigeria with up to 75million of the population has 70% literacy levels at the Secondary School Level. Even among the other tribes education is of core importance and so small tribe may actually beat 70%.

  • Even still an estimated 10 million out of the 30 million school-aged children are not enrolled in school in Nigeria


  • The educational system suffers from deteriorating quality and insufficient investment to keep pace with the country’s burgeoning school-age population.

Nigeria’s education system excels in many things, for example free education is offered nationwide from primary to secondary schooling. Also in terms of options the supply of both private, government and religious organization schools offer ample supply to a great mass of the people even in remote villages.

Where Nigeria lags in Education is therefore not access or availability but quality and utility.
To keep it simple education in Nigeria has 3 major issues;

  • Economic utility
  • Social utility
  • Value to quality of life

Economic: The first object for which people join vocational or academic institutions is the economic security provided by the skills and/or knowledge they gain. In essence a lawyer does not study law for the purposes of knowing the law but with the intent of being able to apply that knowledge into an occupation as a lawyer which is supposed to offer him financial security.

Here the Nigerian education system fails woefully, not only is it not producing the qualities needed for professional pursuits, it isn’t adequately aware of the needs of the society, neither is it allowing the best minds through in each field.

Social: By native light fires the African mother raised here children with stories and the father in the day over a meal with his children will inculcate knowledge from generations past. This is education.

Furthermore in the fields and the markets the children learned to live in their societies. Education is therefore essential to adaptation to society, here also the Nigerian education systems fails.

This time purposefully, because in many instances teachers and professors do not see themselves as character developers. Although they enforce discipline better than anywhere else in the world, the patient nurturing that allows students to understand the societal reasoning behind the need for some behaviours to be valued over others is rarely applied. Once students leave the education system they also leave the social lessons behind, having no innate understanding of its value to their future lives.

Value to Quality of Life: By all accounts an educated person and an uneducated person are supposed to differ greatly, in many cases in Nigeria, this is not true. Our quality and standards of living being no more elevated by an education than the sights on Telemundo and CNN and therefore the educated and illiterate rarely differ in the understanding of the values and us of tiles in a home, cutleries in a kitchen or counselors in a marriage.

There are many challenges in Education in Nigeria but I wish to deal with 5 key issues, some of them are general issues that affect the society as a whole while others are specific challenges in Education as an industry. The main issues are;

  • Infrastructural Deficits
  • Staff Quality
  • Flawed Frameworks and Bureaucracies
  • Impassionate Pupil
  • Export of Capital

Infrastructural Deficits: Almost all sectors of the Nigerian society are affected by the incredible deficits in infrastructure. Although in recent years the government has stepped up its efforts towards infrastructure development, may deficits still exist and they gravely affect education.

The first key issue is electricity; the lack of grid power creates a society that is uncomfortable for modern existence. Students are often burdened with the inconveniences of a hot classroom or  poorly lit exam halls. The resources which can be applied to teaching like television access and computing technologies also suffer from this lack of light. This issue also gravely affect the ability of the average student to study at home after 6pm.

The lack of cheap broadband internet; also inhibits access to knowledge. In Nigeria high speed internet is often charged based on the total Mega Bites of internet used and this limits access to high quality internet experiences including access to video tutorials and multimedia materials.

The lack of basic infrastructure; including quality desks, chairs and a proper roof, this often caused by administrative incompetent at the individual school level is a horrible yet too often experience for most poor students.

Staff Quality:  In Nigeria teaching is not a highly regarded profession and is often a career path chosen by accident, low academic expectation or pursuit of income. As a pupil myself I can only point to 5 teachers throughout Nursery – Secondary school who actually seemed to care about more than their paycheck, or even still who valued their jobs enough to show up prepared and deliver to us an education.

In the University system where the qualifications for professors are high this creates a hole and today over 60% of academic staff in Nigerian universities are in the category of lecturer 1 and below.

As a result of the many factors including massive brain drain as the best minds leave for foreign lands and a general lack of interest in the teaching profession, these institutions are filled with lack luster educators who contribute marginally to the true development of their students.

According to Ibrahim Malumfashi, the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Kaduna State University “The standard of education in Nigeria will continue to fall because politics and white collar jobs are hindering the development of the sector,”

Flawed Frameworks and Bureaucracy: A perfect example of this is the 4 exams a student has to take to get into a Higher Institution (NECO, WAEC, JAMB and Post-UME). 3 of these offered by the

Federal Government and the Post-UME by individuals institutions. In actuality just 2 should be the case, 1 from the federal and 1 from the institutions, this 1 change will reduce the economic burdens on families, the stress on the students and the size of government.

Another major issue is the insistence of the examination bodies to cap admission to many courses and direct students to “lower” courses if they do not meet a certain cut off mark. While faculty space is a finite resource, it is improper to choose course based only on test scores, a bureaucracy that does not factor passion, interest and in class performance fails woefully because it automatically excludes the real qualifies of real life performers.

Additionally the admission processes for schools are often overflowing in corruption, sharp practices, favouritism and inordinate hurdles like requesting a letter of Recommendation from a religious leader for a Secondary School Student to admitted.

Impassionate Pupil:  I find it hard to blame students because they are a product of their society and parentage, however I must point out that the lack of passion in students is a key point of failure.

The average Nigerian student is driven to studies by economic interests and not a search for abilities.

From day one this is inculcated into students by the society and parents, we raise our children with pressure to be Lawyers, Doctors and Engineers because we see these are the most secure economic pursuits and not because we find them fitting for these positions.

This approach creates students who are not motivated or interested but rather are just simply ambitious, and as is natural ambition without purpose leads to short cuts. Ingrained in the average

Nigerian Student is to desire to graduate, at all cost, with no consideration of the ability to do, that for which he or she is graduating from

Export of Capital:  In terms of economics, an endemic in the Nigerian education industry is the export of capital as students study in foreign universities, paying multiples of what they are willing to pay in Nigerian and leaving the advanced private institutions scrapping over too few students with the ability to pay. This is an endemic in higher education, having little effect on Secondary level and below.

It is this capital that can foster the development of true Higher Institutions, yet the parents who send their children abroad are not all to blame, education in Nigeria died a long time ago and I find it hard to blame any parent who is not willing to take a chance on their children being buried with it.


These issues leave a lot of room for private operators and investors to do profitable business in Nigeria. The opportunities are numerous so I will cap it at 5;

  • New Ideas
  • Branded Institutions
  • Research Institutions
  • Economy Institutions
  • Real Technical Institutions

New Ideas:  Nigeria is a place where Autism hasn’t been taught out, Schools for the Blind, Schools for the Gifted, Schools for the musical, Schools for the A, B, C above and on and on.

We have maintained an adherence to the basic standards of education and as the economy grows many parents have become more comfortable with experimental approaches and new ideas that deal with the exact qualities, gifts and interests of their children.

This is a major point of opportunity for new operators and investors and will add tremendous value to the new Nigeria is achieved.

Branded Institutions:  Nigeria suffers much from a general lack of trust and any organization which is able to build a chain of schools across the nation and maintain standards will gain a rare national  notoriety  can be leveraged for immense profits.

The value in economics of scale, savings on marketing, premium from parents ensures that this is a lucrative opportunities. As at today very few institutions like Loyola Jesuit, Christland Group of Schools etc practice such and mainly at the secondary school level and in many cases maxing out at 3 cities.

Research Institutions:  Of the many Universities and Technical Institutions in Nigeria, very few can claim a discovery that is worth global recognition. Higher Institutions are by design supposed to represent the pinnacle of learning and if the pinnacle in Nigeria cannot produce Malaria Medicine or Solar Technologies with has failed.

There is a tremendous opportunity for a true research institute in Nigeria, this opportunities exists on 2 fronts, 1 from the student body value it will gain as Nigerians who cannot afford a foreign tuition or fail to get admission for their students abroad and especially Nigeria who only do this as a last resort convert their children to this institution in confidence that their education will meet the highest standard. 2ndly this institutions will gain tremendously in the economic return its innovations will gain from the largest market in Africa, its inventions will have access to the minds in the problem and the pockets that already pay for the solutions from Russian, Chinese and American Research.

Economy Institutions:  As the great mass of Nigerians fight to get their children through school a major issue is the exchange between quality and cost.

A great opportunity exists at all tiers from Nursery to Higher Institutions for scaled development that allow economic efficiencies adequate for mass education of students at a very cost effective rate.

For example, most private Primary Schools in Nigeria operate with a student body below 500. A 2,000 student institute will have infinite economic synergies around, cost of development, energy, staff, marketing etc. in relation to each student. This synergy if efficiently managed will allow for a school that can charge reasonably while maintaining good profit margins.

Real Technical Institutions:  As at today the many technical institutions in Nigeria are overly theoretical. Schools like IMT (Institute of Management and Technology) teach Electrical Engineering on black boards, Computer Engineering is taught in many schools without the student ever opening the inside of a system, old or new. Worse still in crafts like auto mechanics there may not even be a course at all, the main practitioners of this craft learn it through apprenticeships, with no evidence of an ordered curriculum or proof of competence.

There is tremendous room for Technical education in Nigeria and this includes Nationally Accredited programs and Certificate Institutions. A good institution in the areas of Trade, Mechanics, Computing etc that can supplant the apprentice system will find tremendous room for economic returns, national acceptance and growth across a nation which can make a Nigerian equivalent to ITT Technical Institute or DEVRY in the US a Billion Dollar Institution.

All this is a simple summary of a very complex subject, but for the purposes of an overview I hope it is sufficient to give each reader a compound view of the Education Industry in Nigeria in 2016. In subsequent articles I will deal with each segment like Nursery and University Education.

At LIVEN Capital we are doing our best to add value to this sector with our intentions for SEIT and in the future other ideas for education in Nigeria.


- - - King Ifeanyi Oruruo is the Chairman/CEO of LIVEN Capital, he is the leading value investor in Nigeria - - -

Updated 2 Years ago

Find Us On Facebook

Tags:     Education     Nigeria     King     Ifeanyi     Oruruo     2016     University     Primary     Secondary