Anthony Osae-Brown

Our ‘irrelevant’ adults are coming

by Anthony Osae-Brown

October 15, 2018 | 1:45 am
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Standing on the edge of the knowledge intensive economy, Nigeria has 13.2 million children roaming the streets who have never tasted knowledge. The data, from a survey done in 2015, shows that these children who have never stepped into a classroom, are mainly between the ages of six to 14. At this age, it is expected that children should be in school acquiring the knowledge needed to survive in an adult world. Sadly, this is not the case for this children. Data from UNICEF says that about 69 percent of this out of school children are in the Northern part of the country.

This means that an average of 7 of every 10 children that have never stepped into a school building to receive formal education lives in the Northern part of the country. Bauchi state is said to have the highest number of out of school children put at 1.1 million followed by Katsina state with about 781,000 children that are out of school.

But the latest Human Development Index report published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) paints a glimmer picture of the education situation in the country. The report shows that 39.6 percent of the country’s population have not completed up to five years of schooling while child school attendance stands at just 23.8 percent of the population.

To show how grim the situation the country is facing is, the NBS data shows that the country’s education index, which measures the average number of years of school of an average 25-year adult against the expected number of years of schooling declined in 34 states as well as the Federal Capital territory in the period between 2013 and 2016. This is an indication that the knowledge base of the country declined within the period in 34 states and the FCT.

Interestingly, troubled Borno and Jigawa witnessed an increased in the educational index within the period. The only good news from the data is the fact that female education index actually outperformed the male education index within the period, a reflection of the increased focus being placed on female education in the country.

However, there are still very grim statistics from the data. For every one male child that is out of school, there is at least two female children out of school. The NBS data shows that 34 million Nigerians have had zero schooling as at 2016. The number males who have had zero schooling stood at 11.9 million while the number of females with zero schooling stood at 22.34 million. The number of Nigerians that have had no schooling at all is more than the population of Ghana. So this is like having a whole country of people that cannot read and write.

In an age of knowledge, it is highly dangerous for any country to have a good chunk of its population unable to read and write. The World Bank defines the knowledge economy as one that ‘creates, disseminates, and uses knowledge to enhance its growth and development.’ And as the World Bank rightly notes, even though the concept of knowledge is not new, ‘the increased speed in the creation and dissemination of knowledge is making it an even more important ingredient in rapid economic development’ in recent years.

The world has entered into a phase where rapid technological development is fast changing the way we do almost everything. But the scary part of the way technology is developing is the fact that it is taking away jobs at a very past pace. Anything that can be automated is being automated. As a popular advert on radio says, 70 percent of the jobs that will exist in future have not been created. Increasingly, it is being recognised that the capacity for lifelong learning has become an essential survival strategy for those that will live in the knowledge economy. The rapidity of the changes in the world around us means that if you cannot learn and relearn skills, then you rapidly become irrelevant.

And that is the huge risk faced by Nigeria’s huge and growing population of people who have never stepped into a schooling environment. They face the risk of becoming irrelevant in the knowledge economy because of their lack of capacity to learn and relearn to live in the knowledge economy.

A huge chunk of the country population now faces the risk of becoming irrelevant in the knowledge economy because of their lack of capacity to learn. The internet of things, artificial intelligence are all ways in which technology is advancing so fast that even ‘sophisticated’ jobs are now at risk of technology incursion.

Menial jobs are even fading out faster. Who needs a gateman when from your phone, you can view almost everything that happens in your house, and around your house, open your gate, check the temperature of your fridge and even get your food warmed and ready before you get home.

Even farming may not be an alternative profession for the uneducated in future. We are already witnesses to the difference in yields between farms in Nigeria and farms in developed countries. There is a clear difference between the yield from an average herdsman in Nigeria and a Cowboy in the US. The rapid development in farming science and technology means that this yield gap will continue to widen in such a way that the average ‘illiterate’ farmer in the remote village naturally becomes uncompetitive.

Sadly, the illiterate farmer’s lack of education will also mean that the ability to adopt modern farming techniques will be limited. Popular American author Yuval Noah Harari, notes in her book ’21 lessons for the 21 st century’ which inspired this article that ‘artificial intelligence and biotechnology are giving humanity the power to reshape and reengineer life.’ Those without the knowledge to partake in this process would be left out and bear the outcome of that process. Education is essential tool to survive the knowledge economy. Without education, a country is going nowhere.

Ghana is already responding to the threat posed by the knowledge economy to its citizens. At the FT Africa conference on October 8, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Ado promised that his government is determined to ensure that every Ghanaian gets a minimum of a basic education up to secondary level. When asked if Ghana can afford such an expense, he replied that the government has no option but to look for the money to fund such an ambitious programme ‘even if it means diverting all of Ghana’s oil earnings to fund it.’ He emphasized that education has become essential for the future so much that Ghana cannot afford to have anyone left behind educationally.

In a knowledge economy, illiteracy becomes the biggest risk not only to economic development and but also a risk to national stability. If a country allows itself to have a mass of people that are basically irrelevant economically, that group of people will pose a huge risk to the existence of the few that are economically relevant as well as continuous stability of the country as a whole. Our mass of ‘out of school children’ will grow to become ‘economically irrelevant’ adults in a knowledge economy, and pose the biggest risk to our existence as a country unless we reverse this trend, starting today.

This means that an average of 7 of every 10 children that have never stepped into a school building to receive formal education lives in the Northern part of the country. Bauchi state is said to have the highest number of out of school children put at 1.1 million followed by Katsina state with about 781,000 children that are out of school.

But the latest Human Development Index report published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) paints a glimmer picture of the education situation in the country. The report shows that 39.6 percent of the country’s population have not completed up to five years of schooling while child school attendance stands at just 23.8 percent of the population.

To show how grim the situation the country is facing is, the NBS data shows that the country’s education index which measures the average number of years of school of an average 25-year adult against the expected number of years of schooling declined in 34 states as well as the Federal Capital Territory in the period between 2013 and 2016. This is an indication that the knowledge base of the country declined within the period in 34 states and the FCT.

Interestingly, troubled Borno and Jigawa witnessed an increased in the educational index within the period. The only good news from the data is the fact that female education index actually outperformed the male education index within the period, a reflection of the increased focus being placed on female education in the country.

However, there are still very grim statistics from the data. For every one male child that is out of school, there is at least two female children out of school. The NBS data shows that 34 million Nigerians have had zero schooling as at 2016. The number of males who have had zero schooling stood at 11.9 million while the number of females with zero schooling stood at 22.34 million. The number of Nigerians that have had no schooling at all is more than the population of Ghana. So this is like having a whole country of people that cannot read and write.

In an age of knowledge, it is highly dangerous for any country to have a good chunk of its population unable to read and write. The World Bank defines the knowledge economy as one that ‘creates, disseminates, and uses knowledge to enhance its growth and development.’ And as the World Bank rightly notes, even though the concept of knowledge is not new, ‘the increased speed in the creation and dissemination of knowledge is making it an even more important ingredient in rapid economic development’ in recent years.

We have entered into a phase where rapid technological development is fast changing the way we do almost everything. But the scary part of the way technology is developing is the fact that it is taking away jobs at a very past pace. Anything that can be automated is being automated. As a popular advert on radio says, 70 percent of the jobs that will exist in future have not been created. Increasingly, it is being recognised that the capacity for lifelong learning has become an essential survival strategy for those that will survive in the knowledge economy. The rapidity of the changes in the world around us means that if you cannot learn and relearn skills, then you rapidly become irrelevant.

And that is the huge risk faced by Nigeria’s huge and growing population of people of who have never stepped into a schooling environment. They face the risk of becoming irrelevant in the knowledge economy because of their lack of capacity to learn and relearn to survive in the knowledge economy. The rapidity of the changes in the world around us means that if you cannot learn and relearn skills, then you rapidly become irrelevant.

And that is the huge risk faced by Nigeria’s huge and growing population of the people of who have never stepped into a schooling environment. They face the risk of becoming irrelevant in the knowledge economy because of their lack of capacity to learn. The internet of things, artificial intelligence are all ways in which technology is advancing so fast that even ‘sophisticated’ jobs are now at risk of technology incursion. Menial jobs are even fading out faster. Who needs a gateman when from your phone, you can view almost everything that happens in your house, and around your house, open your gate, check the temperature of your fridge and even get your food warmed and ready before you get home.

Even farming may not be an alternative profession for the uneducated in future. We are already witnesses to the difference in yields in between farms in Nigeria and farms in developed countries. There is a clear difference between the yield from an average herdsman in Nigeria and a Cowboy in the US. The rapid development in farming science and technology means that this yield gap will continue to widen in such a way that the average ‘illiterate’ farmer in the remote village naturally becomes uncompetitive.

Sadly, the illiterate farmers’ lack of education will also mean that the ability to adopt modern farming techniques will be limited.  Popular American author Yuval Noah Harari, notes in her book ‘21 lessons for the 21 st century’ which inspired this article that ‘artificial intelligence and biotechnology are giving humanity the power to reshape and reengineer life.’ Those without the knowledge to partake in this process would be left out and bear the outcome of that process.

Ghana is already responding to the threat posed by the knowledge economy to its citizens. At the FT Africa conference on October 8, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Ado promised that his government is determined to ensure that every Ghanaian gets a minimum of a basic education up to secondary level. When asked if Ghana can afford such an expense, he replied that the government has no option but to look for the money to fund such an ambitious programme ‘even if it means diverting all of Ghana’s oil earnings to fund it.’ He emphasized that education has become essential for the future so much that Ghana cannot afford to have anyone left behind educationally.

In a knowledge economy, illiteracy becomes the biggest risk not only to economic development and but also a risk to national stability. If a country allows itself to have a mass of people that are basically irrelevant economically, that group of people will pose a huge risk to the existence of the few that are economically relevant as well as continuous stability of the country as a whole. Our mass of ‘out of school children’ will grow too and in a knowledge economy, they will be economically irrelevant and pose the biggest risk to our existence as a country unless we reverse this trend, starting today.

 

Anthony Osae-Brown

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by Anthony Osae-Brown

October 15, 2018 | 1:45 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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