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Nigeria, known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria in official circles, is an expansive country located in the western portion of Africa, with a total geographic area of approximately 357,000 square miles. The country is a federal constitutional republic made up of thirty-six states and a Federal Capital Territory. Nigeria shares land borders with the countries of Niger to the north, Chad and Cameroon to the east, and Benin to the west and to its south is the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean. The capital and largest city in Nigeria is Abuja.
With a population of over 170 million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. It is also the most populous country in the world in which the majority of the population is black. The population is very heterogeneous, comprised mostly of indigenous peoples who have occupied the land for centuries. Of these groups, the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba people are the largest and by far the most influential in terms of culture, linguistics, politics and the economy.
Because Nigeria was once a colony of the United Kingdom (Nigeria gained independence in 1914) English was and has remained the national language of the country and is used for all official purposes within the country, including government, commerce, education and the media. Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba are all recognized national languages, and Edo, Efik, Fulani, Idoma, ljaw and Kanuri are all recognized regional languages in the various areas of the country where they are predominant. From a religious standpoint, Nigeria is divided fairly equally between the Muslims in the north of the country and the Christians in the South, although a small minority of the population still practices a variety of indigenous religions.
Education in Nigeria
Education in Nigeria is overseen and funded by the national government and implemented by each of the 36 states. Schooling is free for all Nigerian children, but attendance is not compulsory at any level. As a result, there are certain groups, such as the nomads, children with special needs and those living in the country’s rural and poorest areas that are severely under-served. The education system, which is based on that of the British, is broken down between four distinct levels or phases: primary education, junior secondary school, senior secondary school and tertiary or university education.
Primary education in Nigeria typically begins at age four or five and spans six years, culminating with a school-leaving certificate for all children who successfully complete each of the six years. The curriculum is very broad at this level, consisting of mathematics, English language, Christian and Islamic religious knowledge studies, science and one of the three main indigenous languages and cultures, Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo. Some of the private schools also offer classes in French, Computer Science and Fine Arts.
Secondary education is also free in Nigeria and is divided between junior secondary school and senior secondary school, each lasting three years. By senior secondary school, students are taking courses that lead to the GCE O-Level exams, which are not mandatory, but most students do take the exams as a way to prepare for the Senior Secondary Certificate. In the final year of senior secondary school (SS3), all students must take the Senior Secondary School exam prior to graduation. Poverty is the norm for most Nigerian families and because they typically need their child or children to work in order to help the family economically, only about 32 percent of Nigerian male students and roughly 27 percent of female students attend secondary school.
Because poverty is such a major educational obstacle in Nigeria, children from poor families rarely attend school, and for those that do, the decaying institutions, lack of textbooks and very little teacher training make the educational system unable to prepare students adequately for tertiary education and employment. The education system has become so tattered and frayed that in 2004 the Nigerian National Planning Commission described it as “dysfunctional” and its graduates “ill-prepared.”