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Compensatory Education in Nigeria: Imperative for National Security


Education undoubtedly is the foundation upon which modern developments take place. Globally, education has been a veritable tool for national integration, economic prosperity, and global peace. Nations develop and adopt various systems and policies of education to suit their specific peculiarities. In other words, educational systems all over the world are tailored towards meeting the needs of their host societies.

In Nigeria, there are obvious educational inequalities amongst the various geo-political areas. The inequalities can be traced to different historical social and religious backgrounds and ideologies during the colonial and post colonial Nigeria.(Kosemani and Okorosaye Orubite,1995). Between 1862 and 1960, Nigeria was under British colonial rule. Prior to 1914, Nigeria was administered as two protectorates—The northern and southern protectorates.Presently, there are six geo-political zones in Nigeria viz; North East, North Central, North West, South West, South South and South East.

It is pertinent to note that modern western education was introduced to Nigeria by the Christian missionaries. That of course does not becloud the fact that before the advent of the Europeans, Africans had their system of education—African Traditional Education (ATE). The ATE was mainly functional. That means, the products of ATE were trained to function in society. Thus, there was no unemployment.

Historical Background

With the coming of the missionaries on the shores of Nigeria in mid 19th century, western type education was introduced in the country. According to Fafunwa (2004) and Okoli (2011), Mr & Mrs William De Grant, under the auspices of the Methodist church were credited with the establishment of the first school in Badagry, South West Nigeria in 1843. From here, western education spread to Calabar and Onitsha in the South South and South East respectively (Okoli, 2011).

While the southern regions embraced Christianity and by extension western education, the predominantly Muslim north resisted the Christian missionaries and their education. Lord Frederick Lugard, the then Governor General, in an attempt to avoid a clash of culture, allowed the northern rulers to continue with their cultural practices with minimal colonial interference (indirect rule system). This was the background of educational disparity in Nigeria. The vestiges of this inequality are observed in Nigeria today.

Compensatory Education in Nigeria
Since the beginning of human existence, individuals and societies have never been equal in opportunities. The realization of one’s disability and the quest to correct it is the beginning of development. The belief in education as a tool for social change accounts for why nations provide for the overall education of their people irrespective of gender, religion, tribe or social status. In developing countries like Nigeria where poverty, unemployment, economic and political exclusion is rife, the concept of compensatory education becomes a soothing balm.

According to Thompson (2018), compensatory education is the additional educational provision designed for the culturally deprived people to give them a leverage to compete with others on equal terms. It is an education assistance program to bridge the gap between the privileged and the less privileged. However, in Nigeria, compensatory education is viewed from the perspective of a charity instead of seeing it as a social service.

Education and National Security

Education no doubt is the lubricant in the engine of national security. Over the years, Nigeria has suffered a series of insurgency, militancy and banditry which have their roots in injustice, inequalities, religious intolerance, economic deprivations and political domination to the extent that national and regional peace is threatened.

As earlier stated, while the southern regions embraced western education, the northern regions despised it, rather, they opted for out-of-place local Islamic schools popularly called Almajiri schools. In this school system, pupils between the age of 6-14 years are sent by their poor parents to acquire Islamic education under the tutelage of mallams. The children are brought up in very harsh conditions, most times they are made to fend for their upkeep through begging.

The reality is that their activities and curriculum are as it pleases the whims and caprices of the mallams. Consequently, the children become victims of religious fundamentalists who easily radicalized them. Being unable to fit into the fast changing modern society, they are made to believe that western education is evil (Boko Haram). Recent UNICEF (2020) findings show that there are over 10 million Almajiri children in northern Nigeria. This figure portends a great danger because insurgents and other conflict entrepreneurs mostly use them as suicide bombers and child soldiers.


  1. The policy of compensatory education should be encouraged by all tiers of government.
  2. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Education of the United Nations should be vigorously pursued.
  3. Governments, civil society groups and religious leaders should carry out advocacy campaigns to de-radicalize the youths.

Patrick Otuya Agam
Ph.D Candidate, History and Policy of Education;
M.Ed History and Policy of Education, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Educational Consultant, College Administrator, National Trainer on Health and Fitness, and Civil Society activist.
Retired Principal, Kalabari National College,(KNC), Buguma, Rivers State.
Chairman, All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), Rivers State (2015-2020).

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