The Platform

Eugenio Mazzone

Nigerian universities are increasingly pumping out graduates who are unprepared for today’s job market.

In Nigeria, a term has emerged to encapsulate the breadth of challenges the nation faces: ‘harsh climate.’ This metaphor extends beyond the meteorological to describe the scorching realities of daily life—from erratic public utilities to the spiraling cost of goods. Yet perhaps the most pressing facet of this ‘climate’ is the burgeoning ranks of university graduates thrust into an employment market ill-suited to their academic preparation. This raises an urgent question: Are the curricula of Nigerian universities attuned to the exigencies of the modern workforce?

Public universities in Nigeria are locked in a Sisyphean struggle to keep pace with the relentless march of progress. The dearth of facilities is a glaring testament to this struggle, with the sciences particularly marred by a chasm between theoretical knowledge and practical application. In the humanities, students contend with a scarcity of texts and an antiquated library system that hinders their access to necessary scholarly materials.

Contrast this with the educational renaissance underway in advanced nations, where the winds of change have reshaped the very corridors of learning. In such countries, curricula are meticulously crafted to dovetail with societal needs. In China, for instance, a simple lamp used in homes stands as a testament to the practical science projects undertaken by kindergarteners; learning is a technological venture, imbued with practical training that aligns with labor market demands.

Yet in Nigeria, the inertia of outdated curricula holds sway, particularly in federal institutions. The current syllabi are relics, rooted partially in the ethos of the 18th-century Industrial Revolution, a time when general sciences and electricity were the frontiers of innovation. In an era defined by constant flux, driven by internal advancements and external pressures, it is imperative that the syllabi evolve to address contemporary challenges and align with global benchmarks.

Indeed, some curricula in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions are littered with courses deemed ‘abstract,’ offering little in the way of practical application. Graduates, especially from the Arts and Social Sciences, emerge with a dearth of tangible skills, leading to a precarious dance with unemployment.

Developed nations have embraced a new paradigm: a harmonious blend of doctrinal instruction and practical skillsets. There, curricula are frequently revised in concert with industrial demands, ensuring students graduate with a toolkit of self-reliance.

In December of 2022, Nigeria’s government unveiled a curriculum reform, purporting to mirror ’21st-century realities’—a move echoed by President Tinubu’s administration with the implementation of the new Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) in September 2023. These reforms are intended to recalibrate university education to the rhythms of a changing world.

Despite these declarations, the transformation remains largely aspirational, as institutions continue to produce graduates ill-prepared for the workforce. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported a dramatic drop in unemployment in 2023, yet Nigerian graduates still face a grueling quest for relevant employment opportunities, hampered by a lack of practical experience.

Tertiary institutions must not only internationalize their curricula but also integrate essential skills such as problem-solving, leadership, communication, and digital literacy. The ultimate aim is to forge graduates capable of vying with their global peers and to catalyze a robust economy fueled by academic research and innovation.

Lawal Taiwo Moruf is an undergraduate student studying Philosophy at the University of Ibadan where he is also a Campus Journalist and News Editor of AFAS Press. He enjoys reporting on social justice and solution stories.