Sekyen Dadik, Kaduna North West Nigeria
The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) on Thursday 13th July 2017 held its Annual Media Lecture series in Abuja, Nigeria with the theme, “Light Up, Light In: Interrogating the nexus between electricity and basic education in Nigeria”.
The event brought together experts from different fields to contribute to strategic thinking and provide a veritable opportunity to raise critical questions and national debate on issues surrounding basic education (Sustainable Development Goal 4) and electric power availability and affordability (Sustainable Development Goal 7) in the country.
While examining the relationship between electricity and basic education, Discussants decried the poor state of energy in sub Saharan Africa and its deteriorating effect on basic education which lays the foundation for the educational, psychological, social and emotional growth of children as well a basis for national development.
One of the discussants, Edward Kallon, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, observed that energy is a tragic reality for Africa, as 57 percent of the population in Africa has no access to electricity. He said that while 45 percent are connected to the national grid only 25 percent actually have electricity.
He noted that electricity is a key driver of quality education as access to light gives room for educational opportunities being a prerequisite for socio economic development. Adding that, children who study with electricity do better as availability of energy also provides teachers with better training and opportunity to use state of the art learning aids.
Obiageli Ezekwesili, Senior Economic Advisor, African Economic Development Policy Initiative, advised that Nigeria must be driven by innovative knowledge; hence, there is a need for school mapping to connect the dots between facilities like energy and quality education to prepare for the global economic state that is evolving.
She stressed the need for a targeted investment in public schools noting that when school system has energy it will retain quality teachers observing that failing public schools lead to an intergenerational dynasty of poverty since these schools engage mostly the children of the poor.
Ezekwesili therefore called for an integrated development process between Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and Universal Basic Education Commission to adopt Policies driven by evidence based analytics to ensure schools are situated at a location that enhances access to energy; electricity or solar. Also ensuring that schools that have access to light know the power of the consumer and demand steady supply accordingly.
From submissions of various speakers it became clear that the success of the SDGs lies on access to renewable energy, however the nexus between access to energy and other SDGs like basic education is not discussed effectively in the public space. As such journalists must monitor critically activities of regulatory agencies to ensure they carry out their mandate effectively.
No doubt then, that the adoption of the Regulators Monitoring Programme (REMOP), which was part of the event, as a media initiative geared at reporting the activities of regulators, including successes and failures, to promote proactive disclosure of information, transparency and accountability will cover the gaps existing in the depths of reportage on activities of regulatory agencies.
The pilot phase of the REMOP beams light on the energy sector as it affects basic education is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.