Impact and collaboration in doctoral studies: Understanding education inequalities in Nigeria through my overseas research visit

By Obiageri Bridget Azubuike – PhD in Advanced Quantitative Methods. School of Education. University of Bristol.

As part of my PhD, I embarked on an overseas visit sponsored by the SWDTP. My aim was to engage with a research organisation called TEP Centre whose work in education partnership, research, design, implementation, and evaluation of education programmes in Nigeria aligns closely with my research.

Among the planned activities during the visit, we organized a webinar where I had the privilege to present my preliminary research findings and moderate a panel discussion featuring three distinguished speakers. The panel discussion revolved around the topic of inequalities in post-primary education in Nigeria.

The panellists are individuals with expertise in education research, advocacy, and education programme implementation in Nigeria. They bring a wealth of experience from their engagements with governmental bodies, civil society organizations, and grassroots initiatives across various communities in Nigeria.

One of the significant findings from my research is the existence of substantial disparities in access to education among secondary school-aged children across different states in Nigeria. These disparities manifest as a regional education divide between the north and south, encompassing disparities in school enrolment and foundational literacy and numeracy skills among Nigerian adolescents. The educational outcomes of adolescents in the southern region of Nigeria surpass those of their peers in the northern region, leading to inequalities that also intersects with socio-economic factors.

The webinar was well attended and there were around fifty attendees in total. Audience at the webinar were made up of stakeholders across the education ecosystem including teachers, researchers, government officials, civil society, and development partners. During the panel discussion, I asked the panellist several questions, seeking their insights into the state of secondary education in Nigeria and the underlying causes contributing to the wide gaps and inequities in access and learning opportunities. This led to insightful conversations about the challenges and issues affecting education opportunities in the North of Nigeria. This is something that my quantitative data has not been able to fully explain, so hearing from practitioners in the education space was truly enlightening.


Understanding Education Inequalities in Nigeria webinar
Understanding Education Inequalities in Nigeria webinar

One of the insights that was shared was about the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act 2004 in Nigeria. A part of the UBE policy is that funds are made available to state governments for supporting education programmes and infrastructure. However, the criteria for accessing this funds are stringent and requires states to provide matching grants in order to access the funds. Consequently, many states have been unable to access these grants due to their failure to meet the criteria, resulting in a lack of critical resources to expand education services. On the other hand, some states have managed to fulfil the requirements and thereby access the funds.

Learning this important point has led me to do more reading on this particular issue. I intend to further investigate and possibly advocate for a review of the criteria through my PhD research, and my intention is to facilitate states’ access to these funds to improve education opportunities for children, especially those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The panellists also shared examples of learning programmes that are helping young people develop foundational learning skills and remediate learning losses in Nigeria. One of such programmes is the FastTrack – a technology-enabled and self-assisted accelerated foundational skills development program designed to enable out-of-school refugee children to acquire functional literacy and numeracy skills. Furthermore, they shared examples of partnerships between the government, the international community and civil society organisations to improve education in Nigeria. One of such partnerships is the Partnership for Learning for All in Nigeria Education (PLANE) funded by the UK foreign, Commonwealth and Development office. The programme intends to strengthen resilience and response to crises, support prosperity in Nigeria and strengthen governance in the education sector, with the aim of benefitting up to 2 million children by supporting the Government of Nigeria in selected states and non-state partners to improve teaching, school quality, education management and efficient delivery of education.

It was unanimously agreed that while significant efforts are already underway in the education sector in Nigeria, more needs to be done to strengthen and scale some of the programmes and interventions in order to achieve widespread impact. There was also a call for increased partnerships amongst all education stakeholders, to reduce the duplication of efforts and inefficiencies in the sector.

The webinar was the highlight of my overseas visit, at the end of it I connected with a number of the participants on LinkedIn and notably, a policy maker in Nigeria. I hope that these connections pave the way for future collaborative opportunities.

In addition to the webinar, I also facilitated a workshop with the TEP Centre team on research and programme design and I shared insights on designing, implementing, and publishing stages of research projects from my experience of managing the full cycle of a research project. I aimed to inspire the TEP Centre team to publish more of the impactful research studies and learning programmes they have implemented in Nigeria.

Overall, the visit was impactful and mutually beneficial for me and the organization. TEP Centre team subsequently announced a call to other researchers who want to engage with education experts, and PhD students interested in presenting their research, with the aim to explore similar collaborations to the successful webinar I had. I recommend this scheme to other students to share their findings with industry practitioners and gain more insights into real-life happenings, particularly in instances where a student is studying purely quantitative data and is unable to collect additional qualitative data. These insights can lead to a better understanding of their research and spark new ideas.

I am grateful to the SWDTP for funding to undertake this visit, to my supervisors for their support and to the TEP Centre team for allowing me access to their network and for excellently organising the webinar.

About the author

Bridget is an economics graduate and researcher with a decade of professional experience, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Advanced Quantitative Methods at University of Bristol’s School of Education. Using Multilevel modelling techniques, her PhD research investigates socio-economic and state inequalities in post-primary education in Nigeria.

Twitter  Oby Bridget Azubuike (@oby_bridget) / Twitter


Further information

To find out more about the School of Education doctoral programmes, visit our web page: Doctoral programmes. 

To explore research at the School of Education, visit our web pages: Research