in the middle belt.  In 1914 there were 1,100 primary school pupils in the north, compared with 35,700 in the south; the north had no secondary schools, compared with eleven in the south.  By the 1920s, the pressure for school places in the south led to increased numbers of independent schools financed by local efforts and to the sending of favourite sons overseas for more advanced training.
The education system focused strongly on examinations.  In 1916 Frederick Lugard, first governor of the unified colony, set up a school inspectorate.  Discipline, buildings, and adequacy of teaching staff were to be inspected, but the most points given to a school’s performance went to the numbers and rankings of its examination results.  This stress on examinations was still used in 1990 to judge educational results and to obtain qualifications for jobs in government and the private sector.
Progress in education was slow but steady throughout the colonial era until the end of World War II.  By 1950 the country had developed a three-tiered system of primary, secondary and higher education based on the British model of wide participation at the bottom, sorting into academic and vocational training at the secondary level, and higher education for a small elite destined for leadership.  On the eve of independence in the late 1950s, Nigeria had gone through a decade of exceptional educational growth leading to a movement for universal primary education in the Western Region.
In the north, primary school enrollments went from 66,000 in 1947 to 206,000 in 1957, in the west (mostly Yoruba areas) from 240,000 to 983,000 in the same period, and in the east from 320,000 to 1,209,000.  Secondary level enrollments went from 10,000 for the country as a whole in 1947 to 36,000 in 1957; 90 percent of these, however, were in the south.
Given the central importance of formal education, it soon became “the largest social programme of all governments of the federation,” absorbing as much as 40 percent of the budgets of some state governments.  Thus, by 1984 – 85 more than 13 million pupils attended almost 35,000 public primary schools.  At the secondary level, approximately 3.2 million students were attending 6,500 schools (these numbers probably included enrollment in private schools) and about 125,000 post secondary level students were attending 35 colleges and universities.  The pressure on the system remained intense in 1990, so much that one education researcher predicted 800,000 higher level students by the end of the 1990s, with a correlated growth in numbers and size of all education institutions to match this estimate.
Universal primary education became official policy for the federation in the 1970s.  The goal has not been reached despite pressure throughout the 1980s to do so.  In percentage terms, accomplishments have been impressive.  Given an approximate population of 49.3 million in 1957 with 23 percent in the primary school age group (ages five to fourteen), the country had 21 percent of its school age population attending in the period just prior to independence, after what was probably a tripling of the age-group in the preceding decade.  By 1985 with an estimated population of 23 million between ages five and fourteen, approximately 47 percent of the age-group attended school. Although growth slowed and actually decreased in some rural areas in the late 1980s, it was projected that by the early part of the next century, universal primary education would be achieved.
Secondary and post secondary level growth was much more dramatic. The secondary level age-group (ages fifteen to twenty-four) represented approximately 16 percent of the entire population in 1985.  Secondary level education was available for approximately 0.5 percent of the age-group in 1957, and for 22 percent of the age group in 1985.  In the early 1960s, there were approximately 4,000 students at six institutions (Ibadan, Ife, Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Nigeria at Nsukka and the Institute of Technology at Benin), rising to 19,000 by 1971 and to 30,000 by 1975.  In 1990 there were thirty-five polytechnic institutes, military colleges, and state and federal universities, plus colleges of education and of agriculture;  they had an estimated enrollment of 150,000 to 200,000, representing less than 1 percent of the twenty-one to twenty-nine-year-old age-group.
Such growth was impossible without incurring a host of problems, several of which were so severe of education.
As long as the country was growing apace in terms of jobs for the educated minority through investment in expanded government agencies and services and the private sector, the growing number of graduates could be absorbed.  But the criterion of examination results as the primary sorting device for access to schools and universities led to widespread corruption and cheating among faculty and students at all levels, but especially secondary and post secondary.  Most Nigerian universities had followed the British higher education system of “final examinations” as the basis for granting degrees, but by 1990 many were shifting to the United States system of course credits, economic hardship among teaching staffs produced increased engagement in non-academic moon lighting activities.  Added to these difficulties were such factors as the lack of books and materials no incentive for research and writing the use of outdated notes and materials, and the deficiency of replacement laboratory equipment.  One researcher noted that in the 1980s Nigeria had the lowest number of indigenous engineers per capita of any Third World country.  Unfortunately, nothing was done to rectify the situation.  The teaching of English which was the language of instruction beyond primary school, had reached such poor levels that universities complained they could not understand the written work of their students.
By 1990, the crisis in education was such that it was predicted that by the end of the decade, there would be sufficient personnel to run essential services of the country.  It was hoped that the publication of critical works and international attention to this crisis might reverse the situation before Nigeria lost an entire generation or more of its skilled labour force.