Nomadic Education in Nigeria: Principles and Strategies


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By Peter Hezekiah Lawson

(Google Publisher)


Nomadic education is a programme designed for the children of nomads. The aim of the programme apart from equipping the children with the skills with which to take part in the development of their immediate environment and the country in general, include, making the child able to improve his living conditions, eliminating the hardships and constraints in his life; to help him modernize his techniques of herdmanship and animal management. In order to realize these goals, the National Commission for Nomadic Education was established in 1989 and charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the children of nomads gain access to free and compulsory qualitative education. In consonance with the Education for ALL (EFA) and. Millennium Development Goals (MDGS), there is need to appraise the extent of the implementation of nomadic education programme

Nomadic Education in Nigeria

The ultimate purpose of human existence and education is happiness. It is the function of primary education to help every pupil to have a happy childhood so that he may consequently become a happy adult. The Bororo Fulanis, both as children and parents, are entitled to a share of happiness which primary education is expected to give. Everyone is entitled to education so as to live a happy life. This is clearly stated in Article 26 of the 1984 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as follows: “Every-one has the right to education. This shall be free at least in the elementary stages.” This belief in human right to education is strongly upheld by the Federal Government. Thus, it was deliberately entrenched into the Nigerian constitution of 1979. It is stated in this Constitution that “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities for all.” (Nigerian Constitution, 1979: 18).

Education is viewed by the Federal Government as indispensable for both progressive leadership and enlightened followership. In recent years, we have witnessed an increase in the efforts of the Federal Government to spread literacy. The Universal Free and Compulsory Primary Education Scheme launched in September 1976 and the Mass Literacy Campaign in Nigeria from 1982 to 1992 are examples of such efforts. Equal educational opportunity to a child must include the provision of special formal learning experiences that will not adversely disrupt the life style of the learner. The declared intention of universal primary education at its inception in 1976 was, to cater for all sons and daughters of Nigeria. This intention did not materialize during implementation because these ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ did not equally benefit from the programme. The nomads could not benefit from UPE because, the Nigerian conventional school system did not suit their roles, needs and circumstances.

Nomadic Education in Nigeria

According to Akinpelu (1993), the contemporary definition of ‘nomadism’ refers to any type of existence characterized by the absence of a fixed domicile. He identifies three categories of nomadic groups as: hunter/ food gatherers, itinerant fishermen, and pastoralists (a.k.a., herdsmen).

In Nigeria, there are six nomadic groups:

  1. The Fulani (with population of 5.3 million)
  2. The Shuwa (with population of 1.0 million)
  3. The Buduman (with population of 35,001)
  4. The Kwayam (with population of 20,000)
  5. The Badawi (with population yet to be established)
  6. The Fishermen (with population of 2.8 million)

The last group, The Fishermen, is concentrated in Rivers, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Cross River, and Akwa-Ibom States (FME, Education Sector Analysis, 2000). The first five nomadic groups listed are considered pastoralist nomads.

Principles of Nomadic Education in Nigeria

The nomadic education program has a multifaceted schooling arrangement to suit the diverse transhumant habits of the Fulani. Different agencies are involved in the educational process. These agencies include the Ministry of Education, Schools Management Board, the National Commission for Nomadic Education, the Agency for Mass Literacy, and the Scholarship Board. They work together to offer a mobile school system where the schools and the teachers move with the Fulani children.

To improve the literacy rate of Nigeria’s nomads, the National Commission for Nomadic Education employed various approaches such as on-site schools, the ‘shift system,’ schools with alternative intake, and Islamiyya (Islamic) schools to provide literacy education to the nomads. The nomadic education programme has a multifaceted schooling arrangement designed to meet the diverse habits of the Fulani people, with the largest population of 5.3 million. In Nigeria, the government set up different agencies to implement education for the nomads; these agencies include the Federal Ministry of Education; Schools Management Board; National Commission for Nomadic Education; Agency for Mass Literacy, and the Scholarship Board. Together, they offer a mobile school system wherein the schools and the teachers move with the Fulani children.

Strategies of Nomadic Education

It is proposed that the type of resident teachers for this programme should be Fulbes. Where this is not possible, local persons outside the community could be recruited, provided they are familiar with the life style of the nomads and could speak Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani, fluently. They should be grade two teachers with some years of teaching experience. They should be given & special in-service training, through organised workshops or seminars. The assistant teachers or teachers’ aides should be literate, influential’ and should be able ‘to liaise between the resident teachers and the community.

Curriculum, in this context, is seen as activities, experiences, skills, knowledge and beliefs which the nomadic child will be exposed closely related to the in broad outline, that to in school. Thus, the curriculum should be life-style of the nomads. It is recommended, the nomadic education curriculum will comprise:

  1. Language Arts – Under this Fulfulde, Hausa and English Languages should be taught-;
  2. Arithmetic/Mathematics – simple Mathematics for everyday use;
  3. Social Studies:

(a) History of ‘the Nomadic Fulani and Nigeria;

(b) The pullo, culture including the Pulaaku;

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(c) The culture of other Nigerians;

(d) Civics; and

(e) Geography.

  1. Religious and moral instruction;
  2. Elementary Science:

(a) Animal Management, Including cattle rearing, poultry and fishing, where applicable;

(b) Agricultural Science, including pasture regeneration;

(c) Physical and Health Education; and

(d) Nature Study.

  1. Creative Arts:

(a) Reading;

(b) Writing; and

(c) Other creative activities.

  1. Home Economics:

(a) House-keeping and other related activities;

(b) Vocational instructions – weaving, sewing, carpentry etc.

Mobile Schools

Mobile schools use collapsible classrooms that can be assembled or disassembled within 30 minutes and carried conveniently by pack animals. While a whole classroom and its furniture can be hauled by only four pack animals, motor caravans are replacing pack animals to move the classrooms. A typical mobile unit consists of three classrooms, each with spaces to serve 15 to 20 children. Some classrooms are equipped with audio-visual teaching aids.

Radio and Television Education

In a study jointly carried out by the Federal Government of Nigeria and UNESCO in 2004, “Improving Community Education and Literacy, Using Radio and Television in Nigeria,” it was established that 37.0 percent of Nigerians owned only radio, while 1.3 percent owned only TV sets. Nearly forty-eight percent (47.8%) owned both radio and TV sets, while 13.9 percent had neither. Findings from the study revealed that radios are easily affordable, accessible, and often more handy to use than TV. Those without TV and radio, however, still have access to the media through socialization in their local communities.

The pastoral Fulani as a captive audience for radio and television programmes have radios, which they carry along during herding. The literate world can, thus, reach itinerants Fulani without disrupting their nomadic life or livelihood. To improve literacy, especially in the rural areas, the Nigerian Government has introduced radio and television educational programmes. The government supplies hardware such as radio, television, and electric generators, and builds viewing rooms for public use.

Although the Nigerian Government has spent millions of naira (the currency of Nigeria) to support its nomadic education programme, educational attainment among the Fulani remains low, and the quality of education among them is mediocre at best. The current form of nomadic education, therefore, has truly yet to lift the literacy and living standards of the Fulani people as children of farmers rather than fulanis constitute up to 80 percent of the pupils in nomadic schools. In Plateau State, for example, only six of 100 children in the Mozat Ropp nomadic school are Fulani (Iro, 2006).


To conclude, education plays a key role in the socioeconomic development of the Nigerian society. Despite the importance of education, many Fulani have not embraced it. Mobility, lack of fund, faulty curriculum design, and dependence on juvenile labor are some of the causes of paltry participation of the Fulani in schooling. Of serious concern to the Fulani also is the fear that Western education will have a Christian influence on the Fulani children who are predominantly Muslims. The Fulani express their grudges on the N.C.N.E. and its management, accusing it of alienating the Fulani in educational planning and implementation. Despite these obstacles, there is prospects that education will spread among the Fulani, especially with the bleakness in the future of pastoral nomadism.


Abiona, K. (2003). The Use of Media in Adult Education. A paper presented at a one day workshop organised for Local Adult Literacy Officers of Agency for Adult and Non-Formal Education. Oyo State, Nigeria.

Aderinoye, R. A. (2005). Innovation in Mass Literacy Promotion in Nigeria: the intervention of the Cuban Radio Literacy Model. 2005 ICDE International Conference, November 19-23. New Delhi, India.

Akinpelu, J. A. (1993). Education for special groups. In O. O. Akinkugbe (Ed.) Nigeria and Education: The challenges ahead (p. 23). Second Obafemi Awolowo Foundation Dialogue. Ibadan: Spectrum Books.

Aleyidieno, S. (1985). Education and Occupational Diversification Among Young Learners: The problem of harmonising tradition practices with the lessons of our colonial heritage. In Issues on Development: Proceedings of a Seminar held in Zaria. January 12-13. Zaria, Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello University Press.

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