Challenges of Reducing Poverty in Nigeria: Repositioning Home Economics for Sustainable Education



Poverty has reached an alarming rate in Nigeria, literature search shows that poverty prevails across all geographical zones, majority of Nigerians live in abject poverty. Graduates are faced with unemployment, hunger and other faces of poverty. Home Economics is being rebranded and repositioned to capture its progressive roots, make programmes more vibrant and sustainable to alleviate poverty through creativity and entrepreneurship education. Programmes that are relevant to the needs of the people will enhance the image of Home Economics and help it take its place in the contemporary 21st century society.


Extreme poverty and hunger are major problem that Nigerian government has not been able to solve. Past governments between 1972 and now have mounted at least eight projects that were meant to alleviate poverty. Billions of naira was spent on these projects yet Nigerians have remained poor and hungry. The international fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (2007) noted that “Despite its plentiful resources and oil wealth, poverty is widespread in Nigeria. The situation has worsened since the late 1990s, to the extent that the country is now considered one of the 20 poorest countries in the world. Over 70 percent of the population is classified as poor, with 35 percent living in absolute poverty”. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was adopted in 2000 and the target date for achieving the goals is 2015. Nigeria is a party to the adoption of MDGs. The year 2010 is just five years away from 2015 and poverty is on the increase in Nigeria.

The millennium development goals are a platform for actions that will make for sustainability. It provides direction and focus for governments and various educational settings to improve the well being of families. In effect, poverty eradication strategies are the main thrust of MDGs.

Rural Poverty in Nigeria

IFAD (2007) reported that poverty in Nigeria tend to spread evenly across the country but is worse in some zones such as the northern area bordering Niger which is arid. Poverty is especially severe in rural areas, where social services and infrastructure are limited or non –existent.

What is Poverty?

The link between poverty, hunger and human development is very significant. Indeed, poverty and hunger are the exact opposite of human development. All the attributes of human development are deprived by poverty. Poverty is lack of job. Poverty is hunger, poor health, low education, low self esteem, lack of adequate housing, lack of land, inability to cloth oneself/family low economic status. Maduagwu (2007) concluded that poverty creates frustration, loss of hope/prospects and value for life, loss of meaning for life and purpose of living. It also creates disillusionment about morality, poverty makes people compromise on moral values or abandon moral values completely. Okafor (2004) stressed that the success or failure of any government is measured by the degree of attainment of human development or the level of poverty prevalent among the people. On this note, Nigerian government cannot be said to be successful with so many people wallowing in abject poverty. Poverty is a challenge to all and a call to action by the rich as well as the poor to change the nation so that people will have enough food to eat, roof over their heads, suitable clothes, access to quality education, good health facilities, protection from violence and having a voice in what happens in their communities. “It is appropriate for government to ensure their citizen’s active participation in formulating and implementing projects of which they are supposed to be the beneficiaries” (Maduagwu 2007). Commenting on the many faces of poverty, IFHE (2003) postulated that “poverty is not only inadequate income; it is also the lack of access to basic services and amenities, the lack of security and exclusion from community life. The recommendation is to focus efforts to uproot the causes of poverty and to achieve the involvement of the poor themselves taking part in the elaboration of policies which concern them”. IFHE noted that Home Economics competencies must be reviewed in order to be effective in the variety of life situations and everyday socio-economic and cultural demands of people and their families who live in poverty.

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Home Economics and Sustainable Education

Through the ages, education has remained the panacea for ignorance and it’s attending complicated problems. Adewuyi (2007) opined that by equipping the individual with information resources, education enriches and fortifies him against the oddities of life. According to McGregor (2006) Home Economics is inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary. It is a field of knowledge with numerous marketable skills that make for self-reliance and self employment. The challenge for home economists is therefore to obtain linkages between the body of knowledge and practice of Home Economics and the eco-social markets. Ikeme (2007) emphasized the challenges of getting Nigerian youths empowered to acquire skills and ideas for the sake of creating employment for self and others becomes a critical challenge for the development of small, medium and large scale businesses that will later metamorphose into national development.

The question before us is how to address the weakness in the system and reposition our graduates for creativity and nation building. It is our responsibility to rise up to the situation, redefine and reposition Home Economics for sustainability. “Power comes from within us and our ability to project who we are and what we can do. We must assert the place of Home Economics and locate it in he contemporary context” (Molokwu, 2007).

Good News

The good news is that this decade opens the possibility of a “New Home Economics” Pendergast (2006) reported that many others, including those outside our profession recognize that Home Economics has the potential to lead societal change and to contribute to achieving global well being.

Grossman (2003) noted that Home Economics has “progressive roots” and urges a reinstatement of Home Economics for all American students, “The new Home Economics should be both pragmatic and egalitarian… traditional topics should be retooled for the 21st century”. On the same note, Austin (1999) emphasized the importance of learning and noted that it may sound old fashioned, but teaching Home Economics is common sense…”

A Paradigm Shift

To reposition Home Economics and stay relevant and sustainable, we must critically evaluate the profession. The scope and emphasis of Home Economics have shifted from home making to paid employment in various trade and business areas. Home Economics must change to be in tune with current global technological changes and problems. Pendergast reviewed this issue and noted that:

As innovations, technology, mass production, globalization and general consumer force made the traditional skill base redundant, Home Economics has failed to move with the times to stay relevant. The 60’s and 70’s was a time of unprecedented demise for the profession and this continued into the 80’s and 90’s with loss of status…

“Education equips its beneficiaries with modern skill to fit into modern industrial activities. The increasing complexities of, and demands from modern industries have rendered obsolete areas of application of manual labour…” (Adewunmi 2002). To enhance repositioning Home Economics to meet these needs, Pendergast pose the following questions:

  1. What place does Home Economics have in contemporary society?
  2. Can Home Economics be a vehicle for preparing students to live and work in the new economic workplace, with new identities and new global challenges, where globalization is a central way of functioning and communication technologies mean an end to enclosure?
  3. Is Home Economics a redundant, failed institution, a relic left over from a bygone era?

These are questions every home economist must answer. We are challenged to poise for change, be proactive and project Home Economics with confidence and act strategically in line with contemporary global changes. These will enhance the sustainability of Home Economics as a profession and a discipline. (Molokwu, 2007).

Sustainability factors in interventions that produce lasting results ultimately will produce a community that is healthier, wiser, freer, motivated, challenged, and empowered. To foster sustainability and remain relevant, we need to re-brand Home Economics. What is branding? It is the process of putting in peoples minds the associations with a term, product or idea. According to Andrusia and Haskins (2000) the ultimate goal of branding is to create a product or service people think they can’t just live without.

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A brand is a way in encapsulating and communicating a product, power, pitch, and position, in the most succinct way, the combination of one name and visual image a personality that anyone, anywhere, will recognize and interpret in precisely the same way.

Branding can help you stand out and achieve your professional goals but you must know who you are, what you are best at and what you are after. Yes, we can rebrand Home Economics but it will take conscious and dedicated commitment. It is re-branding that will erase the negative image not change of name.

Curriculum content at all levels of education needs to be reviewed. What do you teach? What methods do you use? We need new technology to teach in the “New Times”. Competences and proficiency vary with the various levels of education. Therefore, articulation is of vital importance between secondary and tertiary institutions. “What counts as valued knowledge is constantly changing, don’t educate for redundancy. Think about what you teach, how you teach it, and whether it is transferable. Students need transferable essential learning focusing on life long learning capabilities”. (Pendergast, 2006). These are issues of paradigm shift that can brand Home Economics a new. As we embrace new knowledge and technologies, sustainability will be enhanced.


Entrepreneurship education is an option through which Home Economics teachers can challenge their students who have the independence, skills, and self-discipline necessary for self-reliance and small business ownership. Entrepreneurship education is both necessary and required to prepare students for the life after school. It is a valid strategy for poverty reduction but it has to be planned and organized strategically. In response to the 4th millennium goal, “Significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020”. The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) document of the National Planning Committee (2006) stated that programmes to build skills and entrepreneurial development will be put in place. This is an important proposal that is not being implemented properly. Nigeria is a huge market, if production is effectively stimulated, jobs wills be created and job seekers will become job creators and employers of labour. Home Economics if properly harnessed, can deliver goods.

Going into private business has become fashionable in Nigeria. Home Economics is a business oriented displicine. Are our students prepared for the world of business ownership? Do they have the opportunity to evaluate the variables involved in owning and managing a business? About 50% of small business fails within 18 months of operation. Why does this happen? Lack of entrepreneurial skill and preparedness cannot be ruled out. When a business crumbles, the owner suffers both personal and financial loss, and the feeling of personal failure may be serious and devastating.

Compton and Fanslow (1981) posed the question “If entrepreneurial education is to become part of vocational education, how can Home Economics teachers become involved? Part of the answer to this question led to the development and implementation of Home Economics curriculum in entrepreneurship education for secondary schools in USA. This is what we need to do in Nigeria.

Why is Entrepreneurship Education Necessary?

The future of a new small business is never certain. It will either succeed or fail. It is therefore necessary to equip the potential entrepreneur for success. The major thrust of entrepreneurship education is to provide (1) awareness of the opportunities and risks of small business ownership (2) the skills and competencies necessary for success in business ownership. As a concept, entrepreneurship provides: (1) a new direction for Home Economics as a vocational subject (2) career option through which the teachers can challenge students who have the sense of independence, skills and self discipline necessary to succeed in business ownership since the government is unable to provide jobs for all job seekers, entrepreneurship education helps the economy by creating jobs in business ownership. The business owner also employs other people thereby reducing unemployment.

Teacher Education

Since entrepreneurship education is a new concept in Home Economics, it is recognized that most teachers have little or no formal education preparation in entrepreneurial skills. Teachers therefore should make effort to improve themselves in this area through private studies, seminars, workshops and other relevant activities.

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The teacher will have the responsibility of helping students become aware of their potentials and provide an understanding of the opportunities that will utilize their skills to the fullest.

Some Conditions In Contemporary Society That Might Affect Home Economics

  1. More families eat out
  2. Environmental pollution
  3. Financial situations and spending habits
  4. Knowledge expansion
  5. Technological changes
  6. Fashion trends. Cultural awareness and more traditional designs.

Factors Affecting Home Economics Occupations

  1. The Market Economy: the family has shifted from production to consumer economy. Therefore more need for goods and services.
  2. Family Roles have changed: most women are both home makers and wage earners and 3 out of 5 women in work force are married. The situation demands greater management skills, personal and interpersonal relationship skill and consumer knowledge. Therefore more goods and services are needed for family survival.
  3. Life Style and Other Changes

            Boom in food industry

            Boom in clothing industry, more ready to wear demands

            Boom in early childhood education

           More services have been commercialized e.g. House keeping and sanitary jobs are

           fast replacing house helps.

  1. The Surge in Unemployment: government has lost the capacity to provide employment for all job seekers. Home Economics must play the role of providing skill training to enable students create their own employment.


Several business opportunities exist for Home Economics graduates, suitable openings abound in small businesses that involve the marketing of goods or services in the areas of foods, clothing and textile, housing and interior decoration, child care, personal services among others.

Through well planned and executed entrepreneurship education therefore, the Nigerian Youths will learn to be happy and fulfilled persons. They will be productive and committed as employers. They will allow their unique abilities to be used for the development of community, national and global goals instead of abandoning Nigeria for greener pastures.



  1. Austin, E. (1999) Saving the Home from Martha Stewart Importance of Learning Home Economics. Washington Monthly. viewed 5 May 2005
  2. Adewuyi, S. Poverty alleviation through educational attainment. Nigerian Journal of Gender and Development. Vol.3 No1.Jan. 2000, pp 25 – 31
  3. Andrusia, D. and Haskins, R. Brand Yourself: How to Create an Identity for a Brilliant Career. Ballantine Pub. Group. N.Y, 2000.
  4. Grossman (2003) In Pendergast, D. (2006) Sustaining the Home Economic Profession in New Times. A convergent moment in Home Economics in Transition. A keynote address. University of Joensum.
  5. Ikeme, A. I. Preparing Nigerian Youths for Entrepreneurship: Challenges and Strategies. A Keynote address at the 8th annual Conference of Home Economics Research Association of Nigeria. University of Nigeria Nsukka 2007.
  6. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Rural poverty in Nigeria. viewed 30 Sept 2007.
  7. International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) Position Paper on the Eradication of Poverty. Issued Feb. 2003.
  8. International Federation For Home Economics (IFHE) (2004) Paper on the 10th Anniversary of International year of the Family. http.//
  9. Maduagwu, A. (2000) Alleviating Poverty in Nigeria. Africa Economic Analysis. viewed 30 Sept 2007
  10. McGregor, S.L.T (2006). Transformative practice. East Lansing, MI: Kappa Omicron Nu.
  11. Molokwu, N. Home Economics in Response to changes in contemporary society and human Needs for sustainability. Paper presented at 3rd IFHE –Africa Regional Conference, Yaoundé Cameroon 23rd – 24th Aug. 2007.
  12. National Planning Commission National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). Govt. Press Abuja 2004
  13. Okafor, A. A. Poverty and Human Development in Nigeria: Challenges of the Millennium Development Goals. Great AP Express Pub. Ltd. Nsukka 2004.
  14. Pendergast, D. Sustaining the Home Economics Profession in New Times –A Convergent Movement. A Keynote address at the 5th International Household and Family Research Conference. Savonlinna, Finland 6th – 9th June, 2006.
  15. United Nations Africa and the Millennium Development Goals – 2007 UPDATE. UN Department of Public Information. 2007
  16. World Resources Institute (2007) Earth Trend Country Profile Nigeria.

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