Education starts from the home. The first teachers a child encounters in life are the parents. It is informal. But it etches in the memory of the child long-lasting impressions.
Nigeria is in dire straits and only education can and should come to the rescue. But first, Nigeria must rescue education from its present challenges. As currently designed and implemented, education cannot effectively tackle the challenges which the nation confronts. Both in content and application, the system requires a robotic approach from practitioners and beneficiaries. Certainly, this is not the way to go. An answer to the simple question of whether education in Nigeria is working or not would draw a ‘no’. What then should be done?
Has there been any review of how effective or otherwise the nation’s educational system has been in the last 20 years? How prepared are the products of the educational system for the challenges of the 21st century? Is it not imperative on Nigeria at this time to examine the vision, mission and purpose of education in order to direct the minds of teachers and students to new horizon? Are the curricular of tertiary institutions tailored towards ground-breaking discoveries? Has there been any relationship between town and gown in terms of research and development?
Education starts from the home. The first teachers a child encounters in life are the parents. It is informal. But it etches in the memory of the child long-lasting impressions. Parents therefore should be involved in the education process. At pre-school, the child begins to meet formal teachers. From primary One in early school, to the secondary level and through the university, a curriculum should then be designed to strengthen the child’s knowledge base. The curriculum should teach self-confidence, innate abilities, history, ethical and moral values and skills with which the beneficiary can face life’s challenges. From crèche to tertiary level appropriate investment should be made in skill acquisition.
Education is value. Education is nation’s first line of defence; it is crucial to national security and self reliance. Therefore, it has to be stronger than it is now. It is the value of education, formal and informal, that brings money. To achieve this, Nigeria ought to impart knowledge through our languages. This should be at the beginning. That way, the cultural, social and moral ethos which are inherent in our languages will naturally be assimilated by the child. This has great implications for the future. It will have an impact in thinking, technology and give the people something to contribute to the global plate of knowledge.
Nigeria is blessed with resources, natural and human. But these resources have not been maximised or properly harnessed in the quest for development. Education should be compartmentalised into skills and vocations. It should be designed in such a way that it would address the all-important question of addressing local or national concerns. Industry chieftains complain about the dearth of skilled and qualified labour in construction, building and general maintenance of equipment. Polytechnic graduates want to sit in offices and do administrative jobs. Their energies and skills should be directed or channeled into technical fields that require special competences.
The prescribed minimum investment in education which UNESCO recommends should be applied at all levels. In fact, it should be strictly adhered to. Poor or developing countries do not have any business, for example, appropriating 40 per cent of national or state budgets to defence or security, particularly in times of peace. It is absolutely uncalled for. The 13 per cent of the annual budget should go to education. If Nigeria converts all existing polytechnics to universities without a proper guideline and philosophy, it would be a futile exercise.
What is the purpose of education? Is it simply to read and write? Certainly not. Education should instill character. It must contain moral values, positive values for it to be functional. Knowing the history of the land is fundamental in education. It is a tragedy that history as a subject in Nigeria’s syllabi is still missing. Since 1999, there have been strident calls for it to be restored. The Olusegun Obasanjo administration gave the order. Nearly 16 years after, the country has continued to produce graduates who were not taught the history of the country. The result is that there is a deep disconnect between these young people and the true historical character of the nation.
Nigeria needs to train and produce graduates who think outside the box. This depends on the curriculum and the quality of mind-development that goes into academic programmes. The multifarious challenges in agriculture, infrastructure development, youth unemployment, to mention but a few, require a vigorous and rigorous approach to research. In view of the high and unacceptable level of unemployment in the country, graduates should be encouraged to think about self-development. The thousands of graduates that are produced into a non-existing labour market get more complex by the day. It can no longer be business as usual. The answer is not in converting existing polytechnics into universities. Rather, the polytechnics should concentrate on what they were originally designed for. The technical schools should receive a massive boost from both the Federal and State Governments and the much needed technological revolution should be on the way.
Finally, it needs to be reiterated that all hands should be on deck in the rescue mission. Governments at all levels should meet their obligations to the education sector. It is sad that teachers in some states of the federation are being owed salary arrears of 10 months. Certainly, teachers cannot give their best in such circumstances. Education is national investment for the current and future growth of the nation. No efforts should be spared in ensuring that the investment is properly channeled and harnessed.
By The Guardian Editorial Board