Cross Section of Participants at an Education Summit to Mark the International Day of Education 2020, recently (Photo Credit, Ndokwa Reporters)
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
There was a veiled agreement among participants at a recent gathering in Obiaruku, Delta state, South South, Nigeria, that as a nation; if achieving a people-purposed leadership forms part of our aim as a nation, if accelerating economic development is our goal, if social and cultural development is our dreams, if promoting peace, support industries and improve energy sector forms our objective, and if we must escape building a country that future historians will not characterize as a geographical entity reputed for loss of jobs or qualifies as a state where citizens daily slide into poverty and unexpected illness,then,we must be ready to join the global education advancement train.
Apart from creating, supporting and promoting actions and activities for its propagation, the gathering agreed that catalyzing the process, will among other things necessitate; the review of the education curriculum currently in use in the country as the outputs or products of the curriculum no longer find a safe landing in almost any sector in Nigeria today; calls for the allocation of considerable attention to education sector because going by the Global partnership for Education, “education is one of the most important investments a country can make in its people and its future. The SDG goal number 4, is ‘to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all was explicit on this issue. The event was organized by a civil Society organization to mark the International Day of Education 2020 celebration tagged “Learning for people, planet, prosperity and peace,
Indeed, Nigerians cannot agree more with the above argument as education is globally recognized as the bedrock of development; with sound educational institutions, a country in absolute terms is as good as made -as the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and project. Well impacted education shapes the society and encourages the masses to look beyond the acquisition of certificates in the university and focus on how to create jobs instead of depending on the government for employment that may never come,
But we cannot forget that in the estimation of the government at all levels, such creed or ideology exists more in words than action.
A telling proof to this assertion is the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, which lasted between the year 2000 and 2015, and was among other intentions aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as achieve universal primary education, where Nigeria and other Africa countries performed abysmally below average,there are many more ways government actions and inaction impedes achievement of balanced education.
To take one more example of such, it could be recalled that in a unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Chinedu Emeka Martins titled: “Call for Abolishment of Acceptance fee into Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria” during the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, the house described acceptance fee as exploitative and called on Federal Government, to immediately abolish the payment of such fees in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
But today, despite such effort by the house the practice remain unabated in virtually all the public higher institution of learning in the country.
With this non adherence by the tertiary institutions of higher learning in the country, the questions may be asked; what the acceptance fee signifies. Why must students pay acceptance fee for admission they voluntarily expressed interest and paid the examination fees? Who will stop these Universities from such practice since they have rebuffed the house directives? Or must we as a nation allow the useful and the useless like good and evil go on together allowing our nation to reap whatever fruit that comes out in the nearest future?
Accordingly, this present menace posed by this practice indicates a considerably higher risk. And except the Federal Government intervenes, the potential consequence could be higher than that of other challenges currently ravaging the education sector.
By getting preoccupied with revenue generation without consideration to the students comfort or well being, the tertiary institutions define leaning too narrowly in a manner devoid of process and outcome fairness, forgetting that if learning must persist, stakeholders must look inward, reflect critically on their own behaviour, and identify the ways they often advertently or inadvertently contribute to the institution’s problems and then change how they act.
Fundamentally, if we look at the present challenge in our schools and conclude that we don’t have mutual responsibility to ensure that these children have access to quality and affordable education, it means the nation will be confronted with two sets of challenges-first, gradual slide of the educational system, and flooding of the nation’s socioeconomic space with graduates that are extremely educated but ill-informed or misinformed.
To explain these points beginning with the first point, India in the 1960s/70s vividly represented an example of what becomes the fate of any nation that ignores, politicizes educational system or allows tribal/ethnic consideration to take place of meritocracy when taking decision on educational policies.
At independence, India, going by history, had so many outstanding people in all fields of scholarship, but for a number of reasons which ranges from; wastage of decades in state planning and controls that have begged it down in bureaucracy and corruption; their caste system, which has been the enemy of meritocracy-as each caste demand its quota in all institutions, whether recruitment into the IAS or entrance to the universities, and the endless conflict and wars with Pakistan that made both poorer, India allowed the high standards the British left them to be lowered. There was less insistence on meritocracy by examinations for entrance into top schools and universities, the professions and the Indian civil service (ICS). Cheating at examinations became rampant, Universities allotted their quota of places to MPs of their states, who either give or sell these places to their constituents.
Regardless of what others may, Nigerians with critical interest believe that as a nation, there is a very big lesson for us to draw from this narrative as our government daily replicates these factors that led to India’s down fall in the past .
More important than the above, until the nation Nigeria tackles the shocking phenomenon of declining standards of physical infrastructures and the near-total collapse of basic facilities that ought to be functional in a tertiary institution, and stamp out thoughtless demand for fees of varying amounts proposed by the school authorities ahead of logic-which is financially squeezing life out of the innocent students and their parents, the nation will like the Germans of old, continue to experience challenges of youths unrest occasioned by the nation’s educational sector’s producing graduates that are extremely educated but remained ill-informed or misinformed.
It was factually supported that between 1930s and 1940s, many members of the Nazi party in Germany were extremely well educated but their knowledge of literature, mathematics, philosophy, and others simply empowered them to be effective Nazis. As no matter how educated they were, no matter how well they cultivated their intellect; they were still trapped in a web of totalitarian propaganda that mobilized for evil purpose.
From the above, it is evident that being educated is not when one bags a PHD, but when one is equipped to skillfully master the arts of ones vocation. Nations spend millions of dollars to create literate citizens in order to have crime-free environment. When a youth is educated, he or she would weigh their thought before they act. An illiterate society is a virus to the entire community, state, and the nation as a whole.
While we wait for the Federal Government to choose the path we should follow as a nation, one thing stands out. Continuing with the present style of education will never engineer national progress but can only set the stage for development collision.
Jerome-Mario Utomi (firstname.lastname@example.org. 08032725374), writes from Lagos, Nigeria.