…Nigerian education should be redefined to solve her peculiar economic problems
“Education is the aggregate of all the processes by which a child or young adult develops abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviours which are positive value to the society in which he lives.”Babs Fafunwa (Nigerian former education minister and foremost educationist: 1923 – 2010)
The Federal Government of Nigeria has given green light on the resumption of education that was abruptly terminated in March when the novel coronavirus ravaged the world. This means that all schools at various levels are expected to reopen for learning activities to commence. The government has also ordered that all the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and protocols should be observed and adhered to, to flatten the COVID-19 curve in Nigeria. With this in mind, the school system can begin to recommence from today, Monday, October 12, 2020.
According to many stakeholders in Nigerian education, the reopening of schools is long overdue, since Nigeria has had a drastic low rate of COVID-19 cases, and the susceptibility of contracting the virus among the younger ones is low. It is believed that when all protocols are duly observed, the school children and their teachers would be safe and secure.
However, with the good news of resumption and arrangements in place for the post-COVID-19 era in Nigeria, it is discouraging that the educational system in the country has not been revitalised despite having compulsory six months break. The new things to be seen in our schools are basically wash-hand basins, hand-held thermometers and other COVID-19 compliance gadgets and other protocols erected to curtail the pandemic.
While it is widely embedded that education is pivotal to the economic growth and development of the society, the Nigerian state has not aligned itself into this point. The developed economy is driven by the number of research studies, innovations and inventions engineered to meet the peculiar needs of the state. In essence, the reason why a learner should go to school is to meet an academic scheme that would refine his thoughts, skills and talents in building a better society. Sadly, the Nigerian version of education is not so.
At the Nigeria Education Summit (NES) held at Protea Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos in 2015, the chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, Mr. Foluso Philips said, “The change we seek may require us to think differently about the purpose of education and how the burden of responsibility of educating Nigerian people at all levels, is shared and what form it takes.” The point is that Nigerian government and the citizens have not defined the reason for education. The moment we do, is when our problem would be half-solved.
The late motivational speaker and author, Dr. Myles Munroe said, “When the purpose of a thing is not known, then abuse is inevitable.” In the Nigerian context, our educational system still admits and graduates learners to seek jobs. All of us have not defined the aim for our educational system, and if we do, isn’t it about the time to evaluate and re-strategise to make our education solve our peculiar problems?
In one of the conversations I had recently with a University of Lagos undergraduate, who preferred anonymity, the young man gave a hint of what he envisioned as a Performing Arts student. He narrated that while writing scripts for films, the thoughts should be about what the future would look like in the next ten and twenty years. This would make our thoughts align for what the future holds. He argued that why do we always cast our minds back to the past? In his words, “Just as we have been conditioned to think, our education and economy produce moribund results that cannot help the country.”
This conversation pointed to the practicability of what we teach and learn in the classrooms. It tilted to placing practical lessons above theoretical affirmations, and doing this will channel our path to technicality of our challenges and their solutions.
Absolutely, Nigerians are craving a better educational order, but unfortunately, our government is not seeing this. The Nigerian educational structure had undergone a series of planning since independence, yet with little or no improvement. This has led to many substandard results our country churn out in terms of educational products. The problems include underfunding of education, which still falls below 15 to 26 per cent of the national budget that the UNESCO recommends. As a result of this, we have an obsolete curriculum, unconducive learning environment, inadequate teaching facilities and untrained teachers, among others.
While buttressing the need for government to revisit the educational system in Nigeria, a businessman and former lecturer at a technical college, Mr. Jubril Mohammed, said, “Firstly, our methods of education should be totally overhauled. There is a need to change the educational syllabus from mainly theoretical teachings to practical illustrations that will solve our problems. And, I must add this. It is high time the government funded the education properly. The funding of education I am talking about is vocational and technical schools. This is where our critical thinking will be developed to address our peculiar economic problems.”
“Government still needs to employ more hands and as well as train teachers regularly,” a secondary school teacher, Mr. Prince Aliyu said, while pointing out what should be focused in the Nigerian educational system. “The curriculum should be addressed to meet the needs of the pupils.”
He also threw his weight behind the needs for technical schools at this moment. “Technical schools should be well addressed in Nigeria for us to meet the international standards like what is happening in China. Building of skills development centres and new technical schools should be adequately looked into. There should be expansion of ICT, supply of adequate learning materials and increasing of education budget,” Mr. Aliyu submitted.
Recently, while Nigerians were marking this year 2020 Teachers Day, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law new National Teaching Policy. It has some robust features such as a special salary scale for teachers, retirement age at 65, retirement service at 40, and others. However, one began to ask where was the position of digital literacy in the policy, how about the widening the scope of technical education. Yet, we were excited when our core needs left unattended.
In her remarks to the new policy, a teacher and postgraduate student, Miss Oluwadamilola Oluwadahun, said, “When I heard about it, as much as I appreciate what was said but I sincerely feel that the decision was an afterthought. The questions that came to mind was, what are the plans that have been put in place to ensure that these things are achieved?”
According to Miss Oluwadahun, “Teachers’ service year has been extended but in all honesty, when you visit most of the public schools around, most teachers become lazy as they climb up the ladder. Some of them simply rely on younger teachers to do their jobs for them. So, the extension in my opinion might not benefit students in the long run.”
“For education students that will be employed after school, to which schools will they be deployed especially when we consider the ratio of teachers who graduate per year to the number of schools that we have. It simply does not make sense.
“Even, if it’s a good idea, I feel the government still needs to sit down and develop a proper blueprint to achieve this. Some criteria should be put in place.
“Also, once the government starts giving education graduates automatic employment, many will start enrolling for education courses which might cause more problems in the future,” Miss Oluwadahun said.
Nigerian government should look inwardly and address the educational needs properly, then let the proper education of the digital age solve our economic challenges. It might be sad, but that’s the truth, that unless we have a thorough servicing of the educational scheme, our vehicle of economic growth and development would be slow. And, practical, technical and digital education play an important role.