NIGERIA’S EDUCATION: A THEORISED KNOWLEDGE?

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

A speech delivered on November 4, 2015 and which got me the “King of the Podium” appellation (2015/2016) as far as Kenneth Mellanby Hall is concerned.

It is said that when the head is too big, it cannot dodge blows… The head of today’s event, Nigeria’s education, is bigger than its body and thus must endure being constantly discussed.

Good day fellow Mellanbites, kingmakers, fellow speakers and the audience. Before you is Adebajo Adekunle Adefisayo, an aspirant for the crown of the podium. And I am here to take the floor on the question – Nigeria’s education: a theorised knowledge?

Ladies and gentlemen, Terence once said nothing is said which has not been said before. It has, before now, been argued that our education system is not laden with theorised knowledge because we have various practical sessions like industrial training, teaching practice and chamber attachments. It has also been argued that the presence of quality private schools has greatly reduced focus on theory. It may even be argued that our knowledge is not theorised because we not only have theory questions in our examination, we also have German and objective ones. But we all know that these arguments may not hold air let alone water.

Finding an irrefutable assertion is like finding a popular YouTube video with no dislike. There are always two sides to a coin and two ends to a rope. And so it behoves me to examine the other side to this argument which in fact appears to be heavier. To compare it with the former is to compare Mellanby hall to a boys quarters.

The reality today is that our education system is crude and lacks exposure. It not only focuses on theory but off-base, out-of-date triviality. Our lecturers for instance find nothing wrong in using pre-colonial lesson notes 55 years after independence. We have engineers who do not move near engines, doctors who know no better than conductors and Professors of Mechanical Engineering who still take their engines to the mechanics for engineering. Our students can define the internet but cannot use it, they can define a laboratory and in fact list 10 apparatuses it contains but have never entered one, they can describe a wind turbine but have never seen one; they can talk all day about how the tractor works but we have not for once driven one.

In 2012, investigations carried out by Vanguard Nigeria revealed that many schools in Nigeria lack up to date computer technology and the few that have lack access to electricity. For instance, out of a class of about 60, only one claimed to have once worked on a computer – his uncle’s laptop.

Just last month, the cerebral Dr Olisa Godson Muojama of the History department was on air at Splash FM and he declared that Nigeria is operating mercantile, commercial capitalism and not true industrial capitalism. Meaning we import virtually everything but we do not ourselves create or construct anything. Even the things we manage to create, we still import the raw materials from overseas. Does this then mean Nigerians are too dull or lazy? No, of course not! It is only because our education system does not encourage creative thinking. It only reinforces routine robotic reasoning. The problem is not intelligence but lack of experience. And this cannot help us. It will only cast us in a state of motion without movement, activity without productivity.

You see, when Nigerians go abroad to learn, their genius often becomes manifest because of the change in environment. Almost a 100% of Nigerians who ever invented anything worthy of international recognition benefitted substantially from foreign education – from Saheed Adepoju who invented the Inye tablet to Seyi Oyesola who invented the ‘hospital in a box’, from Jelani Aliyu who made General Motors leading auto-brand to Cyprian Emeka who holds more than 160 patents worldwide. Last May, we also heard about Mr Ufot Ekong who made a speedy electric car while studying in Japan. He definitely would not have achieved that had he studied in University of Ibadan.

Fellow Mellanbites, what I am trying to say in essence is that we have the perfect intellectual pool, but our schools lack the perfect intellectual tools. School is not just about pen and paper; it is about ken and actual encounters. School is not only about learning and character; it is about knowing and being a master. School is not about la cram la pour la pass la forget; it is about la grasp la tour la surpass la recollect.

Gentlemen, I shall close by quoting from Benjamin Franklin, a foremost American statesman.  He said tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. And so if our education sector is truly interested in the impartation of knowledge, then it must provide not just updated theory but engaging practicality and actual intellectual activity.

Post scriptum: Paragraphs 3, 4, 8 and the last sentence weren’t part of the final delivery due to temporal inadequacy.

THE LAST DOSE?

STRIKE NO MORE.

 1…7…0, 1…7…0, what is it again?

I try and try, but all ends in vain

1…7…0, 1…7…0, I can’t seem to remember

Those six little figures… my poor matric number!

 

I am the unfortunate Nigerian student

Hardworking, ambitious, always compliant

I am the bone-eating son of a butcher

Who none cares for a second to look after

 

While busy sipping from the Pierian Spring

The fountain went dry, an event unforeseen

The unions cut short our bid to know

Even ‘IFA’ oracle insisted we must go

Confused and dejected, we packed our bags

Thinking that the next day, we’ll be back

But days turned to weeks, weeks to months

We waited and waited, all came to naught

 

At first, to the union, we showed sympathy

But then, the issue became just too lengthy

No more were some on the fence

To all, the strikers were now in defence

 

Some learnt teaching, bricklaying and carpentry

The rich ones, out of fear, swiftly left the country

Some hurriedly settled down to marry

Some could not endure, that they got heavy

 

Alas! At this time, many were buried

Here and there, you hear a student’s obituary

But no! We did not suffer alone

The great union also lost one of its own

 

Our market women cried enough is enough

A Lagos lawyer said we can’t take it no more

Igbo youths were paid to pressure the union

Vanity upon vanity, we were left in confusion

 

The government issues threats of no pay

When union protests, they chase them away

Go back to work, we have no money

So says the vile and chubby Harvard lady

 

 Promise after promise, offer after offer

Yet the union’s stance stands, it does not falter

Then came Goodluck, like a Deus ex machina

Union got thrilled, and forgot the grounds for fracas

 

Or so we thought…

Sadly, the royal meeting yielded no result

After 13 hours of nocturnal discourse

The season-film just never halts, not even a pause

 

The media mediated,

Sending us neither here nor there

Even a silly fella under @ASUU_Nigeria

Misled much through his twitter gear

 

The game is no longer interesting

The movie, no longer amusing

The union has lost its radiance

The students are no longer concerned

 

The government again issues threats

We will sack you all, they declare

Pro-Chancellors too did speak

Resume in a week or forever have your break

 

When all hope seemed buried and lost

The authorities agreed to pay somewhat

The union knew it the best they can muster

And to all’s joy, re-opened the Ivory Tower

 

When two mighty whales brawl

It is the planktons that really hurt

The strikers have gone on another repose

But I ask, is it a stop? Have we had the last dose?

KINDLY DROP A COMMENT BELOW!

ADVICE to the PRESIDENT.

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THE ADVICE I WOULD GIVE MY PRESIDENT IF I HAD A HALF HOUR PRIVATE AUDIENCE WITH HIM.

Written for the purpose of: BASIC TRUST INT’L ESSAY CONTEST 2011

Award: 5th position.

It would be a dream come true for me to have a half hour private audience with the number one citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the person of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The pieces of advice I would give him if I had this opportunity are many as the problems bedevilling the nation are myriad. But since I do not have enough time to touch most of the problems, I will limit my advice to one probable solution to them.
As a student, I attach great importance to Education. I strongly believe that qualitative education is the bedrock of National development. Hence, if I was opportune to have a private audience with my President, I would emphasise the importance of Education and advise him to focus on and improve the sector.
The Education sector functions like an industry whose main product is human capital. Without an effective Education sector, citizens cannot obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to man the labour force and lead productive lives. Developing the Education sector will have a ripple effect on other sectors, be it social, political, health or economic.
While discussing the importance of Education at the African Leadership Development Centre, Bishop David Oyedepo rightly said; “quality education would raise the right kind of leaders, promote the right kind of values and ensure that the right kind of students graduate which would in turn bring about the kind of changes that the nation desperately requires today.”
While conducting a research into the importance of Education, I discovered that the percentage of literates in a country affects the level of Economic growth and development of that country. According to Wikipedia, Benin republic, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa have literacy rates of 34.7%, 68%, 71.4% and 86.4% respectively. And the CIA world fact book states that the Nominal GDP (on the basis of purchasing power parity) of these four countries are 1500, 25500, 6200 and 10,700 respectively (all in billion USD). With these figures, we can easily deduce that a low literacy rate tends to impede the economic development of a country.
The importance of Education is not restricted to the economic sector. It also helps to reasonably reduce, if not totally curb social maladies such as poverty, unemployment, corruption, drug abuse, STDs and so on.
With our enormous national wealth, poverty will certainly be alleviated if the gap between the rich and the poor is bridged. And this can be achieved if the citizens have equal educational opportunities. This point is backed up by a statistic that states that for every year of schooling children have, their salary as an adult will increase by an average of 10%. Hence, education is the best long-term solution to poverty.
In the aspect of unemployment, I guess President Barack Obama has said it all at Wakefield high school, during his address to a group of new students. He said the ingenuity and creativity developed in all classes is needed to build new companies, create new jobs and boost the economy.
Aside from these, qualitative education will also help to abate the effect of STDs, especially HIV/AIDS. Creating awareness about the causes, effects and preventive methods will go a long way in preventing non-victims from getting infected. This is because a large percentage of HIV infections is due toignorance and illiteracy.
The decay in the sector leaves much to be desired. As vital as it is to national development, little attention has been paid to it by past governments and this has translated into mass failure in both internal and external examinations, incessant cases of strike actions and examination mal-practice, lack of essential infrastructures in various schools etc.
I enjoin Mr. President to confront these problems head-on by disbursing more money into the sector. I am aware that the Education ministry is the second most funded ministry. Last year, it was allocated #249 billion and this year it is #306 billion; but how much of this money serves its purpose and not the purse of government officials and contractors? The government needs to increase the allocation to an appreciative level, and ensure that the money is judiciously spent.
In addition to this, more learning institutions should be built, especially in rural areas. The existing ones should be developed and modernised so as to compete actively with others in this technologically advancing world. The schools must be well funded, staffed and equipped. I find it appalling and disgraceful that only 8 of Nigerian universities made it to the top 100 African universities list, while Egypt and South Africa boast of 16 and 18 respectively. In fact, the top 9 are all South African institutions.
Furthermore, teachers need to be well-paid. Their current salary scheme is just too derisory for such a noble and highly tasking profession. If this is done, it will put an end to strike actions, they will be encouraged to put more effort in their job, not having to seek income at other avenues and youths will be encouraged to take up teaching as a career.
I would like to remind the President of his inaugural speech in which he said “…over the next four years, attention will be focused on rebuilding our infrastructure. We will create greater access to quality education…” Nigeria’s problem is not policy formulation but rather policy implementation.
Lastly and in conclusion, I quote the words of Francois de la Rochefoucauld, who said; “we can give an advice but we cannot give the wisdom to profit by it.” I agree but I also know that Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan possesses that wisdom and he, along with the good people of Nigeria, will profit by my advice.
GOD BLESS NIGERIA!