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.