Another look at Nigerian education system

THINGS are on a seemingly inexorable decline in the country because of our penchant for failing to nip potential crisis in the bud, forgetting that whatever ill we fail to deal with promptly will eventually turn round to deal with us.

Boko Haram insurgency, which has been responsible for the killing of about 10,000 Nigerians, would have been perfectly curtailed had the government gone all out against the insurgents at the outset of their campaign. If the government had acted in good time, they would not have been emboldened to continue the needless onslaught which has left multiplied thousands homeless and the economy of the affected states in shambles.

In the same vein, it is said that the civil war would have ended shortly after it started if not for the reluctance of the federal side to do what was required immediately. By dithering, the other side was given ample time to organise and a military exercise that shouldn’t have lasted a month dragged on for over 30 months with about three million people killed.

For long, the nation’s education system has been on the downslide. Primary education has nearly collapsed; secondary education is in comatose while tertiary education is epileptic. In Nigeria, education has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Nigerian education system which produced world-acclaimed scholars and professionals like Professor Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate; Professor Chinua Achebe, Professor Ayodele Awojobi and others in that category has been reduced to one whose products are mere minions.  Unlike what obtains in other countries where achievements of the founding fathers in sciences, arts and other endeavours are surpassed by the succeeding generations, in Nigeria, references are always made to the feats of the past without any attempt to repeat or re-enact same. The glory of our education sector seems to be in the past.

Over a period of 30 years, the education sector in Nigeria experienced a lot of turbulence. There are some Nigerians in their 20s and 30s, who never went to school but have certificates. When they were in primary school, teachers were always on strike. The same thing happened during their secondary school and university days. For almost 30 years, we had a very unstable school system. There were people, who, unfortunately, went through the system and they are the ones in various sectors now working. They had no education, they just have certificates. Hence, unemployment is on the rise in the country because of the glaring knowledge gap.

I think we are in this pass because we have yet to answer the question; what is the purpose of education in Nigeria? While we are groping in the dark concerning what we want to achieve with our education system, our forebears had no such problem; they were clear headed on the purpose they wanted education to serve at the time. In the 1960s, education was seen not just as the key to economic, technological and intellectual development of the young country, but also as an avenue to secure employment with government or industry thereby improving the life of the individual. Hence, the mantra was, “Show the light, and the people will find the way.” Those who embraced education at that time were not disappointed because their aspirations were fully met.

So, in the 21st century, are we educating to make the beneficiaries job seekers or job creators? If we want products of our education system to be job creators do the curricula we employ support such? If the curricula currently in use in our schools will not make entrepreneurs out of the recipients how are we addressing that?

Education holds the key to the problems plaguing this country. But those in charge need to know that since every society is dynamic, its need per time will be different. Therefore to ensure that education continues to be of relevance to a people, it has to rise to the level of the society’s dynamism. If that is not done, education will fail the people and subsequently lose its relevance in that society.

If we had acted on time and made our education such that graduates can start off their own businesses, the unfortunate incident of 2014 where about 520,000 applicants vied for 4,000 vacancies at the Nigerian Immigration Service, which resulted in stampede that left about 21 applicants dead and many others injured, would not have happened. Neither would over 700,000 have applied for 10,000 vacancies in the police.

Now is the time to tweak our education system with a view to making it meet the needs of today and tomorrow, not those of yesterday.