“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” Investment in education is the only sure way to the liberation of human minds. As I tell my students, education, especially quality education breeds discipline, discipline breeds character, character breeds faith and faith never fails.”
Dwindling quality of education
For many years, Nigerian universities have at a geometric rate waned in quality, substance and prestige. Those who attended and taught in any Nigerian university in the 60s would easily appreciate the extent of dilapidation of necessary physical structures and facilities in many of our universities today. A combination of infrastructural decay, lack of adequate funding, dearth of qualitative practical training curriculum and inability to attract the best teaching minds have all combined to stagnate our Universities to the current appalling point whereby QS World University Ranking and Webometrics Rankings that rank universities based on facilities, programme and instructional content, perennially fail to rank or mention a single Nigerian university in the top 1,000 category. For many including myself, this situation was an unbearable dishonor that required urgent and aggressive turn around.
It therefore was the commitment to play a role in reforming Nigerian educational system that spurred me to initiate diverse reforms during my tenure as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of the University of Lagos. Many of the achievements we recorded during that period have been lauded globally and remain a reference point till today as a result of which the NUC voted me the “Best Pro-Chancellor in Nigeria” twice in succession.
Hope not lost
However, the hope of a rewarding education system in Nigeria is not lost. I am confident that with adequate commitment, it is still possible to make the Nigerian university system one of the best in the world through the delivery of quality, accessible and affordable education for the people of Nigeria.
The three As
I intend to offer some practical suggestions on how “the three A’s” of Accessibility, Affordability and Availability of quality education systems can be attained in Nigeria. This will be done under three distinctive areas. First, I will outline the dimensions, scope and content of what I mean by educational security. Second, I will discuss the threats to educational security in Nigeria, particularly how lack of robust constitutional and legislative safeguards on educational right continues to hinder educational security in Nigeria and finally, I will outline how Universities could be at the forefront of reversing educational insecurity in Nigeria through innovation-driven programs and education that is relevant, sustainable and functional.
Education and educational security
I perceive education as the full development of the human mind, cutting across cognitive, affective and psychological domains. Education goes beyond schooling; it transcends classroom teaching and the attendant certification. It is the process of inviting truth and acquiring all-round knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and character, needed to become a better citizen.
Education is the birthright of human beings
Education throughout life is the birthright of every human being on earth. The right to education is one of the most basic rights recognized in International Law and in the laws of every civilised country of the world. Education has long been recognised as both a human right and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights. Education is also a principal tool for unlocking prosperity and eradicating endemic poverty. According to the United Nations, every year of formal education increases an individual’s earning capacity by up to 10 per cent, the higher the level of education, the greater the chance of escaping poverty.
Education and eradication of diseases
Education also has a role to play in eradicating diseases and premature deaths. This is why life expectancy rates in highly literate countries is often very high, 88 years in Australia, 87 years in Canada, 85 years in the United States, while unfortunately the life expectancy for an average Nigerian is 47 years. For example, United Nations statistics suggest that a child born to a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to survive past age five. This is understandable because in our current highly polluted world, education provides mothers with the tools to make proper choices in nutrition, sanitation and water consumption, all of which can reduce infant mortality. The UN also notes that each extra year of a mother’s schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5-10 per cent. No wonder the US Philosopher, Brigham Young, stated that: “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a whole generation.”
Passport to the future: Example of transformation power of education
Education is undoubtedly the passport to the future with each page filled with limitless opportunities. With all modesty, my life is an example per excellence of the transformative power of education. From modest and humble beginning in Ado Ekiti, my Standard Six Certificate from Emmanuel Primary School, Ado-Ekiti, I was able to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from London University in 1959 and an LL.B in 1963 from the same University of London both by private study. All of these have afforded me the opportunity of serving as Pro Chancellor and Chairman of Council of UNILAG, the Chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of all Nigerian Universities and now the Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), “Africa’s Fastest Growing University”.
This is why that Chinese adage states “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people”. Investment in education is the only sure way to the liberation of human minds. As I tell my students, education, especially quality education breeds discipline, discipline breeds character, character breeds faith and faith never fails.
To be continued……
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D