Nigeria crippling its future with sustained shutdown of tertiary institutions —Experts

THE outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic set off a rash of panic measures in Nigeria, as in many other nations of the  world, including and particularly the blanket and sustained shutdown of educational institutions.

But experts are saying that the protracted closure of Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions has grave implications for  the country’s manpower development and by extension, its future prosperity, among other effects. A professor of political economy and management expert, Pat Utomi, said the sustained closure of tertiary institutions is tantamount  to killing a generation’s growth.

“There is no question that what is happening is that we are killing one generation’s growth. When ‘normalcy’ eventually  returns, there will be a break in the pipeline of trained manpower from within, and that’s never good for any economic  system, especially where we are lagging behind in quality educated people.

“It is an unpleasant development for our country that is desperately in need of quality manpower and that desires to  become a productive economy,” he told Nigerian Tribune.

Nigerian schools, at all levels, have remained shut since March as part of measures to curtail the spread of the new  coronavirus infection, and only now are some state governments cautiously reopening for exit classes in primary  and secondary schools for students at those levels to prepare for and sit their terminal examinations.

However, there has been no consideration for reopening colleges of education, polytechnics, monotechnic institutions  and universities. This interminable disruption, experts contend, has the potential of introducing “alarming side effects,  the outcome of which is difficult to fully assess.”

Emeritus Professor of the History of Education at the University of Ibadan and former President of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Michael Omolewa, particularly bemoaned the “harm being done to the innocent students by keeping them away from the opportunity  for advancement with their career and life.”

Professor Omolewa said: “Nothing should be allowed to disrupt the timetable for learning at the time learning should  be taking place. “Indeed, there are certain grades and levels of attainment at some points in one’s life that may be put at  risk by sudden and avoidable stops and delays.”

He cited the example of Olabode Akanbi Thomas, the iconic Nigerian lawyer known as Chief Bode Thomas, who was  called to the English Bar at the age of 23, and subsequently at the age of 34 became Nigeria’s first Minister of  Transportation and later of Works, and was later appointed chairman of Oyo Divisional Council.

He also cited the case of Chief Anthony Enahoro, who at 21 became editor of a Nigerian newspaper and later moved the  motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1953 at the age of 30; and the late Nnamdi Azikiwe, who graduated from  Lincoln University in the United States at 26 and immediately thereafter joined Herbert Macaulay to fight forthe  independence of Nigeria.

“Can you imagine what would have been the lot of a person like Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate for  Literature, who at just about 31 years was already a graduate of Government College, Ibadan; the University College,  Ibadan and the University of Leeds and had been appointed lecturer at the University of Ibadan?

“If the education of Wole Soyinka had suffered avoidable delays, it is evident that he would probably never have been  able to reach the heights that he reached at those early years of his life. “How many of the modern Soyinkas, Enahoros,  Bode Thomas and Azikiwes are being prevented from reaching their destinies by the denial to access their classrooms, teachers, colleagues, libraries and laboratories?”

Omolewa also examined the effect of the protracted closure on character formation and the numerous vices children  could be exposed to when perpetually kept away from school. He added: “Let us be reminded that adult education teaches that there are constraints to learning at some given age and that it is wisdom to sustain the learning begun  early. Any break in learning must necessarily suffer consequences.

“Some learners may grow weary and refuse to continue learning. It is reported that UNESCO has predicted that tertiary  education is likely to experience the highest dropout rate and a projected 3.5 per cent decline in enrollment, resulting in 7.9 million fewer students.

“Some students may choose to continue but change their course of learning. This means that when some students who   had opted to read medicine choose to end up reading Anatomy or Biochemistry, the loss tothe medical profession may not be quantifiable. There are some courses that are better and more easily pursued at specific ages with minimum  stress.

“It becomes imperative that all disruptions at the tertiary level of our educational system should be speedily brought to  an end in the interest of this country. Way out Utomi says Nigeria has become fiscally unreliable and needs to be  reprogrammed’. “Nigerians don’t realise how big a crisis their country is in. That is the biggest problem, but we think it is normal. The country has become fiscally unreliable; it’s been run so badly that the money to really use to [rehabilitate] the people does not exist. There is no production, except the free gift of oil, literally speaking.

“The country needs to be reprogrammed and I don’t think the wisdom of solving the huge problem exists in the current  political class. I don’t think so; because their mindset is about sharing what more is available to be shared.” He said the  nly thing that  can save Nigeria is for it to produce its way out of the nightmare it is in.

“But how can you produce if you don’t train the manpower that can actually be a producing class?” Omolewa said:  Certainly, tertiary institutions have a role to play in restoring the dignity that Nigeria had at independence. Staff and  tudents and all stakeholders are eager to resume learning.

Already, Nigeria is far behind in almost every known area of development. When countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is already  launching satellites and Malaysia is seeking an entry to the first-world status, Nigeria is still  bedevilled by avoidable challenges, absence of cohesion, orderliness and stability.

“The youths should be given the opportunity to explore their endowments and talents, and live a life that is rewarding  and satisfying to themselves, their parents, communities, the nation and the world.”



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