Practical agriculture, vocational education and school curriculum
Agriculture was once the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Before the discovery of oil, commercial farming blossomed and farming was seen and practised as the main occupation. The North had cotton, groundnuts and other products; the East had palm oil while the South-west had cocoa.
Agriculture laid the foundation for Nigeria’s industrialization, contributing the largest share to an economy that was experiencing boisterous growth.
However, after the discovery of oil with its increased production and the huge revenue which it attracted, less and less attention was paid to agriculture. Nowadays, most people in Nigeria, particularly the youths, are not interested and do not want to engage in farming, they are only interested in white-collar jobs. Unfortunately, there still exists the misconception that farming is a profession for the poor and illiterate which entails grueling toil in the farmland, with mere pittance as returns.
These notions have been fuelled over the years by lack of proper training for those who go into agriculture, causing them to demonize and abandon the venture. This leads to an ageing farming population.
Nigeria’s population is currently growing faster than the farmers available to feed the nation. Nevertheless, agriculture remains the largest sector of the economy.
Our priority now should be to get young Nigerians acquainted with the nitty-gritty of agriculture at an early age, introduce them to the business aspect of agriculture and also ignite the interest of school students in agriculture and encourage them to pursue agriculture-related occupations.
One of such initiatives aimed at accomplishing this is the recently launched Green Schools Initiative. This initiative rallies stakeholders in the agricultural and educational sectors to expand the secondary school curriculum with the intention to get students more involved in the practical aspects of agriculture within dedicated farmlands in their respective schools.
The initiative, it has been said, will start with 120 unity schools and top state-owned colleges across the country, with plans to significantly increase the number of participating schools. This is certainly a worthy initiative.
Another important area of the Nigerian educational system that needs to be given serious attention is the inclusion of vocational education and training in the school curriculum.
In Nigeria, there is too much emphasis on university education and merely acquiring paper/academic qualifications, not bearing in mind whether the holder possesses the required knowledge and skills.
Nigerians generally have this mentality that a university degree is more important than technical/social/vocational training. This has reduced the economic opportunities for those who are more work oriented. It is therefore very necessary and important that parents be re-educated and enlightened regarding the value of occupations that are not high on the social status scale.