NIGERIA AT 56: Reflections On What Should Be. Part I

NIGERIA AT 56: Reflections On What Should Be. Part I

By Steven Atogi 

October 01, 2016.

As Nigeria marks her fifty-six (56) Independence Day, it is right for us to reflect on the future of the country in respect to its economic development and growth. It is time to shift the discourse of nationhood and its development from the past and present in the light of the future. This is because the past is there for all curious minds to probe into, the present is before us and the future, we must anticipate to be better. On this note, this piece will cover just three areas of equally utmost importance if we must push this nation into the status of developed and virile economy. Let's look at as education, industrialisation and governance. Because of the wide scope of each of the three concepts above, I will endeavor to make it brief and comprehensible as possible. 

Education is the transmission of the culture of a people from one generation to another. Osaat (2010), describes education as a process of developing and transmitting the culture of a people from generation to generation and as an organised and systematic body of knowledge. For Castle (1965), education is “all that happens to us from the day we were born to the date we die.” Education seek the intellectual, economic, and socio-political  development of a people and the society. There are three types of education; formal, informal and non-formal. Formal education has a definite curriculum and takes place in formal setting. This is the type practiced via school system. Informal education is the type you learn from peers, family members, or by unconscious imitation of what you see within the environment. Non-formal takes place in non-formal settings and does not have a definite curriculum, rather it emphasizes training of certain skills.

Two forms of education that deeply influence the Nigerian educational curriculum is Islamic and Western education. Another form worth mentioning is Traditional African education which is as old as man on earth. The simplest explanation of the latter is functionality. It was geared towards producing well mannered, hardworking and functional individuals–contributing to the society positively. There was no place for laziness or unemployment. This was the case before Islamic and Western education eroded most of those values to the dustbin of history while dominating the Nigerian educational curriculum hitherto. Presently, the National Policy on Education stipulates a 9-3-4 school system as against the earlier adopted 6-3-3-4 in 1971. The former emphasize 9-Year Basic, 3-Year Senior Secondary and 4-Year tertiary education. 

Education in Nigeria is under the concurrent list; operated by Federal and State government. Private schools operate at all levels of the school curriculum as well. The problem is the quality of education, facilities, quality of personnel, research, learning environment and content of the national curriculum. The school curriculum is a reflection of the Nigerian society, since curriculum is an embodiment of all the norms, values, mores, skills, knowledge, training etcetera, a society transfer to younger generation through its educational system. However, the curriculum is on the most part archaic and doesn't reflect current realities of the 21st century knowledge economy. Can we say the admission processes from basic, secondary to tertiary, are pragmatic and comprehensive? Is education affordable to the majority of the people? What is the literacy rate of Nigerians? What is the quality of graduates? Is the Nigerian educational system producing functional and useful citizens to the Nigerian society?

At fifty-six, Nigeria needs a functional and pragmatic educational curriculum and school system. Education is not something so abstract rather a reflection of societal norms, values, skills and knowledge. Education is a vehicle which advances the civilisation of a people to greater heights, or regression as seen in some unfortunate societies. The Federal and State government should take a critical look at the educational system because it is through it that the citizens, both leaders and followers are made. Scientific studies in development and learning fields of psychology had shown that the African child is very much mentally sharp at pre-operational stage(2-7years old) but as he/she grows older, the mental abilities recede while his/her Western counterpart at this same period grow much more mentally. One major condition that causes this, is the environment. Poor learning environment, lack of necessary modern facilities and instructional materials contribute to poor quality of education and in turn affects the intellectual development of the learners negatively.

Agencies like TetFund and NUC, should be legally empowered to see to the structural and systematic upgrade of Nigerian tertiary institutions (universities, polytechnics, colleges of education etc) to 21st century standard within a decade interval. Ranging from provision of standard and durable infrastructures, human development and retraining of staffs, merging of substandard schools together and more. The National and State Board on Basic and Senior Secondary education should be empowered to see to major changes at that level. The Basic level of education of learners of any society is very much significant, even more than that of Senior Secondary and Tertiary, because they are the products that are groomed for the latter levels. If the child is not given quality education in the formal setting and national values not inculcated into him/her, at the formative years, re-orientation can barely change those pre-tertiary school values. 

The agencies in charge of these structural and systematic upgrade of the educational institutions should be monitored by the National Assembly as oversight functions and as well called to query by in-house committee on education. These fragmentary points on education is just to reiterate the dire need for the Nigerian educational system to be standardized up to 21st century global educational practices. It is telling, of how barely productive the present educational system is, that is why no Nigerian institution whether public or private is among the top 200 in world ranking, from Basic to Tertiary, year-on-year. 

Nigeria supposedly practices a capitalist democracy. In the private sector, capable and quality manpower is hired to maximize productivity while in the public sector, mediocres are employed as against capable manpower. This is also a product of the educational system in the first place. Practices such as Quota System has no place in the educational system of a progressive State. Quota System is an evil against the Nigerian society at large and the North consequently. This should be abolished and replaced with quality educational practices. Admission impediment encourage and sustain high level of illiteracy. If the national curriculum is gotten right at the Basic and Senior Secondary levels of education, there would be no need for NECO, JAMB and Post UTME, after WAEC. 

At 56, it is high time, Nigerian leaders started getting serious in addressing genuine issues that affects the country on a long term. It is a time when serious minded Nigerians should join hands, demand the implementation of great policies and better conditions for a prosperous country in the near future. At 56, political rhetorics should be trashed and real issues be addressed pragmatically. Political solutions which are mere short term pacification and prescriptions addressing fee symptoms should be abandoned for long term pragmatic solutions that will solves root causes of the problem. There is an adage, “no matter how high the eagle may fly,  it always comes back to its nest.” There is no place like home. Nigeria is our only country. Unfortunately, there are Nigerians but very few are citizens. For a true citizen would not divert funds meant for the development of the country to personal accounts in foreign countries. Nigeria is so unfortunate that she's being led by aliens in various capacities, both in public and private sector of the economy. At 56, Nigerians should get serious on fixing the educational system for it is the propeller of advancement of society. 

. be continued in Part II (Industrialisation and Governance).

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