Some weeks ago, the highly respected Ijaw and Niger Delta leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark made a clarion call to the government of General Muhammadu Buhari. The call has been made in various forms in the past by well-meaning Nigerians to no avail. Now that it is coming from a revered elder statesman who served as Federal Commissioner for Information in the first republic and a University proprietor, it behooves on our leaders to listen to this voice of reason.
According to the septuagenarian, the Federal government of Nigeria should, as a matter of urgency declares a state of emergency on the nation’s education sector. He spoke at the second graduation ceremony of the E K Clark University. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the former vice president of Nigeria and the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP in the 2019 general elections was equally reported by the Nation newspaper of 16 March, 2021 to have made similar call.
The call could not have come at a better time than now. The collapse of the education system of any society directly translates to the total collapse of the development structure of such environment. No one needs sooth Sayers to understand the Roth currently prevailing in the education of young Nigerians. It has never been so bad.
The craving for certificate instead of knowledge and skill among Nigerians is worrisome. Worse still, men of little knowledge but with “very big” certificates are often promoted above those of skill in our society. After careful assessment of the present batch of youth Corp members, the Director-general of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC was quoted as saying that most of the graduates presently in Orientation camps across the nation cannot defend their certificates. To make matters worse, the Federal government has also observed that there are some universities in Benin Republic which have been found to be fraudulently awarding degrees to Nigerians without adequate classroom participation.
It costs as much as an average of two million naira (N2M) per academic session to train a Nigerian child in a well organised private secondary school in the country. The privileged few students whose parents can afford this are taught with British, Canadian and American standard syllabi while the children of the poor majority contend with the poorly organised learning arrangement in Nigeria put in place by poorly motivated local teachers. The result of this is poor education for the poor, for employment in our poor economy, for poorer future of the poor and carefully planned rich education for the offspring of the rich for “export” to the rich nations of the world for a richer future for their children.
One of Nigeria’s national newspapers reported recently that U.K is set to stop using medical doctors that are trained in Nigeria. This has to do with their (Nigerian doctors) poor performance occasioned by outdated medical training facilities. The story is the same for all courses run in the nation’s tertiary institutions. It is coming on the heels of an unconfirmed reports that of one the nation’s first generation universities no longer accept Ph.D. holders from Nigerian Universities as lecturers.
We are in an era where students pay lecturers to prepare their research projects. Many of those who do not or cannot pay, simply visit the internet and copy brilliantly researched projects with recommendations that are no longer current. How can a researcher on efficient communication system conclude his or her research with a recommendation of a 1G network when some nations of the world are already implementing 5G network? And unfortunately, these poor researchers are graduating into graduate and post graduate project supervisors in Nigerian Universities. What then do we expect from these fellows than a vicious circle of certificate without education?
The British Colonial masters handed a system of education that required six years in primary school, five years in secondary and four years in tertiary schools with a few exceptions. Our educational planners changed it to 6-3-3-4 system with no clear cut and sustained obtainable recognised and accepted exit certificates. We have changed Polytechnic exit Certificate from Higher National Diploma, HND to Nigerian National Diploma, NND and back again to HND. It is difficult today for an on-looker to actually know what the first two years in the country’s polytechnics lead to in terms of certificate. While some employers require National Diploma, ND from them, others ask for Ordinary National Diploma, OND. The confusion continues.
A Minister of Education and a professor in the 21st century Nigeria once alluded to the fact that he was not computer literate. He was and still not the only one in that class of the planners of the country’s education. This is perhaps why computer science undergraduates in systems analysis and design class dwell more on application packages such as Microsoft word instead of system designs and programming as obtained in other countries of the world. A glossary look at most people educated in the US, UK and Canada show that they are exposed to extra curriculum activity courses in vehicle driving, national code of conduct and national constitution. On the contrary, even history was deleted from Nigerian school syllabus until it was restored again about two years ago with little or no motivation for its studies.
The rapidly declining standard of education is no longer subject to scholarly arguments. Any one in doubt should take time and critically examine the contributions of the youths of Nigeria to arguments on the social media. Both the grammar and academic logic of many of them are often confusing. But then, it takes higher level of understanding to properly evaluate these jargons.
Though the unemployment among Nigeria’s youths is high, revelations from human resources experts and recruitment consultants indicate that graduates from the Universities of Ibadan (UI), Lagos (UNILAG), Nigeria (UNN), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) are not as affected by the unavailability of jobs in the country as those from other higher institutions. The implication of this is that what we have is more of issues of employability than unemployment in Nigeria.
Doctorate degree holders and professors have become the preferred people to be considered for both political appointments and other jobs that require good education. When these become the minimum criteria for white collar jobs, the nation faces the risk of being littered with Ph.D. holders that shall be comparable to today’s graduates at lower levels. By then, solving the problem will become a big task as both will fall into a pit when the blind leads another blind.
The university lecturers in Nigerian Universities are over stretched. Many of them combine their regular employment in government schools with part-time labour in many other private Universities. Thus leading to some university dons supervising as many as ten post graduate researchers who are assigned to them by the authorities. This is contrary to the rule in other countries where a student cannot be admitted into Ph.D. program until he finds a lecturer willing and able to supervise his or her research.
Given the myriad of uncertainties and poor education of the 21st century Nigerians, the call of Elder Clark is timely. Let us listen to him. No nation can prosper beyond the education of her citizens in the present world economic system.
WRITTEN BY AUGUSTINE OMILO