DYNAMICS OF EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE NIGER DELTA: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS.
Being a paper presented at a One-Day Interactive Session Organized by The Niger Delta Integrity Group
By: Nanighe B. Major
Theme: Maximizing the Opportunities of Interventionist Agencies in the Niger Delta Region for Development
Venue: Bolton Hall, Hartford Hotels Limited
50 Wimpey –Iwofe Road, off Ada George Junction, Port Harcourt, Rivers State
Let me first express my sincere gratitude to the Almighty God through Jesus Christ for the honour and privilege granted me to speak in this distinguished conference. I give God all the glory. My sincere thanks also go to the organizers for considering me worthy of participation in this gathering of shapers of public opinion on issues of development in the education sector. I am sincerely impressed, in sharing the podium with such erudite scholars, playing key roles in providing the foundations on key issues that will shape the subject of the theme of this conference. I also owe a unique responsibility to the organizers and audience of this event, to make my sincere contributions to the educational development of the Niger Delta region and humanity.
In the invitation extended to me, I was mandated to speak on the topic “ Dynamics of educational development in the Niger Delta: Challenges and prospects”. In dealing with this, it is my intention to briefly grant a graphic historical perspective on the nature and dynamics of Nigeria's educational journey (reforms) from pre-independence era to the present day modern education era, and attempt to synergize these efforts and see how these could be turned around to achieve a sustainable educational development effort in the Niger Delta region. For all these, I am grateful.
Educational Development Periods in Nigeria
Understanding past foundations of the educational struggle in Nigeria would grant us a right power of judgment of the present and create the needed base for reasonable insight into what the future holds. These highlights would be the focal points that would bear relevance to this presentation. Borrowing from the classification scheme of Nwachuku (2007), though not conventionally agreed upon, the following four time periods are put forward as follows:
• The early education era
• The independence education era
• The modern education era
• The 21st century education era.
The Early Education Era
Formal education efforts of the early missionaries by the Methodist mission and the CMS led to the establishment of schools in Badagry in 1843, Abeokuta in 1846, Onitsha in 1858, Creek town in 1854, Bonny and Calabar in the 1840s. The aim was to win Africa for Christ. This corroborated with the critical analysis of Fafunwa (1974) on the functions of education in the early schools as to convert the heathen or benighted African to Christianity via education knowledge of the bible. The likely reasons were the erroneous assumptions that our culture generally had no system of ethics and lacked the principles of conduct,. Nigerians were therefore trained to imbibe foreign region, thought and habits. These faulty assumptions and foundations and have continued to monumental insights in our 21st century educational practice, looming in our school system in orientation and attitude. According to Fafunwa (1974) children were a captive audience to meet a designed purpose for missions. In the same vein, Nwachuku (2007:25) laments that “...present day education still elevates grammar school content and methodology even when its purpose, direction and usability has changed”.
From 1882 through 1950, definite pronouncements and deliberate investments on the part of the colonial government became obvious. Expansion were recorded an new schools were built, practices became more centralized, standards set and inspectors were appointed for service regulation and control. A new order emerged which Nwachuku (2007) described as the beginning of modern education in Nigeria. Some key political land mark events that shaped and plagued our functional education effort today emerged. These were the amalgamation of 1914, the recommendations of the Phelps- Strokes report on education in 1922. The 1925 Memorandum on education in British colonial territories, the emergence of higher educational institution in 1932. Two of the 1914 amalgamation issues include:
i The uneven distribution of schools in southern and northern Nigeria
ii. The educational gap between the north and south Nigeria.
Secondary the Phelps- strokes report was a shocker to all interest groups in the education of the African people. According to Nwachuku (2007) among the many issues observed in the report, there were no clear cut aims and objectives for African education. The absence of these made the organization of education inefficient. An education without aims and objectives in the first instance cannot serve the needs of the society. These systems were already discarded in Europe and America at the time. Absolute neglect was given to the development of capacity in the natives for the purpose of sustainability.
Thirdly, the 1925 Memorandum on education in British colonial territories, an off shoot of the indictments by the Phelps – Strokes report for ill treatment of British dependences. Note must be taken that this was the first time a policy on African education emerged since the first schools was established eighty three years ago. The adoption of the Phelps –Strokes report for implementation left far reaching effects that shaped Nigeria's educational development both in policy and in practice till the 1940s.
The emergence of the higher education in Nigeria was another landmark event. There was a need to fill vacancies in the civil service due to the depression in Europe brought by World War II in the 1930s. There were limitations in the recruitment of foreign staff and Nigerians were only employed as clerks and assistants to foreign heads. The need to sustain the civil service resulted in its Nigerianization. The training needs became evident, and trainings were intensified. High schools were given birth to - Yaba High College (1932) and University College Ibadan in 1948.
At this time, the whole educational process lacked clearly defined goals, aims, policy, purpose and functions. Education was not yet perceived as a target for executing planned development, save the filling of vacancies in the colonial civil service as clerical functionaries . The mindset of the so called educated Nigerian clerks did not go beyond the requirements of daily routines as commitment to creativity and personal responsibility to productivity could not be understand. These negative values crept into our present educational system unchecked.
The independence era of educational development
A characteristic feature of education development emerged during this period. The battles against illiteracy assumed greater momentum and impetus, the public began to push for changes, and tension within the educational system was inevitable. The inherited educational system came under the fire of direct criticism. The indigenous elite such as Fafunwa, Dike and others began to raise critical questions on issues relating to the best educational system, its administration and curriculum content as identified by Nwachuku (2007). With the socio-economic and political imitations which plagued the educational thought, tension within system was inevitable. There was therefore the urgent need to clarify and proffer solutions to such issues as the philosophy, goals and objectives that would best serve the needs of the Nigerian people as developing nations that seek to be at par with the developed world in a global economy as explained by Okeke (1991).
The result was the constitution of a National Curriculum Conference of 1969 in Lagos. In the words of Gusau (2008) the purpose of the 1969 event was “to lunch Nigeria on the path of scientific and technological development” Subsequently, in 1977 a new policy on education (6-3-3-4) was articulated and adopted as the old 6-5-2-3 educational system was discarded as it was considered inadequate in meeting the educational needs and developemt aspirations of the Nigeria people.
Shocking indeed! It was the first time the Nigerian educational sector had a policy. The policy adopted education as an instrument of national integration, socio-economic development and technological growth (FGN 2004). Crises besieged the implementation of the 6-3-3-4 system. There was lack of proper planning; no reliable data were gathered and analyzed with their implications sought. For instance in 1976 the UPE scheme was hurriedly and haphazardly launched ahead of the policy which was only considered in 1977- a fundamental error in putting the cart before the horse. No proper need assessment was done, projected figures were 2.3 million, and the launching recorded 3.0 million with a 30% loss difference and its attendant implications for teachers, classrooms, equipment and others. (Nwachuku, 2007). As at 1976, 8 million enrolled, the 1979/80 session recorded 12.5 million and in 1982, 15 million. The galloping enrolments were not met with corresponding increases in manpower, materials and facilities. Corruption on the part of the operators of the scheme was obviously overt as self centeredness and criminal motivates caused massive looting of such fund with every heading possible on earth. With the FGN 1975 decision to take over schools from voluntary organization and missions during the oil boom era, the sector witnessed severe recklessness and corruption which upturned the entire economy. Position occupants exploited the incomprehensive planning process and relied on their preferences for execution. Pseudo contractors besieged the school system, teachers crash programmes flooded school and produced teachers without skills. The ghost workers syndrome also emerged during this period within the school system.
The FGN worsen the situation as she diffused the UPE responsibility to the local governments and serious negative consequences emerged as states began to revise policies and handed some schools back to the original owners. Funding became a problem and what was articulated as free education became fees compliant. As at 1999, the educational reform effort of the FGN had taken excessive dimensions. The social base of educational provision was to be sacrificed on the altar of cost benefit considerations. Campuses of Federal universities were likely to be privatized and 102 unity schools to be administered as public private enterprises. Thank God for the timely interventions ASUU and other interest groups that fought those proposals to a halt. In this period also, the educational reform effort had led regulating bodies such as NUC, to issue licenses to rich groups of people, religious groups and state governments. Probably, there could not have been strict adherence to laid down procedures and policy requirements relating to admission procedures, equipment, manpower, facilities and other standards for a functional institution.
The 21st Century Era
With the declaration of education for all in year 2000 at the Jomtien World Education Conference in 1990, the existing 6-3-3-4 policy on education of 1981 was revised to accommodate the 9-3-4 system. This is where Nigerian is in her educational reform efforts. The FGN (2004) in its policy on education adopted education as an instrument of national integration, socio-economic development and technological growth. Basic expansions have been made in this direction. The basic aim of UBE is to grant the Nigerian child of school age an obtainable and affordable education in the acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills and the general eradication of illiteracy in our society. The 21st century conceptualization of UBE in Nigeria goes beyond just the achievement of the above. In the words of Nwachuku (2007:47)
“The implications of an educationally empowered civil society also implies UBE in technology, basic health knowledge, personal self accountability, social and political responsibility, it also implies a politically, culturally, socially and environmentally relevant school curriculum at all the three tiers of education: including preprimary, lifelong continuining education and also the non formal education sector”.
Undoubtedly, the same forces that plagued and killed the other educational reform efforts are just by the corner of this millennium educational development effort as the system is treading the path of doom. The early warnings of Obanya (2000), Tahir (2003) and Nwachuku (2007) should be given the needed attention. Very early and appropriate intervention responses could confront the inherited challenges for its success. The schools are not equipped to execute UBE as the overt lack of infrastructure, materials, teacher preparations, laboratories, planning and proper understanding by both managers and teaches of the system have played themselves out in the implementation process. There is therefore the need for a holistic approach in confronting this hydra-headed virus that has continually bedeviled the educational development efforts from colonial times.
Challenges of educational development in the Niger Delta region
From the fore going, it is evidently clear that the nation's educational system is presently besieged by a host of entropic factors. The Niger Delta region is not an exception. These issues have become endemic and require urgent attention to save the educational sector from total collapse. The future of our society is today in our hands. There is the urgent need for the region to awake from the slumber of this confusion. A proper diagnosis and explanation of these setbacks would grant a better understanding in seeking likely answers.
The Challenge of Educational Policy Analysis
It is worthy to note that the various educational reform efforts that gave birth to the different educational policies suffered tremendous setbacks in policy linkages through appropriate policy analysis. According to Babalola (2000) policy attempts to understand government policies, the purposes for each policy, how the policies were implemented, who were behind the formulation and the environment under which the policies were formulated, the implementation of the policies on the peoples including intended and unintended effects. It is a dynamic process of the use of the tools of systematic and rational inquiring. The cardinal aim of policy analysis according to Dye (1972) is the concern with explanation rather than prescription, a rigorous search for the causes and consequences of such polices. Such a study would create a pool of findings and data for basic improvements in ensuring that the Niger Delta region adopts right policies to achieve desired goals. Apart from the improvement in quality and creating higher level of public policy on education, the generation of informed political discussion stands paramount.
An understanding of the policy cycle would therefore be a pre-requisite in proper educational analysis. According to Babalola (2010), seven recurring activities make up a policy cycle viz: formulation, evaluation, adoption, application, assessment, adjustment and analysis. Policy formulation starts with a felt need to improve or change a situation. It is followed by an analysis of existing situation, which is followed by a generation of policy options. The policy options are then evaluated. The most acceptable option is decided upon and adopted as the best option to realize the purposes envisaged. Apply the adopted option. Application is divided into two activities: (a) plan of implementation, and (b) actual implementation. Policy impact assessment is undertaken to see how far the goals of the policy are being realized. If the results are below expectation, there will be adjustment in the original design. These activities are then subjected to policy analysis from which the cycle starts again.
According to Babalola, (2000) the UPE policy was not analyzed, using the tools of systematic and rational inquiry before the UBE was introduced. Its impact on education, economy, politics, social life and religion would have been great assets (inputs) in planning UBE. No considerations were given appropriately to the emerging world order of globalization. A considerable gap was created, and the factors similar to those that plagued the UPE have taken centre stage in the UBE now. There is therefore the need for a systematic description and explanation of the cause and effect relationships of the present policy on education and the other factors that impinge on educational development in the Niger Delta such as politics, religion, environment, impact of oil companies' activities etc. By this the region would adopt a workable adjustment in the policy on education based on critical analysis of felt needs, and the desire for change than mere prescription.
The Challenge of Relating Curriculum to Manpower Needs
The school curriculum has always received constructive criticisms from colonial times in Nigeria till now. For instance the Phelps – Strokes 1925 Commission observed that the education in Africa generally had not been adopted to the needs and aspirations of the people, and suggested that henceforth African life and culture should be the focus of the learning experiences transmitted. According to Adeyinka (1971) no considerable progress was made even in the 1960's. The grammar schools were too literary, without practical orientation and generally not adapted to the needs of a developing nation with agriculture as it major source of foreign and local earnings. According to Ajayi (1963) it was an academic education with a tendency to produce proud and lazy people who dislike manual labour in preference for white collar jobs. Regrettably, the flaws in relating theoretical aspects of education to the practice could be traced to missionary times and have no doubt crept in to today's educational system. The practical aspects of the today's UBE are yet to be taught.
Currently, the Niger Delta region's natural resources in crude oil and gas are the mainstay of the nations economy- a mono cultural economy whose huge potentials could turn the regions woes around. There is the need for change and innovation in the regions education curriculum to accommodate felt needs engendered by the activities of multinationals in the area.
There is therefore the urgent need for synergy and collaboration between and among the major stakeholders in the region to chat a new curriculum that would accommodate the needs of the people, generated by the activities of multinationals. The collective efforts of the development partners in the region would be required. These include the state governments, NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, multinationals etc.
Adequate attention in terms of sponsorship of educational policy analysis should be made available. Workshops should be widely published and attended. Adequate public enlightenment about the result of such deliberation of experts should the widely published to give the public ample opportunity to get abreast with the new trends in the development of the regions education sector. This calls for a courageous will power on the part of government. Teachers and instructors need to be retrained in line with desired innovation. The regular non availability of funds may be a serious setback to innovation and change in the education sector of the region.
The Overt Silence About The Regulation Of Senior Secondary Education
Permit me to make a contribution here, and with all apologies, I stand to be corrected. From the very few books I have ever ready in the field of education, there is no one that has drawn attention to the existence of a national or zonal senior secondary commission responsible for the regulation of standards in senior secondary education. We have the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for the UBE programme, National Universities Commission (NUC) for university education, etc. The senior secondary education is generally the gate way to higher education as basic entry requirement into higher schools are obtained at this level.
According to Nwachuku (2007) certain market forces have surged up globally into all sectors of modern life and have made their impact dominant. The senior secondary schools are no exceptions. She rightly observed that honestly, excellence and hard work in our educational system have become badly damaged. There is the prevalence of students examination malpractice and teachers grade malpractice; certificate racketeering, students indiscipline and leaders, adults, parents, politicians, executives and general social indiscipline, and general academic low standard. It is very much likely that these academic and social thorns in the flesh of our educational system gained their tap roots in the senior secondary school system. The absence of a regulatory body could probably be a factor in the maintenance of desired standards.
As a matter of urgency, the Niger Delta region could play a role in coming together with all the relevant development agencies and articulate a position where this existing gap could be closed. Exploring the legal framework and the constitution of Nigeria could be a right step forward, and where possible a regional body be set up to oversee and regulate that sector.
Prospects of educational development in the Niger Delta Region
The future holds bright educational development agenda for the Niger Delta region. Presently, the Niger Delta region has the capacity and the requisite agencies that could propel change. The development partners of the region are obvious. These could reposition the regions needs and development aspiration for sustainable development using education as a tool. Education for sustainable development is a vision of education that seeks to empower people to assume responsibility for creating a sustainable future by meeting individual needs and societal demands. To achieve this, requires balancing environmental, social, and economic considerations in the pursuit of development and an improved quality of life using education as the tool. Four key areas of action could possibly be identified in the use of education as an essential tool for achieving sustainable development.
i. Improving the quality of basic education
ii. Reorient existing education programmes to address sustainable development.
iii. Develop public awareness and understanding
iv. Providing training for all sectors of private and civil life.
The essential skills that could probably be required in achieving the above would include: the ability to envision or imagine a better future – knowing where we want to go will prepare us to get there; involving in critical thinking and reflection by asking question about the present educational development agenda, which will help us examine economic, environmental socio- cultural and political forces impinging on our educational development effort; systematic thinking through the acknowledgement of complexities, the search for links and synergies in trying to find solutions; building partnerships through the promotion of dialogue and negotiation in a bid to working together and empowering the people through their participation in the decision making process of educational development in the region.
In my opinion, the region is pregnant with a common desire for a better future. This, you all may agree with me. Based on the past educational values that are plagued with confusion and tension, we would expect nothing in the future except we collectively accept the need for change and synergize our educational development effort to accommodate basic individual and societal needs, based on our peculiarities. The ways of acquiring knowledge, skills and competencies need is shift from traditional methods to accommodate globally accepted alternatives that respect the values of adopting communities. According to Nwachuku (2007), the 21st century educational pursuits call for specific shifts which she christened pedagogical shift in paradigms. The basic aim here is a shift to blend theory and practice. Faith and courage is needed as those have not been tested and proven. This would grant us an opportunity in realistically confronting the pedagogical puzzles existing in our present day educational system to chat the needed path for progress.
Balancing theory and practice
The educational journey (reforms) of Nigeria from 1842 till date has suffered a great setback due to over dependence on theoretical perspectives. (Okeke, 2004; Nwachuku, 2007). They observed with dismay that school curriculum and pedagogy over the years have been loaded with theoretical perspectives with little or mockery practices. The few exceptions can only be found in the medical sciences and engineering. Others fields tend to offer inadequate field experiences. The content and the methodology need change to reflect the needs of the people and development aspirations of the region.
A shift to blend theory and practice would provide trainees with actual field experience, providing the necessary links and synergy needed in the actual work environment after schooling. This move would chisel off arm chair professionals that have left the world of work less productive who have dominated the workforce over the decades. The repositioning would usher in a new era where skills and competences acquired would speak for themselves where vacancies exist. Technical education and vocational training must from the core of the region's need for socio-economic development and technological growth in the years ahead, and should be at the front burner of our education pursuits. The youths need constructive engagements in skills acquisition.
A better tomorrow will require repositioning the energies of the vibrant youths of the Niger Delta by channeling such into identified need areas and nurturing there growth and development in accordance with aspirations of the region. According to Nwafuluaku (2003) opportunities for youths to express themselves should involve the proper nurturing and mobilization of their energies through the instrumentality of education which is the core and basis in propelling people's socio-economic and political growth and development. Youths need to be given power by broadening their opportunities. Programmes in all the institutions should dwell on enhancing skills, capabilities, competencies and knowledge of the learner to become useful citizens who would also contribute to society's development. Properly channeling youthful energies towards meaningful undertakings could to a large extent limit anti-social behaviours. They could be self reliant and live morally upright lives. They could think and generate ideas for growth as opportunities are given to them for the emancipation of their minds, emotions and bodies (Fadipe & Adepoju, 2006).
Let me specifically acknowledge the Federal Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs and the NDDC in their collaborative efforts in youth intervention programmes. The post amnesty training programme for youths across the region is condemnable as opportunities are created for them to explore in becoming useful citizens imbued with skills relevant to themselves and the society. More intervention schemes in felt need areas in the region should be articulated and implemented in collaboration with all the development partners within the region.
A Qualitative UBE Engagement
The two basic skills of literacy and numeracy are core values in the UBE as noted by Isiogo-Abanihe & Asuru (2007). The general objective is to eradicate illiteracy by granting free and compulsory education to all children of school age. On the contrary, several research findings such as those of Obanya (2000); UBE (2001); Asuru (2006), etc. show that the goals of UBE are yet to be met. The same forces that stagnated the UPE scheme are at work again. This early signal of failure should be granted serious attention by all stakeholders to avert the impending danger.
Based on the proven fact that the highest social returns on educational investment is from primary education in Nigeria, there is therefore an urgent need for a shift to grant the UBE its desired qualitative status. According to Nwachuku (2007:61) “the present type of attention given to primary education for over 60% population, the infrastructure, study materials, methodology, quality and output in reality is tantamount to gross national child abuse and human resource development neglect”.
A shift is therefore inevitable if the educational aspirations of the region are to be met. Every school aged child must be channeled into school. All the interest groups in the education sector must be galvanized in this effort. Qualitative UBE pedagogical paradigm shift would include enhancing pupils output in terms of literacy and numeracy skills that would result from enhanced capacity building, provision of infrastructure and facilities, enhanced curricular, availability of text books and teaching materials, monitoring and evaluation among others (FME, 2000; Obanya, 2000 Tahir, 2003) It is by so doing that the basic goals of the UBE could be met. These include the acquisition of appropriate level of literacy, numeracy, manipulative skills, communicative skills, life-skills and laying a solid foundation for life – long learning.
A technology-based education
The management of education for sustainable development has been greatly challenged in this era of globalization due to the use of electronic devices in teaching and learning. The present high level of computer illiteracy in our educational institutions can no longer be accepted as normal. There is therefore good reason to shift in compliance with emerging global values shared on the internet and other ICT devices. Regarding the present system, Johnson (2007) maintained that the traditional methods applied in transmitting knowledge and skills are grossly inadequate to deal with the fast changing world. We must shift to share global values based on our needs, as we strive to be at par with the developed world.
Here again the development partners - Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NDDC, Oil Companies, organized private sector and government must get involved. A functional education programme based on the use of electronic devices in teaching and learning, and research and development must be worked out and implemented for the overall benefit of region. Schools at all levels need to be equipped with up to date teaching and learning devices using e-learning and computerized libraries. Teachers and students need to be properly trained in this respect. ICT education should be fully included and implemented in the school curriculum.
In our quest for an acceptable educational development effort and chat a new course of action for our people, this paper exposed the gaps inherent in the various reform efforts and used such as basic stepping stones in discussing the challenges and prospects based on the region's desired changes. As a people we have collectively identified what will form part of our educational development needs in this 21st century. We have to rise to our responsibilities to the realities of boldness, courage and determination. Rome was not built in a day. We stand to make adjustments in the face of changing needs. The region should continue to provide education, the magic wand that transforms societies as a social service, and should not be conceptualized on the basis of cost benefit implications. Finally, I make this clarion call to duty and service to humanity on all the stakeholders and development partners in the Niger Delta region for the articulation of a development strategy that should be premised on the principles of sustainability, using education as a tool.
Thank you all for your attention.
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