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DEMOCRATIZATION OF IGNORANCE

By NBF News
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It has become an incontestable truism that Nigeria's educational sector is in doldrums. Even with the entire hullabaloo on 'transformation' of the country, the drums of shame in the sector have continued to resonate and the naked dancers are not showing any sign of fatigue.

Only few days ago, the National Examinations Council, NECO, released the result of its recently conducted Senior School Certificate Examination. It announced that 90% of the total number of students who took the examination failed. Few moments after that bewildering disclosure, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, equally released the result of its latest university matriculation examination in which it also informed the nation that only three (out of over 1.5 million students who sat for the examination scored 300 and above. Perhaps, what is even more dispiriting is the fact that these latest results as released by the two examination bodies are, ipso facto, symptomatic of a curious historical trend in which the fortunes of Nigeria's educational system - including students' performances in examinations - have continued on a vicious spiral of decline, devaluation and decadence.

In a bid to make sense of this distasteful national malady, various reasons have been adduced by commentators and analysts as being responsible for the unsavoury state of affairs in the country's educational sector. They include – but not limited to – inadequate funding, insufficient staff training, poor reading culture amongst students, the negative influence of globalization on Nigerian youths, undue emphasis on paper qualification, widespread malpractices often with parental endorsement, etc. It has to be understood that the pursuit of a country's educational development does not occur in a vacuum.For example, what is the vision for education under the current government?

What structures are on ground to realize it? Where is the passion and urgency on the part of the executioners of the vision? These posers become even more compelling when one considers the fact that Nigeria purports to be practising democracy. If democracy is truly about 'the people' and Nigeria is genuinely democratic, why then has Nigeria's democratic experience since 1999 proceeded side by side with a continual massive harvest of parlous and horrifying students' performances and general devaluation in the standard of education in the country? Similarly, if democracy is rightly conceived as a necessary catalyst for people-centred development - including educational development - why has Nigeria remained incorrigibly notorious as a society that propagates ignorance, repudiates intellectualism and perpetuates the underdevelopment of its human capital?

To comprehend this odious phenomenon, one needs to understand the mindset and driving force of the country's governing elite regarding the meaning and essence of democracy. For them, democracy is essentially 'a means to power.' The benefits of democracy such as people-centred development (with particular emphasis on educational development) have all been lost and aborted.

Not surprisingly, the quality and standard of education in Nigeria has gone to hell in a hand-basket. The educational system is in a state of complete shambles primarily because the propagation of illiteracy and un-enlightenment, especially amongst the youths, has become an integral part of the strategy of maintaining the power and hegemonic dominance of the ruling elite. This point is easily illustrated by the experience of the dispossessed and marginalized elements in Northern Nigeria popularly called almajiris.

The identity and personality of the almajiri is defined by his lack of basic and functional education and, consequentially, by his irrevocable induction into the morass of oppressive poverty and squalid existence. More significantly, the marginality of the almajiri coupled with his dehumanizing existence ensure that he is readily compliant as a manipulable tool in the hands of his oppressor whom he mistakes (through tribalism and religion) as his 'political leader' and 'champion of democracy.' In the name of politics, the almajiri is brainwashed into accepting the propriety of killing.Yet, in killing to sustain the power of his oppressor, the oppressed merely underscores and affirms the reality of his bondage.

To return to the larger picture, the educational system in Nigeria has taken a terrific nosedive because ignorance has become highly functional as a means of sustaining the docility, passivity, short-sightedness and political amateurism of the governed. To put it succinctly, ignorance has become democratized! One sure way the ruling class has achieved this motive is by ensuring that the public schools are, at best, 'citadels of intellectual kwashiokor.' The state of our public schools has become so shambolic. Paradoxically, the country's leaders (such as the Atikus and Obasanjos of this world) continue to be much more preoccupied with the competition for private ownership of academic institutions.

Ogubuariri writes from Lagos.