To save Nigeria's education system – The Guardian

By The Citizen

That Nigeria's education sector is heading for the nadir is not as scary as the fact that all hope of remediation is apparently vanishing. And if Nigeria would have a future, this trend must be arrested. Sad exemplars abound: failure in examinations at different levels by students, strikes, low motivation of teachers and moral deficit in both the private and public schools. Every year, the educational system is being mocked by students' mass failure in examinations. Even in professional examinations like those of the Nigerian Law School, there are recurrent cases of mass failure. And in the absence of morals that schools ought to inculcate, students now resort to cheating and threatening teachers, all in a bid to pass their examinations.

Yet, a nation's progress is indissolubly linked with the level of its people's education. Meaning: unless the trend is reversed, Nigeria would remain shackled to under-development. Not only has education failed to meet the country's political, cultural and socio-economic needs, it has lagged behind in reconciling itself to the exigencies of a globalised world. Thus, while other nations that place the required premium on education have recorded numerous technological advancements and pushed back their economic frontiers, Nigeria is yet to fully grasp the nexus between education and development, let alone take steps towards improving the lot of the sector.

Of course, this has not always been the case. There was a time when Nigeria's educational system was rated one of the best in the world. It attracted people from different parts of the world who came as students or as teachers. The excellence of the educational system then translated to moral probity in private life and in public office. The general decay in the society today is a direct result of the poor state of education. In the past, teachers were held in high esteem and considered role models.  But now teachers are assaulted, maimed and killed at will even by their students. Rather than being avenues for the inculcation of sound moral values, educational institutions have become breeding grounds for all manner of criminality, even  institutions from where political and religious thugs are recruited to pervert the electoral and social processes. Such delinquents eventually become public officers  and because they have not been morally equipped, they do not see public office as a sacred responsibility with the inherent dictates of using it for good governance and  improving the people's lot.

Clearly, the failure of Nigeria's educational system has paved the way for variegated ills, has imparted wrong-headed values that predispose those in government to  looting the common treasury, thereby denying the rest of the population access to their resources. If this nation would return to the path of re-invention, noble values, good governance and development, the current structure of education must be reviewed. The state of emergency in the educational sector declared by this newspaper late last year was a first step. This must now be taken up by the government at all levels with concrete action.

It is a cause for concern, and even outrage, that despite the importance of education  to the development of the nation, the two major political parties in the country have not articulated any redemptive blueprint in this regard. The question thus arises: how would they fix the nation without  improving the educational system?  It is incongruous that while politicians regale the public with how they would develop various sectors of the economy, they do not deem it necessary to tell Nigerians if it is the products of the same faulty educational structure they would use to achieve this. To be taken seriously and wean the public from the impression that Nigerian politicians are only seeking office for power for its own sake, the candidates of the two major political parties should as a matter of urgency avail Nigerians of their agenda on education in details and with specifics of implementation.

Because Nigerian politicians do not understand the gravity of the ills besetting the educational sector, they  easily resort to throwing money into it. But it is clear that this method, which has involved voting billions of naira, has consistently failed to redeem the sector. Such money has not gone to the heart of the problem because there is no clear-cut structure that could guarantee effectiveness, accountability and results.  The failure of the option of throwing money at the problem is exemplified by the inability of various higher institutions of learning to access the Tertiary Education Trust  Fund (TETFund) that the government has made available. In other words, many institutions do not even know what to do with the money that is made available to them. And this is why they are not propelled by any sense of urgency to surmount every barrier in order to avail themselves of the fund.

So, for the educational sector to regain and in fact, surpass its glory of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and be a gateway to the development of this nation, it urgently requires a new structure. Salvation of Nigeria's education  does not by any means rest on the deployment of hasty, ill-conceived  and  half-hearted  measures as have been the case.  The solution is in a new structure that can appropriately prioritise and formalise education, make it more methodical and organised for a Nigeria that can compete with other nations of the world.