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TRAGEDY OF NIGERIA'S EDUCATION SYSTEM

By NBF News

Now, few months ago, a group of seventh-graders in California stunned the scientific world once again when they discovered a mysterious cave on Planet Mars. Again, this was part of a research project to study images taken by a NASA spacecraft orbiting the red planet. The 16 students from teacher Dennis Mitchell's 7th-grade science class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, California, according to world news services, found what looks like a Martian skylight — a hole in the roof of a cave on Mars.

The students, now described in the hero-maniac country as courageous were participating in the Mars Student Imaging Program at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University. The programme allows students to frame a research question and then commission a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image to answer their question. For years, scientists had wondered what kind of materials or deposits could be stored inside the hole discovered by the students, but the young researchers had initially set out to hunt for lava tubes, a common volcanic feature on Earth and Mars, but ended up solving one of the world's mysteries.

According to reports, the class did it by commissioning a main photo and a backup image of Mars' Pavonis Mons volcano, targeted on a region that hadn't been imaged up close. The pictures were taken by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter using its Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) instrument. Both images showed lava tubes, as the students had hoped. But the backup photo provided another surprise: a small, round black spot. It was a hole on Mars leading into the buried cave, researchers said.

The students have submitted their site to be further imaged by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which could reveal enough detail to see inside the hole in the ground. It is said that the Mars Student Imaging Program is certainly one of the greatest educational programmes ever developed and it gives the students a good understanding of the way research is conducted and how that research can be important for the scientific community.

The two breakthroughs by mere students in the US, and many other such advances represent the true meaning of functional education in any serious country. Agreed, we hear of shooting incidents and unbriddled freedom in American universities but we also hear numerous academic breakthroughs and discoveries. In Nigeria, we hear of sorting, sex inducements, grade-substitution, and total violence. Recent surveys on Nigeria and Ghana have revealed that Ghana hostels are quiet, neat, serene, and durable while their Nigerian counterparts are mere market squares where students import the loudest musical gadgets and home movie machines to thrill themselves. The rest, in order to escape the nearby Armageddon, stage their own 'positive' noise through evangelism programmes close to the hostels. The result is a centre of cacophony where nothing good can ever come from.

At best, the students read and cram all thesis and after correctly reproducing them to their nonchalant lecturers, obtain a First Class or some other top grades and walk out the universities to demand the promised job offer to top-graders. This could be when such high-fliers get jobs, and they remain there forever without any invention, and end- up tops in corruption and dubious national leadership struggles.

The truth is that our educational system is not result-oriented. It is also not research-based. Talking about research, many would jump for joy, thinking we mean an indictment on governments for poor funding, but the female nurse who developed a famous method for halting youth violence by detecting early signs did it without a dime, just by writing down figures and later interpreting them. Most social research works that interpret deviations in behaviour do require funds, but we do not embark on any.

Nigeria is still at the level of struggling to adopt a reform model to transform its educational system. At least, this has been the preoccupation of the ruling party since the past decade. This almost came to a head when Dr Oby Ezekwesili used her short tenure in the twilight of the Chief Olussegun Obasanjo era to develop a reform model after series of stakeholders' summits. But just because the model wanted to hand over the Unity Schools that produce nothing but ethnocentric future leaders and hate exponents to the private sector to manage, entrenched interests fought her and as soon as she left, they mauled the recommendations. Now, the present education minister has started calling for yet another round of stakeholders' summit. Many Nigerians do not take these things seriously anymore.

The best that can happen is another document that would lie on the shelf.

The truth is that Nigerian education is in tatters. The Federal Government is just pretending. Public schools are just evil classrooms where unfortunate pupils whose parents cannot afford private schools get initiated into evil. They write answers at exams for students on the blackboard. Money is the only grammar that is spoken in such schools. The invigilators, principals, teachers, police, hired mercenaries and other volunteers are all involved in the cheating ring especially in terminal examinations. If anyone doubts the deplorable state of our education system, let an inquiry be conducted to see any government official from level 07 that has a direct child (not maid) in any public primary school, at least in southern Nigeria. Rich men send their children abroad.

Some even send their children to Ghana and South Africa, while others send their wards to top private schools in Nigeria. The rest send their wards to ordinary private schools or 'runs centres' also known as magic centres. The poorest of the poor settle for the abandoned public schools. The tragedy is that those who manage the education system as ministers and commissioners do not know what a public school classroom looks like until they come for 'inspection'. Those who manage our roads as Transport Ministers and commissioners do not travel by road.

There is a total disconnect. If the governors who award the contracts to build schools do not send their children there, the commissioners do not send theirs, the contractors do not try it, the school inspectors do not risk it, and even the head teachers do not have their wards in their schools, for whom then are the schools meant ? How can anyone truly monitor the schools? The best monitoring is when a minister's child comes home to report to the father about what happened in his class. Anything else is rumour or fabricated brief by absentee inspectors to a governor.

Products of such educational system would never discover anything more than early sex, indecent dressing, Nollywood habits, corruption, incestuous inclinations, cultism, exam malpractice and how fast to cheat everyone. Nobody has thought it wise to impose a small levy per child in private schools so that the funds there-from would go to public schools for additional materials. Even if such a system is introduced, be sure that the fund would be diverted by officials to help the government in power contest and win elections, sponsor foreign trips for mistresses of government officials, and all other things except the original purpose, just like the PDTF, the rice fees at the port, the ship building fund at NIMASA, the vehicle fund at the Customs, etc.

This is the tragedy of our education system.