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The Challenges of Nigeria Education system and the way forward- Being a paper presented by Hon. Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo, Senior Special Assistant to Edo State Governor- Politics and Strategy

By Edo Benin
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- 17th December 2011.
Protocol:
When I was called upon by the Executives of Ikpoba-Okha Students Welfare Forum (ISWF) to take up this intellectual responsibility, I was conscious of the norm- that any reasonable intellectual exercise must lay historical foundation of the concept; and proffer realistic solutions to the seeming contradictions or problems that are associated with the issue under reference. For the sake of time, this paper will briefly conceptualize Education and elucidate on its crucial dimensions.

A commonsensical assumption of Education is that “it is the medium for transmission of knowledge and worthwhile values from a person to another; and it transcends generations. In the history of our pre-colonial existence, we are told from folk tales that our ancient people had unique ways of documenting events, such that they could go to the wall were they inscribed some marks and tell their children or relations what exactly transpired on that day. They equally developed a system of oral communication, traditional norms and values which they passed on to their children and generations. For instance, Edo language, mode of traditional worship, chieftaincy and coronation rituals, Igue festival, craft making, bronze casting, native architecture, mode of dressing, symbols of royalty, native security system etc are some of the cherished values that have transcended generations in Benin Kingdom.

The Wikipedia conceptualized Education thus “an act or process of developing and cultivating (whether physically or mentally or morally) ones mental activity or senses; the expansion, strengthening, and discipline of one's mind, faculty, etc; the forming and regulation of principles and character in order to prepare and fit for any calling or business by systematic instruction”. This definition clearly projects the ideals of western education; to the extent that wide-range appreciations of intricate aims of education were highlighted. The history of colonial experience is one that is laced with a contradiction between crude belief-system and a set of very liberal nationals who believed that human sacrifices was inimical to the collective aspirations and progress of all men and women.

It is a typical phenomenon to find a former Colony toying the multifaceted tiers of human existence of it's hitherto Colonizer. Nigeria was a Colony of British imperialist political and economic might; until “flag independence” (Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana) was granted on 0ctober 1st1960, and the conferment of a status of a Republic on 0ctober 1st1963. The divergent views held by scholars of history notwithstanding, by and large, the contribution of Britain in the civilization process of Nigerians is an indelible milestone that propelled Nigeria's march from a primordial and classically primitive antecedent into continental and global political relevance. This underscore the propriety of the school of thought (How Nigerians underdeveloped Nigeria) which holds Nigerians responsible for the problems of Nigeria. Nigeria's education system was once tailored after the British model, and later after the American model; expectedly, Nigeria being a quasi-federal nation, the thirty six states operates a uniform education program. From Western region, through Midwest region and Bendel State, to our present-day Edo State, we have been tied to the apron string of a central Education program, designed by the Federal Ministry of Education. Our country being quasi a federal nation; operates an Education policy with respect to Primary and post Primary education that does not sufficiently incorporate our communities' values and norms, unlike a federal nation where the federating units design and operate community based policies. This significantly undermines the patriotic spirit that ought to be the guiding philosophy of our Education system.

Paradoxically, in spite of her enormous natural and human resources, Nigeria's education system is bedevilled with the challenges of underfunding and thus poor infrastructure; inadequate classrooms and teaching aids (projectors, computers, libraries, laboratories etc); paucity of quality teachers/ poor or polluted learning environment. As a result of mis-directed attention of stakeholders to issues of quality education for our people and country, our school system is further plagued with numerous social vices like examination malpractices; cultism; and infant- hooliganism (a tendency that is similar to child-soldier in war ravaged countries like Somalia, Angola and Libya; as we are told that cult groups exists in junior Secondary schools and Primary schools).

Comparatively speaking, Nigeria's education system is rather quantitative than qualitative-oriented; what we find as screaming headlines of Newspapers is cult war, rape case in our campuses, violent initiation of unsuspecting students into various cult groups; bribery and corruption allegations against teachers; campus prostitution allegedly patronized by public office holders who are supposed to uphold the thrust of integrity and cultural values orientation. A lot of people have alleged that Military incursion into politics is substantially responsible for the devastating deterioration in the objectives and goals of our school system. A sad incidence of history was the forceful takeover of private and missionary schools which were pacesetters in boarding and efficient classroom administration. This is why recent resolve by some Governors to return schools to their original private and proprietors have been accorded with thunderous applauses.

As a researcher, I have examined the factors that can transform our Education system to its desired height; and these include

1. Concerted efforts towards a holistic review of our Education policy: this factor is very germane in the sense that relevant stakeholders will parley to redesign our policy in such a way that each states or Local Governments will have their cherished values embellished into the school curriculum. For instance, Edo language and cultural values will be given special attention; however, this should not be sacrificed for national goals.

2. Funding: Government at all levels must commit vast resources towards the school infrastructures and education manpower to the extent that the propagation of worthwhile knowledge can be guaranteed. Edo State Government, under the charismatic leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is a pacesetter in the area of Schools infrastructures. We are all living witnesses to renovation and reconstruction works in schools across the state.

3. Revamping of the goals of Technical education: in contemporary Nigeria, the state of our technical education is sad commentary. I recall with nostalgia the good old days were technical schools symbolized future technocrats and technologists. As a matter of fact, Introductory Technology was introduced into the post primary school system in my time, and the objective was to boost our consciousness of industrial and mechanical elements as critical agents of industrialization of Nigeria. Somewhere, somehow, the story turned bizarre and we are so industrially backward as a nation that we import tooth-pick, comb, needle and threads from the Asian countries that used to be far behind our Country in terms of National development index. What an absurdity! These things could have been products from our Technical schools supposed they were up in standards and shapes. Towards this end, I submit that we must de-emphasise University education, and encourage technically endowed citizens to take admission in technical schools, even if we have to resort to scholarships and other incentives, the long term objectives will blossom our country into greatness.

4. Affordability of education and funding of research programs: again, this factor is sine qua non to strengthening of the so called 'leaders of tomorrow' (youths). It is sad that some political opportunists still assume that education is a privileged, after two decades of United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declaration that education is a right. We must all make deliberate efforts to improve on the general wellbeing of school systems to safeguard our teeming youths from social vices. Funding of researches will help us find cure or remedies to our environmental and endemic medical challenges that are plaguing our health.

5. Competitive Education: As a matter of policy, Government (Local, State and Federal) must encourage private and mission schools to thrive; at the same time, all levels of Government must give competitive disposition to public schools and make them attractive to citizens as a whole. Government should hand over all seized private and mission schools to their original proprietors, so they can continue to nurture the values they were renowned for. This will create alternative opportunities for our teaming youths to determine the most suitable schools to realize their future dreams. It has been alleged that the crude protest organized against the Igbinedion's administration's resolve to hand over seized private and mission schools to their founders by Nigerian Union of Teachers was mischievous and uncivilized; however, another school of thought reason differently. For me, the school of thoughtthat insists on Edo state's policy for handling over of seized Mission and Private schools is the most suitable for the propagation of enduringsocial and moral values for our 'leaders of tomorrow.' It will be justiceable for Government to work out an amicable understanding with the school proprietors and the relevant Trade Unions to foster a healthy environment for all stakeholders (N.U.T, students, school proprietors and parents/Guardians).

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, we must make deliberate on programs that can salvage our collective dilemma, instead of the fruitless disposition of lamentation. This way, we can redeem and “salvage what is left” from our endangered Education system.

Thanks for listening and God bless you all.

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