Almost every solution provided to each nagging problem that faces Nigeria sets the mind back to the Yoruba parable of the Amunkun.
Amukun, the man with the K-leg, met people who pointed out to him that the luggage on his head tilted. He took a good look at his accusers and retorted: “You complain because you are only looking at the head carrying the stuff not at the leg carrying the whole body.” Nigerian leaders pretty much treat the country’s every single challenge from the top, little wonder the country is fumbling and wobbling in literarily every area.
The other day, there was a newspaper report about a woman, alleged to have hired someone to write the recently concluded Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, on behalf of her son, last weekend. The lady, said to have been arrested by operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, in Nasarawa State, reportedly confessed to the crime, which she said was prompted by frustration.
According to the report, the lady had said: “We couldn’t get admission for many years so I became frustrated; he was also frustrated and nobody was helping us. I have other children who have graduated but for the past four years or more now, he has failed to pass the exams; so I became frustrated. Then, I asked his friend to help him to write the exams. I told him I would give him something but I know it is a very bad thing. Please, forgive me, Sir, I was so frustrated.”
Nauseating right? But in condemning an overzealous mother, one should also query a nation which has become accustomed to turning things on their head.
The first question to ask is: What exactly is the conceptual focus of education in Nigeria? For those who attend school in Nigeria, it is hard to identify any ambition other than the acquisition of certificates. Now, it does not matter in what field of study this certificate is acquired, leaders of this country have only built a society which suggests that everyone must be a university graduate.
Unfortunately, the country has not prepared a place for every Nigerian child who aspires to attain the educational requirement the society has imposed on its citizens.
Records suggest that Nigeria has less than 500 higher institutions of learning. On the average, these institutions admit only 600,000 of the estimated 1,800,000 candidates sitting for the UMTE every year. And do not be deceived into assuming that all of those who do not get admitted fail the qualifying examination.
A large chunk of those who end up sitting at home actually do pass but are not lucky enough to meet the very stringent requirements that these institutions are forced to inflict as a result of limited capacity. So, Nigeria does not just mislead its teeming youths by its jumbled concept of what education should be, it also fails to ensure that it prepares enough room for them to fulfil the standards that it has set. So, what do you get? A frustrated citizenry, ready to do anything to meet the expectations of a shamelessly stratified and uncaring society.
Sadly, all of these just further tell of the exasperating visionless leadership the country has always grappled with. Countries with the future in mind take education as an irreducible minimum obligation, giving as much attention to informal as much as formal education.
As part of its Cultural Revolution in 1949 for example, China started an educational initiative devoted to expanding the nation’s literate and educated masses. While humongous investment have gone into education in all these years, the greatest emphasis is placed on access to primary education. Currently, it is said that just about one-third of all primary school students in China receive access to middle school education and less than one tenth of one percent have the opportunity to study at the university level. On the whole, the educational system in China is built to serve as a fundamental platform for the inculcation of values and skills as well as literacy and numeracy capacities in Chinese citizens.
In Germany, pupils are from the 4th Grade of their education advised according to their academic ability, self-confidence, ability to work independently and the wishes of their families to get one of three different kinds of education. These include the Hauptschule, which leads to part-time enrolment in a vocational school combined with apprenticeship training until the age of 18; Realschule, which leads to part-time vocational schools and higher vocational schools or Gymnasium, leading to a diploma, preparing students for university study or for a dual academic and vocational credential.
While curriculum is said to vary from school to school, the country universally pays attention to the study of German, Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics subjects as well as art, music, history, philosophy, civics, social studies, and foreign languages. The country prepares its students for the realities of the future, which is why it possibly provides the best Automobile Engineering education serving its automotive industry. Nigeria does not produce anything on a significant scale neither is it prepared to change the story. Not even on the agricultural field, for which nature has generously endowed it and which succeeding leaderships claim as an utmost frontier for economic diversification is there a plan for the technical and intellectual education to give the youths competitive advantage. The country is just flying blind.
Nigeria does not dignify the present generation let alone plan for the future. Worse of all, it has even forgotten the past! Some of the greatest industrialists ever made in Nigeria had only modest classroom education yet they are the very archetype of entrepreneurial successes and longevity.
Speak about Samuel Adedoyin, Cosmas Maduka, Razak Okoya and Oyin Jolayemi and the impact that they have made on national development. Without prejudice to the Nasarawa youth, upon whose repeated failure, a mother dabbled into his common but unjust crime against Nigeria, he is probably not one of those made for university education. But how would he and millions of others like him know when the society has cast the garb of failure on anyone who cannot attain a degree, even when the same society has made no provision for the realisation of the aspiration without unnecessary sweat like it is elsewhere?
Yet, when government speaks about the need to improve education, they tell us about billions of naira spent on school feeding programmes. This is not to say that feeding pupils does not have its use. In places where enrolment is low, it sure would incentivise attendance, but how does feeding the body impact on the soul of pupils who mostly take classes in dilapidated buildings and are instructed by people who should be anything but teachers?
And because we are, as a people, almost irredeemable at the penchant for the impulsive, Nigeria has still not found a nexus between its inability to provide proper education for its bulging population and the pestilence of thuggery, armed robbery and other forms of violence that is taking the country.
When people are unable to actualise their personal dreams if and when they are enlightened enough to nurse them, they steal into other people’s dreams even if they do not have the requisite competence. That is why Nigeria is today cursed with policemen who have no business holding guns and teachers who should be nowhere near the classroom.
It is why our youths, sometimes, with the aid of their parents would do anything to pass examinations and when they get tired of failing, turn against society and lend themselves to hiring as political thugs capable of transforming into anything.
And what choice do they have? Nothing catches the attention of Nigerians these days like the 2019 election; politics has become the only thriving endeavour in our country, and with it comes loads of money. So everyone, since money and plenty of it, has become the pass for survival in the country, must find a role to play. And it does not matter whether one is a kingmaker, the king or hoodlum who forces the will of the minority on the rest of the people, just get yourself a role and roll in the lushness of national foolishness.
But unless this country realises its folly, goes back to the basics and picks up the values that hitherto governed its societal fabric, the chicken will come home to roost one day and those who have not found their way to Canada and some more decent countries, will reap the harvest of the madness being planted today. He who sows the wind should expect the whirlwind. Nigeria should prepare for an explosion, unless it repents of its current carelessness.