Nigeria gained political independence in 1960, and here we are in 2015 (55 years later), we still cannot boast of an economic engine that is self-sustaining, and objectively measurable by known economic metrics. By some estimates, more than 70% of economic activities of Nigerian citizens, are informal and undocumented.
In the mean time, we are hurtling ahead in population growth, and soon to overtake the United States as the third most populous nation, after China and India (soon to trade places as first and second). At the heart of our economic dysfunction, is, in fact, the educational system.
Like everything else, including our world view and belief system, we continue to tow the path established by our colonizers, whose design for our economy was no more sophisticated than the creation of mechanisms for extracting the natural resources on (and in) the land, and indoctrinating us to pursue ambitions that are only rewarded by activities that are in compliance with this design.
The educational system established by our colonizers was nothing more than a filtering system, which was used to motivate our citizens to learn what they were taught, and do what they were told – imagine the audacity of “fail in English, fail in all!”. How many geniuses have been denied advancement because of such imperialist policy? This is why everything about our education is predicated upon one examination after another. We are still perpetuating the same filtering system via JAMB and similar constructs.
We are not aligning the education of our citizens with the challenges of our society. We are not developing problem solvers, innovators and entrepreneurs. We are not aligning our national expenditure with the development of our people’s abilities to solve our problems. All these years that we have contracted out every single infrastructural project, we have failed to establish domestic expertise to maintain those infrastructure, talk less of building new ones with home grown expertise. But, I am not the complaining type. I see tons of problems that need to be solved, and I thrive on finding solutions to problems. My two prescriptions for a more effective educational system for Nigeria is as follows:
1. Every child (free of charge) must be educated with the basics of Math, Science, Art, History, Language, Enterprise, Reading and Writing to a minimum of High School level – an Annual budget of the Federation must be committed to this goal by law;
2. Education beyond the High School Level must be linked to Applications, Problem Solving, Enterprise and Innovation i.e. College Professors and Instructors must be practitioners of their trade – The cycle of book learner teaching others book knowledge must be broken somehow. There are too many Educators who have no idea how the world operates, and what actually produces value in society. A line item in the National Budget must support Exploratory and Applied Research at all levels.
The challenges and needs of the nation, should be the driving force behind educational initiatives. The mentality of colonialism was what made our country remain a raw material supplier to European nations – having been sold on the faulty economic theory that we are better off just earning money from raw materials, instead of investing ourselves in value added industries – “you won’t be competitive” is what we are told, and we swallow this like idiots.
Sometime not too long ago, under Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, we were told that we should not subsidize our local industries because they needed to be globally competitive. I wonder where she was when the US Government was subsidizing its own Automotive Industry in order to make them more globally competitive! How long shall we continue to tolerate such nonsense?
James Ayinde Fabunmi, Adulawo Institute