From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Associate Professor of law, American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, Adamawa State, Mohammed Bello Magaji, has said that the North is in its darkest era of retrogression because of insecurity ravaging the region.
Prof. Magaji also ruled out the possibility of the North catching up with educational gap between it and the South, pointing out that insecurity has led to closure of many schools in recent times in most states in the North.
The Professor of law returned home recently to Nigeria after five years at the Faculty of Law, Uganda Islamic University as lecturer.
But before he left the East African country, Magaji was the Dean, Faculty of Law, at the Islamic University, the first Nigerian to hold such position in that institution.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, the lecturer cum researcher also spoke on other burning national issues. Excerpts:
As an academician from the North for that matter, how do you feel that most schools, particularly primary and secondary schools, are closed for months because of kidnapping and banditry in the region?
The menace of banditry , students kidnapping, and general insecurity currently pervading the North is a most unfortunate development with devastating consequences to the growth of education .The North has entered its darkest era in terms of educational growth. The consequences of the current downward trend in educational growth attributable to the above factors will be with us for generations yet unborn. Hitherto , the North which has been lagging behind in terms of modern education is making some giant strides to move to catch up or at least narrow the educational gap between it and the rest of the country. Alas, the menace of insecurity has taken the North some years backward.There is general apprehension by parents and guardians to send their children to school for fear of being kidnapped especially bearing in mind that once kidnapped the parents and school authorities are on their own in the majority of the cases as government at all levels adopts a nonchalant attitude to the plight of the victims and their parents.
Before now there is this issue of educational dichotomy between the North and the South where the North is seriously lagging behind. Do you think North will ever meet up with the South considering this recent ugly development in the North?
The idea of the North catching up or meeting the Southern part of Nigeria in terms of modern education should be jettison for now. This idea has become a mirage with the current insecurity in the North and government insensitivity to it outside of the normal lip service. Coupled with the fact that the security agencies continue to use the old system of security operations without bringing modern techniques of combating insecurity to the table and a weak security architecture these challenges will continue for a long time to come with the North paying heavily for it in terms of educational growth.
Who is to be blamed for poor education development in the North?
Prior to the advent of these brand of security challenges namely, Boko Haram, kidnapping of students etc, for ransom, armed banditry etc, parents especially in the far North were to blame for the low enrolment and the poor standard of education in the North . This includes also parents of the Almajiri. However, some interventions by some authorities were addressing some of the issues with commendable
results. School feeding, subsidies on education, encouraging girl child education and even the commendable efforts of the Jonathan Goodluck administration in bringing on board the Almajirai schools and Nomadic education and many more interventions.These moves saw to the rise in the standard of modern education in the North. Moving forward of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping etc, which is continuing, seems to draw the clock of the North’s educational growth backwards. With the nonchalant attitude of government coupled with the poor security architecture educational growth in the North is heading to a nosedive. At this stage the blame for the poor educational growth of the North can safely be placed at the foot of the government.
Most Northern leaders who are at the affairs of the nation’s leadership went to schools free in their days. Don’t you think they should make education free too?
I agree that most leaders of the North and even non-leaders like me benefited from free education.It is my belief that given the vast human and material resources, Nigeria and even the North possesses, it is not impossible to give free education or at best to give 90 per cent subsidy to a child’s education by government. It is only a matter of what is the government’s priority and the will to do so. There is every resource to make education free in the North and even in the entire country.
There are several higher institutions, both private and public in the country, yet for prospective students to gain admission is often than not a hell, ranging from writing JAMB, UTME to other examinations. Won’t you rather suggest a simple method of offering admission?
The debate on the desirability or otherwise of JAMB has been raging on. There are both pros and cons to the debate as to whether JAMB should be scrapped or not. My humble contribution to the debate is that most countries allow universities set their standards, including admission policies. Each institution of learning is conscious of its desire to have a good ranking in the country or world rankings. Consequently, it would ensure that entry standards are high to ensure that students admitted would be those that can uplift the institution’s academic standards which also robs on the students. This is what obtains in most institutions I have taught in my over 30 years of academic sojourn in Africa. This is without prejudice to the opposing views held by fellow academics.
Incessant strikes by ASUU and ASUP have contributed to delay of students meeting up with academic calendar. Who do you blame for this strike, lecturers or Federal Government
I have in several fora called for a peaceful resolution of the incessant strike by our institutions of higher learning. The negative effects of these on our educational system and especially on the students cannot be quantified. Whereas I blame the government for making promises it cannot fulfill, the lecturers need to be able to renege on their combative position.All should come to the negotiating table with the desire for resolution not with preconceived and immovable positions.
Exams malpractices are serious issues in higher institutions in Nigeria. Just of recent, a man who was said to have dressed in a female attire was caught writing exams for his girlfriend. What is the way out of this mess?
Examination malpractice is the bane of our educational system. It has been there for a long time having permeated the academic citadel for a long time. It is pertinent to note that it is not only in Nigeria, but the world over that academic institutions have to grabble with this menace. Prestigious and highly rated universities like Harvard and Makerere have had their share of the menace. So many studies and researches have been conducted to look at the sources, reasons, and solutions to the menace. One of such was the research I conducted and sponsored by a grant from Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund) in 2014. Among the solutions l proffered include demystifying paper and grade qualification as against the need to acquire the necessary knowledge, the need for parents to take their role of moral upbringing of children at early stages of growth more seriously and inculcate the qualities of honesty and uprightness to the children, schools to continue to extol the virtues of hard work and honesty together with bringing out the ills of examination malpractice and setting up a school committee to drum up need to shun the practice, the need for National Orientation Agency (NOA) to embark on national sensitization of parents, students etc, on the menace of the practice and the need to refrain from it; the need for the National Assembly to amend some provisions of the Exam Malpractice Act especially with respect to the punishment, its applicability, scope etc.
Nomadic education in Nigeria is neither dead nor alive. Don’t you think that with the level of insecurity in the country, that is the end of such educational programme by the Federal Government?
Nomadic education is one of the salutary and commendable moves by the government to further bridge the gap between the North and the South in terms of educational parity. Alas, the same plight that has bedeviled the conventional school system has afflicted the Nomadic system that is general insecurity in the land. The government has pumped in huge resources, but it appears it is going down the drain. So long as the government is not ready to address current security issues head on the investment and prospects of nomadic will die an unnatural death.