Chiedu Uche Okoye
We have two types of education, to wit formal education and the informal one. Before the white imperialists came to Africa, and colonized it, African peoples had their own systems of doing things, including their traditional systems of education. In the pre-colonial African states, informal education had existed there before the white people brought western education to the African peoples. In most traditional African societies, young people were taught how to do domestic chores, hunt animals for food, build houses and roads, and engage in the practice of agriculture. And they’re socialized into the mores, cultures, and conventions of their people(s), which would qualify them to become acceptable members of their societies, and not non-conformists and social misfits.
But the white people who came to Africa primarily to dominate it in order to guarantee a steady supply of raw materials for their industries in Europe brought democracy and western education to African peoples. They subjugated us, and tried, though unsuccessfully, to obliterate our cultural practices, including our traditional type of education, which is rooted in our cultures.
Nobody, however, can contest the fact that formal or western education is the light that illuminates nation-states, and sets them on the path of economic and technological development. Subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Biology, and Mathematics, which originated in the west and are taught in our schools are the springboards for many countries’ technological advancement. And languages like English and French, which are the native languages of our colonizers, are the foundational bases for the acquisition of western education in Nigeria and other African countries. They’re international languages of instruction used in schools in many African countries.
In the first republic, our learned political leaders, who were imbued with nationalistic fervor, probity, and leadership qualities, placed much premium on education because they knew that only highly educated Nigerians could drive the developmental initiatives of Nigeria.
Then, products of our universities competed favourably with those who graduated from Oxford University, Yale University, and other world-class universities. And the quality of education obtainable in our primary and post-primary schools was higher than that, which pupils receive in our public primary and post-primary schools, today. Now, the quality of education obtainable in our primary and post-primary schools and tertiary institutions has nose-dived to an abysmally low level.
The rot in our educational system is traced to the military incursion into our politics and the political maladministration of Nigeria by successive political leaders in the country. Our political leaders, who do help themselves to our collective wealth, have neglected the issues hindering the growth of education in Nigeria because their children and relatives attend good secondary schools and Ivy-league Universities in Europe and America. Other well-heeled Nigerians do send their children and relatives to Ghana and other neighbouring countries for schooling. So, we cannot gainsay the fact that our educational sector is dysfunctional and utterly neglected.
So, has Nigeria been abiding by the United Nations stipulation that 26% of each country’s budgetary allocation be set aside for educational matters? Today, our public schools are afflicted with dearth of infrastructure. In some northern states, public primary schools have buildings whose roofs are blown off, and pupils sit on floor to learn as their classrooms are without pieces of furniture. Can effective impartation of knowledge to pupils by teachers take place in school buildings that are not salubrious? The answer is a categorical no.
But more worrisome is the stark fact that most primary and post-primary school teachers are ill-motivated, which causes them to moonlight during school hours. Aren’t we au fait with this saying regarding teachers’ welfare? The teachers’ rewards are in heaven. So, most teachers in public schools, who do not want to receive their wages in heaven, have prioritized their private businesses, which yield money to them, over their teaching jobs. But that is an ill-wind that blows us no good.
These teachers’ disposition to their teaching jobs imperils the culture of learning and teaching in our primary and post-primary schools. And it’s the moonlighting teachers, who have no moral scruples that do collude with SSCE and NECO examination officers to perpetrate examination malpractice in favour of examination candidates when their palms are greased by the examination candidates’ parents. And most rich and seemingly educated parents will circumvent the rules to secure university admissions for their children to study courses like Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, Accountancy, and Engineering
Consequently, now, we have university undergraduates who cannot withstand the academic rigours in our universities. So, they do join cult groups to brow-beat their lecturers into awarding them undeserved high grades in their courses. Others exchange money for high grades. And there are campus temptresses in décolletage and skimpy skirts who seduce male lecturers so as to achieve their academic goals.
But, I will not discount the fact that some university lecturers are lechers who sexually harass vulnerable young ladies on our campuses. They’ve brought discredit and dishonor to our universities. And they are the chief reason why some chaste ladies had abandoned their university education for other vocations. The menace of male lecturers’ sex predation in our citadels of learning should be uprooted so as to restore sanity to them and create conducive atmosphere for the impartation of knowledge to students.
More so, the educational bodies charged with monitoring and regulating the educational programmes and activities of schools in the country should live up to their responsibilities. They should not shilly-shally and dilly –dally to sanction both public and privately-owned schools and tertiary institutions that have not fulfilled the conditions required of them.
Our political leaders, who are saddled with the task of transforming Nigeria, should know that education is the cornerstone of national development. Developed countries like Great Britain, Canada, Japan, and America have functional educational systems. If our political leaders become aware that functional educational system and national development are inseparable, they should not treat educational matters in the country in a cavalier manner.
Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State