If I were to give a detailed account of what our educational system is at the moment, it will be another book of lamentations but I think this one will be a lot more voluminous, compared to the one that exists in the Bible. To even write that kind of book, it will be years of research showing how they started spoiling the educational system of this country and how the leaders still do not think that it is very important for them to make the most of it. Any country that does not educate its citizens will never truly experience progress regardless of the technology and infrastructure available to them.
I am honestly amazed at how the nation’s recurrent expenditure will have a larger percentage in the national budget compared to the percentage for education. The government owned primary schools are in shambles, the secondary schools are not different and the universities are worse off. Sometimes when I drive around and see what this country calls public primary schools I almost feel like crying. There was a time when I went to speak in a secondary school in Lagos and I could at best, rate their building as a dilapidated building, yet the kids have to seat in that condition to learn while still experiencing transfer of aggression from their teachers who are not well paid.
As at the time of writing this, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike for about four months over issues that the Federal Government can resolve within one week. The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) was also on strike but called off its strike and gave the Federal Government an ultimatum of one month to respond to its demands. It’s been two months after and the Federal Government of my dear country has not responded now the ASUP is threatening to go back on strike. It is also unfortunate that this is happening at a time when the President of our dear country was formerly a university lecturer and understands the issues in the system. When this happens it means that both the universities and the polytechnics will be shut down completely at the same time over issues that can be resolved in less than two weeks. This is the simple reason people who are supposed to spend four years in school sometimes spend five years or more just trying to get an education. The teachers or lecturers are frustrated and the students are equally frustrated. The educational sector is not being properly funded and members of the house of representatives are having a heated debate over getting a diplomatic passport at the moment.
Our priorities as a nation are simply misplaced and the only thing that looks like proper education at the moment is coming from a few private schools in the country. Unfortunately, to keep those private schools in the high standard that they operate, they need a lot of money and that is why they charge much more than the government schools. Some people have bashed the private schools or the church own schools for charging as much as they do but my question is, ‘if they do not charge as much as they do what will make them different from the government owned schools that go on strike every now and then?’ The private schools charge more, their teachers are well paid, the students are not victimized, there is no strike so the life of the students can be planned and they learn from a very conducive environment.
I think that one of the greatest problems, apart from having poor structures that students should not be found in and poor educational facilities, is the welfare of the teachers. If you have poorly motivated teachers then you will have students who have only passed through the university system with little or no education.
When a nation begins to pay proper attention to education, there are several other problems that will be fixed. My emphasis is also on proper education, not just having school buildings with teachers in them. I am talking about experiencial education. A place where the people are properly trained. A few years back in Nigeria, if you had only a secondary school education you will be highly revered and will also get a good job. But today, doctorate degree holders are still struggling to get a good job. Employers are becoming selective about which universities they want to employ from. They prefer students from the private schools or students who even have a foreign Masters’ degree.
I still see hope, beginning from properly educated leaders, who now properly value education. I believe that change will soon come to our educational sector and things will move forward. I look forward to a time when every student in the country will be proud to say I am a student in a Nigerian school and I have been thoroughly educated. I look forward to that time when people will not brag about having a degree from foreign schools but brag about having their degrees from schools here in the country. I believe that we will get back to those days when employers will be able to point to some schools in the country and say we like to employ Nigeria products because they are great. It will be a time when there will be no disruption of the academic calendar by striking teachers or lecturers. It will happen and it will be in our days with our children greatly benefitting from it.
Fola Daniel Adelesi
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