A Higher National Priority – Preventing the Rise of Uneducated Graduates

A Higher National Priority – Preventing the Rise of Uneducated Graduates

Nigeria should rise above the scourge of illiteracy. Education is the antidote for poverty at individual and national levels, and is a tool for development in all areas.

Education, defined as a permanent change in behavior as a result of learning, consists of all efforts (conscious or incidental) made by a society to accomplish set objectives, which are considered to be desirable in terms of the individual as well as the societal needs. In all human societies, particularly the modern ones, education therefore remains one of the most powerful instruments for both the development of man and the transformation of the human society. However, the efficacy of education as an instrument of transformation depends entirely on how the government manages the project meant for the upliftment of the educational system. {Popoola, Bello & Atanda (2009)}.

In every society that has evolved into a first world or those that are categorised among the fastest growing economy today, human capital development (education) was and still is a primary focus.

In growing the economy of any nation, human capital development, education, is primary. It will be illogical for a primary school level child to assume tertiary education status. The simple result is that it may never graduate. To liken this to Nigeria’s national goal, we must not overemphasise economy over education, otherwise, we will keep churning out half-baked graduates with faulty educational foundations. There is such a term as uneducated graduate.

According to Opetunde Adepoju, a 30 under 30 Forbes Fellow,

I think the education system needs to really focus on basic education ensuring that every child has access to quality basic education for the first 13 years of a child’s life. If that is achieved, it will go a long way to reduce literacy in the country

The Federal Ministry of Education has a mission statement that is very instructive and that puts education at the foundation of every national success:

“Our mission is to use education as a tool for fostering the development of all Nigerian citizens to their full potentials, in the promotion of a strong, democratic, egalitarian, prosperous, indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God.” (education.gov.ng). It is rather ironic that the same federal government lavishes its focus on other sectors of the economy leaving education to grow by itself when it can.

Building resources (infrastructures) for unresourceful (uneducated) populace amounts to more loss now and in the future. It means no plan for sustainability.

The one major reason education is relegated to crumbs in Africa is either because we perennially exhibit lack of sustainability culture or we are not ready to do the right thing that we already know or at least see others do.

The economy of the UK is largely knowledge driven. China is subtly telling Africa what to do, dominating the business space in Africa, significantly influencing national policies year on year, yet we seem not to have traced their successes to massive investment in educating their populace.

The schooling system is a major subset in the process of educating a child and must not be handled perfunctorily. In Nigeria, our primary schooling system may easily be mistaken for an arrangement to allow adults/parents get their work done at home or in the office. Our national disposition to primary education is such that requires urgent realignment towards national continuity.

So, it is one thing to know and accept that education should be given higher priority in the process of growing any economy and it is another thing to know and accept that primary and secondary level education are the most fundamental and most important in the cognitive, psychological and psychomotor development of every child. With this acceptance, it is then easier to implement policies, programmes that will accurately capture the peculiarities of the individual child, then the society and deliver on the ultimate goal.

Having recognized the place of education as very important and with a higher priority, taken as the most veritable tool towards actualizing a strong and better economic transformation, it is then of a higher urgency to understand its implementation and structure to benefit all citizens and achieve desired societal goal. When education gets sorted and gained our national attention, there is the need to set our priorities straight.

Education rankings are dependent upon different aspects of learning, like completing primary school or graduating high school. So when you hear of a country coming in the top 10 or 20 in education ranking, it is largely from their primary, middle level and secondary education, NOT from an engrossed and hypnotic government’s attention on tertiary education and the size of the economy.

At the risk of sounding disapproving of tertiary education, let me say that I am a graduate myself and the government should create a conducive learning environment for our tertiary students and make learning more meaningful and rewarding. Tertiary education is definitely a key to development and innovation. But the choking neglect, by the government, of the primary and secondary education, which is foundational, is most disturbing.

As a tech leader and African innovator, Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe, noted in one of his publications:

I largely attended FUTO free and if you went to a federal university in Nigeria, government subsidized your education. Yet, that same government does not have money for primary education which naturally should be free and compulsory at high quality. Also, the secondary education has become anything goes. But come to tertiary education, ASUU wants to make it GREAT. That is a good vision as we want a great university system; but wish is not all that it takes for things to happen.

Simply, the failure of our primary and secondary educational systems is one of the main reasons why Nigeria remains underdeveloped with skyrocketing unemployment where mass illiteracy is common. The fundamental rights of many kids across Nigeria, according to United Nations – the right to basic education – have been trampled.  While we want great universities, we cannot forget where the priorities should be.

He further provided some comparative statistics of some economic giants as they are instructive to the Nigerian education situation, hear him:

China has 99% primary education enrollment with less than 10% university attainment. They put all the good money in primary education. America does the same where primary and secondary are largely free. But in Nigeria, we flip it, taking care of a few to the detriment of many. Why should a professor be paid $2,000 per month when a primary school teacher cannot even get $100 monthly? The most important education is primary education.

In Nigeria, a case in point, a citizen without a university degree is almost equivalent to an unfortunate life. This ought not to be so. If our primary and secondary education is such as it should be, a university degree is only an added advantage and on a personal drive to become more and do more.

A secondary school graduate in Delta State named Aghogho Ajiyen built flying mini-aircrafts without a university degree. He built his first aircraft in 1999 after several failed attempts. He applied all the principles and theories applied in the conventional aircraft in building his own aircrafts, according to him. Is that not amazing? 

Every citizen needs basic education but not everyone needs a university degree.

A national state of emergency should be declared on all areas of education in Nigeria from Government to teachers (I have included all stakeholders in the school management system under this category) to students. In 2018, there was copious jubilation at national scale when the federal government declared a state of emergency on education. Among the areas of attention are the issue of out-of-school children, promotion of adult literacy and special needs education, revival of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Technical, Vocational Education and Training, strengthening of basic education, prioritising of teacher education, capacity building and professional development as well as ensuring quality and access to tertiary education and promoting of ICT and library services” as reported by Jide Ojo in Punch.

Between 2018 and 2019, there has not been any traceable change in the education sector as a direct result of the NATIONAL EMERGENCY. It may be reasonable to say that a 12-month duration is too small to draw such humongous conclusion but I believe it would also pass for a trajectory threshold to trace a traction. It is time we went beyond words.

The 2020 FG budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari has ?125bn for 469 Lawmakers (some arguments are saying it is over ?130bn adding the cost of the jeeps), lavished ?262bn on Works and Housing, Power has ?127bn, Transportation ?123bn (resources gulping over ?600bn) BUT a paltry ?48bn on Education for over 100million people. Almost 40million unemployed or underemployed, 98million living in extreme poverty; 25million out of school children. (Please reader, help me out in case I represented any figure wrongly).

We must stop accusing corruption being responsible for poverty in Nigeria, illiteracy is a major cause of poverty in Nigeria and I am calling on our Federal, State and Local Governments, NGOs and Philanthropists to help Nigeria come out of this quagmire called ILLITERACY.

Nigeria unemployment rate to reach 33.5 per cent by 2020, says the federal government. When you hear stuff like this especially from the government who should have solutions or in whose thrall the levers to solutions should be, what comes to mind? Poverty looms!

Education increases exposure and trains the human mind. 

When I can think, you can think critically, the man and the woman next door can equally create something from thinking, invention and innovation becomes rife just as it is obtainable in developed countries where literacy is high and always northwards the literacy curve. Little wonder The United Kingdom, The United States, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, The Netherlands are advancing in technology, inventions, innovations with a record of high per capita income.

Luxembourg, with a population of 613,012 (2019, countrymetere.info), has maintained a 99% literacy rate since 1990 till date. As at 2019, the country leads as the strongest economy with the highest per capita income at $113,196

As at 2017, the World Bank estimated the USA per capita income at $60,200. The latest estimate by Statisticstimes is $65,112 (2019 est.)

According to The World Factbook, the U.S. has a literacy rate of 99.0%, and is rated 28 among the 214 nations included in the World Factbook. Using the definition, literacy in the population thus refers to the percentage of people age 15 or older who can read and write.

Poverty level is a major parameter in determining the viability of any economy. The level of education determines the literacy level and ultimately helps to conquer poverty and as such deliver strong economy.

The Federal government since the 1960s has always come out with interventions to curb or alleviate poverty. None of these programmes has ever sustainably reduced unemployment or increased literacy level in Nigeria, neither has any of these programmes taken a handful percentage of Nigerians out of poverty. The result has always been increased unemployment, unemployability and illiteracy year on year. What this means is that each successive Nigerian government has often deleafed the illiteracy and poverty tree without uprooting it. The variance between the policy target and actual outcome of each of these programmes has always been wide.

I strongly recommend an intent political will towards education with a sincere and determined policy target, a deliberate monitoring mechanism from planning through implementation in order to achieve the actual outcome. As part of the work of the monitoring mechanism, there should be a wholistic post-implementation education policy and programmes impact assessment to measure the utility of the choice of plan against the target outcome.

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