From Abuja to Keffi all through to Iwo and then Lagos, the better part of my life has been spent in one school or the other, all in a bid to get educated. From my learning, I am compelled to take sides with Albert Einstein when he said, “education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think.” With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) now in motion, it would be banal to state that our educational system in Nigeria is over due for a revamp. Now, we must think of our future and how well to secure it.
As explained by Professor Klaus Schwab, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The impact of automation on our future lives would be immense and one we must be ready to take on.
Considering the impact of the 4IR on the future of work and as earlier mentioned, there is the need for our educational system to be refurbished, to meet up with the demands of the new world of work. Universities have to play an important function in churning out active citizens who would lead, especially in terms of employment, during this era of the 4IR. With this in mind, the government via the Ministry of Education should come up with policies that will drive needed change in the educational sector. Nigeria and Africa missed out on the First to Third Industrial Revolution and from all indication, do not seem ready for the Fourth and most important thus far.
In addition, university managements across the country unlike the Biblical children of Issachar do not understand the times and from all indications do not know what to do. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018 provides that “the range of established roles that are set to experience increasing demand in the period up to 2022 are Data Analysts and Scientists, Software and Applications Developers, and Ecommerce and Social Media Specialists, roles that are significantly based on and enhanced by the use of technology.” Furthermore, based on the World Economic Forum analysis there is evidence that there would be in high demand specialist roles such as, AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Big Data Specialists, Process Automation Experts, Information Security Analysts, User Experience and Human-Machine Interaction Designers, Robotics Engineers, and Blockchain Specialists.
From the foregoing, it is indicative that professionals who have a blend of science, technology and social sciences, would be in high demand. Acting upon such reports, some African universities such as the University of Johannesburg have introduced a Bachelor’s degree in Politics, Economics, and Technology, but we find our institutions of learning grappling with maintaining the status quo of offering totally irrelevant courses that hold value for the future.
Furthermore, if there is anything the COVID-19 pandemic has made us to understand, it is the fact that although with every passing day, the world keeps shrinking into one small entity of diverse people and states, albeit interconnected and inter-dependent on each other but at the most critical moments such as the current one, every country has itself and itself alone to rely on. This reality therefore, if anything, must propel not just the government to act, but also private companies and organizations. Universities should collaborate with private companies to identify employers needs which would be translated into academic programs tailored to the current needs of Nigeria and the world.
The world is moving on with the 4IR and we cannot afford to be left behind. With Nigeria in need of a long overdue economic and social development, the 4IR gives us an opportunity to get where we want to be and anything other than being active participants cannot be welcomed.. Our active participation depends largely on the dynamism of our universities and various institutes of learning. And so, let’s get to work! To the Fourth and beyond!