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26 Aug Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

Fixing Education in Nigeria

This is not about the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) or the fact that they cannot seem to reach an agreement with the government to take them back to the classrooms. Even if ASUU called off the strike today, the fundamental realities that are finally burying an already dead system of education in Nigeria will remain. That we even pretend to have a system is sickening. A system by definition is about a set of things, principles, procedures or parts working together in an orderly manner to achieve a common purpose. What is the common purpose of Nigeria’s system of education?

While the system – if we must call it that – continues to churn out its products who can barely fit into the needs of the society, it shuts out many others who just want a chance to go through it. Year in and out, universities turn back more people than are accepted. This reality has started a yet unrecognized trend: Nigerians running to countries all over the continent for university education. As if it is not enough that we spend hundreds of billions of Naira in East Asian, American and UK universities, countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania now host Nigerian students in their numbers.

Most of these Nigerian students cite inabilities to get admissions into Nigerian universities as their reason for leaving home. A particular Nigerian student studying in Uganda admitted she waited for three years before deciding to try her luck elsewhere. Now in her second year, the Nigerians she started university with are still in their first year and they are currently on strike. If small African countries can make things work, why can’t the almighty giant show the usefulness of its size?

The other failure of the system has to do with its products. If the university system was set up to provide human resources for the Nigerian economy, needless to say this has failed woefully. There is a chasm of disconnect between the needs of the society and the products of the universities. You would be hard pressed to find any firm worth its oars that’d employ a fresh Nigerian university graduate without a formal training process that in some cases lasts for months.

Our system remains stuck in the pre-colonial era mode with little or no update and the style of teaching remains that way too: take what the instructor says hook, line and sinker and return the favour to the instructor by writing the instructor’s teachings during the examination without any value added from extra reading or research. Those who do more by writing more than they were taught are in some cases punished for overstepping their bounds. We are stuck in our ways but unfortunately these are ways that led us to where we are today. It is a cycle of mediocrity and that only ends one way: we will always be here for as long as we do things this way.

The way forward is not a silver-bullet but we can start by allowing individual universities determine their destinies. Autonomy is the way to go. Government must as a matter of urgency set the public universities on a path of self-sustenance. The continued dependence of our universities on Abuja is certainly not the way to go. Abuja has not even taken care of itself, how can it then take care of some 100 universities? It is time to question this system and put an end to the mess.

Dog