• Thursday, April 25, 2024
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Africa has to educate for change and progress

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The imperativeness of teachers’ training in the delivery of quality education came to the fore recently at the Etisalat Nigeria-sponsored Economist Nigeria Summit 2013, themed “Enabling and Implementing Change”, held at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Though the two-day event attracted eminent personalities from all walks of life, with discourse touching on several topics, education turned out to be one point that seemed to have taken the lead. The organisers set education up for pre-eminence when they came up with the topic “The Future of Education in Africa: A Dialogue with Hakeem Belo-Osagie” for the second day. The dialogue threw up education as the single most important factor in ensuring effectiveness of labour in making other factors of production yield desired goals.

The strong panel joined the cerebral chairman of Etisalat Nigeria, Hakeem Belo-Osagie, in dissecting the place of education in the evolving scheme of things in Africa, with specific focus on Nigeria. Driving the point home, Belo-Osagie said: “To arrest the decay in education, efforts have to be concentrated on teachers’ training and welfare so that teachers would become self confident, proud of their profession and live well in the society.”

The discussants at the summit formed a consensus that “if Nigeria is to use her demographic potentials to create a dynamic economy, she has to improve education systems drastically; otherwise, the lack of skills would translate the growing population into growing unemployment, poverty and conflict”. “How does the Nigerian state that has failed in so many respects succeed in the critical areas of education?” Belo-Osagie voiced.

Tending to agree with Belo-Osagie’s stance at the Rivers State Education Summit 2013, Wole Soyinka pointed at defective education as the major cause of the reign of terror currently threatening security, peaceful coexistence, businesses and governance in certain parts of Nigeria.

It is alarming that these thought leaders see crisis in education moving on to afflict the society. But there seems to be solution in sight for this critical national need with the federal government taking on the matter with the Almajiri initiative and private sector intervention with companies like Etisalat playing active roles. Belo-Osagie counsels that governments in Nigeria ought to concentrate efforts on providing quality education at primary and secondary school levels as against the current proliferation of tertiary institutions that deliver little educational values to the people and the economy.

Similarly, Soyinka opines that ridding Nigeria of dangerous illiteracy would require a multi-pronged approach, for which he endorsed the Almajiri education programme. Incidentally, the Almajiri education programme focuses, like Belo-Osagie counselled, on basic education for all, particularly the disadvantaged segments of the population.

The panellists shared Belo-Osagie’s view that corruption’s most deadly impact is the income it takes away from various tiers of government that would have gone into proper funding of education necessary to propel human capital development needed to drive change and sustain growth in several spheres of human endeavour in Africa. Maintaining that quality basic education for everybody would aid both citizens and the society better than an army of tertiary school graduates who are ill-educated and ill-equipped to contribute to the economy.

Belo-Osagie urged government to wake up to realities and address the decay of infrastructure in education. He charged the private sector to step forward and redeem education as it has done in areas like banking, oil, telecommunications, etc, where government is known to have met with limited success in the past. He pointed out that the Nigerian model of active state participation in businesses in the ‘80s and ‘90s was not successful.

Contributing, managing director, Crown Agents Nigeria, Mark Abani, lent credence to Belo-Osagie’s stance, adding that the school system and curricula must be redesigned to ensure impartation of skills on students because “that would boost school products’ preparedness for and performance in the workplace so that graduates can add value to themselves and the economy”.

Stakeholders might still recall that a BusinessDay report in March 2011 following approval of four more private universities in Nigeria pointed out that the approval brought the number to 45 private universities as against 70 universities then bankrolled by both federal and state governments. This number has increased with various approvals believed to be politically motivated as against a strategic drive towards the provision of quality education for the people of Nigeria.

Though opinions may differ on the quality, impact, access and mission of private universities, what no one can argue about is that they constitute an alternative approach to – and certainly fill a growing niche in – higher education in Nigeria. They also absorb the large chunk of young Nigerians whose parents have lost faith in the public education system and who ordinarily would have sought solution to their education needs outside Nigeria.

Probably the intervention of the private sector in education could help avert crisis or at least ameliorate a situation that has become so bad that The Guardian’s survey in 2009 revealed that only 20 percent of parents would willingly send their children to public universities – largely because these are the only institutions that offer ‘dream’ professional courses in medicine, pharmacy, etc. About 70 percent, on the other hand, prefer degrees from private universities, and 10 percent from abroad where cost is not an issue. What is evident, however, is that Nigeria and Africa are left with no other option than to improve on education at basic level to show readiness for the future now characterised by change and technology. 

 

SAMUEL CHUKWUEDOZIE

Chukwuedozie writes from Lagos.

 

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