Most public intellectuals are aware that education first became a priority in Nigeria shortly after independence in 1960. The foundation for addressing Nigeria’s human resource needs was established by the Ashby Commission. It was the Commission’s Report, which set the first concerted approach to promote education in Nigeria. The Report drew attention to the dearth of educated manpower in Nigeria, and formulated a manpower plan covering the period 1960 to 1980. So, the nation expanded its universities as well as other tertiary institutions. And thus, enrolment figures for universities and equivalent institutions increased. Today, there is hardly a state in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory that does not have a minimum of two universities. But public affairs analysts ask questions regarding the quality of education in our country.
My respected readers will readily acknowledge that Nigeria has drifted to a situation of low academic standard for quite some time. As an intervention, this columnist presented an article on September 2, 2014, titled “Limits of Wealth Without Science and Technology.” Please, permit me to reflect on a few salient points in the article, which are relevant here. In the article, it was stated that “The revenue accruable from oil is limited in its capacity to bring prosperity to the people, unless it is invested in generating indigenous technological innovation for industrialization.” It was equally stated that, “Industrialized nations have accepted science and technology as a way of life, while oil rich African nations are using monies realized from the sale of oil and gas to procure capital goods from abroad at exorbitant costs.” We cannot use science and technology to generate wealth without improving our human capacity through quality education.
In today’s knowledge–based economy, educated people represent the most critical natural resource of any country, not fossil fuel. I have repeatedly stated it in this column that the power of a nation is determined among other factors by the large number of educated people it can muster, not by the abundance of oil and gas. Please, do not misunderstand my point on natural resources. It is good to have natural resources provided it would be a blessing to the people, not an anathema. Since the first major discovery of oil was made in 1956 while the first commercial shipment was in 1958, Nigeria’s economy has not been significantly transformed to cater to the needs of its 200 million people. Nigeria is the sixth largest oil producer in the world but not industrialized. Since 2014, Nigeria’s economy has been declining. Yet, the country is at risk of losing its future generation to mass abductions.
The unfortunate emasculation of knowledge and intellectual degradation occasioned by mass abductions in Nigeria is no less sorrowful than the plight of the Eloi in HG Wells’ novel “The Time Machine.” The Eloi are one of the two fictional post–human races along with the Morlocks, according to the novel. The abductors of children from schools and their evil sponsors, are like the sub–human Morlocks who flattened the Eloi – Nigerian abducted children – like cattle for preying upon. The abductors of Nigerian school children and their sponsors in keeping with their evil ways do not care about the future generation. And neither do they have the capacity to create wealth necessary for their next consumption but all they do is collect ransom from governments and parents of abducted children.
So, what do we have? Nearly 1000 students have been taken from schools in mass abductions since December 2020, according to a United Nations (UN) report. A report by Amnesty International equally shows that over 600 schools have been closed over safety concerns and others declared unsafe. Equally disturbing is the fact that Nigeria has the highest number of out – of – school children in the world. At 13.5 million, one in five of the world’s out – of – school children is a Nigerian, according to reports.
It must be stressed that an educated and healthy workforce is critical to increasing productivity in all sectors of the nation’s economy. Education has been identified by global institutions as a leading determinant of economic growth. Nigeria’s school abduction crisis if unchecked will hinder economic growth.
Nigeria has one of the largest numbers of poor people in the world with 89 million of its 200 million people living in poverty. The federal government has promised to lift 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years.
But mass abduction questions this lofty goal. For instance, Northern Nigeria is already in difficult situation by poverty. The World Bank estimated that 87 percent of all poor people in Nigeria are in the North. Despite this, the future generation of the North is being deprived the right to education. That is why a public analyst is of the view that Nigeria with a large oil reserve coexisting with so much poverty in the same country indicates that Nigeria’s wealth may lie in some place outside its crude oil. Nigeria’s wealth lies in providing quality education to future generations.
The inability of science and technology to industrialize our country is due to the inadequate understanding of the complex interaction among scientific research, technology, industry and the society. We have the industry, and we have acquired technology either appropriate or inappropriate, with many research institutes and tertiary institutions. But we are not preparing future generations to take charge of these critical assets that will generate wealth for the nation.
Human capital is the largest component of national wealth. All we need to do is give future generations quality education and protect their future. Thank you.