• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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The school curriculum, practical agriculture and vocational education

Farmers yearn for mechanisation, cheap credit to drive agric growth in 2023

Agriculture was once the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Before the discovery of oil, commercial farms blossomed and farming was seen and practised as the main occupation. The North had cotton, groundnuts and other products. The East had Palm Oil, while the Southwest had Cocoa. Agriculture laid the foundation for Nigeria’s industrialization, contributing the largest share to an economy that was experiencing very boisterous growth.

However, after the discovery of oil, with its increased production and the huge revenue it attracted, less and less attention began to be paid to agriculture. Nowadays, most people in Nigeria, particularly the youth, are not interested and do not want to engage in farming any longer. Most young people and unemployed graduates today are only interested in white-collar jobs. Unfortunately, there still exists the misconception that farming is a profession for the poor and illiterate, which entails grueling toil in the farmland, with a mere pittance as returns.

These notions have been fuelled over the years by lack of proper training for those who go into agriculture, causing them to demonize and abandon the venture. This leads to an ageing farming population. Nigeria’s population is currently growing faster than there are farmers to feed the nation.

Nevertheless, agriculture still remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy. It employs two-thirds of Nigeria’s working population. Agriculture accounts for approximately 22 percent of Nigeria’s GDP. Our priority now should be to get young Nigerians acquainted with the nitty-gritty of agriculture at an early age, introduce them to the business aspect of agriculture and also ignite the interest of school students in agriculture and encourage them to pursue agriculture-related occupations.

Another important area of the Nigerian educational system that needs to be given serious attention is the inclusion of Vocational Education and Training in the school curriculum.

In Nigeria, there is too much emphasis on university education and merely acquiring paper/academic qualifications, not bearing in mind whether the holder possesses the required knowledge and skills. Nigerians generally have this mentality that a university degree is more important than technical/social/vocational training. We live in a society that places a high value on white-collar jobs and ‘professionals,’ a society where blue-collar work is considered as low status.

Parents want their children to pursue careers that will enable them maintain or even increase their high status. They want their children to get high-paying professional jobs. They see Vocational Education as ‘secondary’ and ‘not important.’ They just want academic success for their children. Many schools even place a high premium on college admissions and gaining admission into top ivy-league universities. This has reduced the economic opportunities for those who are more work oriented. It is therefore very necessary and important that parents be enlightened and re-educated regarding the value of occupations that are not high on the social status scale.

The inability of our educational system to provide youths with the demands of industries has led to increased frustrations. This further validates the fact that Vocational Education brings both immediate and lasting economic returns for the country and its citizens. Schools in Nigeria need to introduce Vocational Education and Training into their curriculum. By doing so, it will assist students to develop skills that can be of benefit to them in the future.

Until Vocational Education is taken seriously, only then will the economy become better. Vocational Education and Training can contribute to the reduction of poverty, hunger and unemployment. It can also help people become self-reliant.

Vocational, entrepreneurship, or skill acquisition programmes include training in skills such as: agriculture/farming; tailoring/sewing/fashion designing; cooking and baking; carpentry; barbing; hair styling and making; photography; video editing; musical instruments training; cobbling; make-up and gele tying; painting; plumbing, and so on. It can help students to build up their talents and also enable them to be self-reliant, or otherwise to secure well-paying jobs that can help them take care of themselves and their families.

There is a huge necessity for Vocational Education and Training in the school curriculum. It is vital for educational institutions to provide resources needed to teach Vocational Studies in schools. It is significant for parents, educators and even the government to note the relevance of scholars studying Vocational Education. It provides students with life skills to become productive entrepreneurs, as it breeds creative and innovative ideas. In the long run, it impacts on the economy and increases personal freedom.

IGHAKPE, a social commentator, writes from FESTAC Town, Lagos