It is through education that individuals who will make useful contributions to a nation’s political, technological and economic growth will emerge
Finland has over the years been placing greater emphasis on collaboration and deemphasizing competition in its education system. This has led to the practice of co-teaching where teachers work in teams, sharing knowledge, supporting each other, producing material together and at times even sharing burdensome workloads. This collaborative practice has helped many teachers to thrive. The pupils are not left out as the spirit of collaboration with classmates is very deliberately cultivated to displace that of competition. This has given rise to VerDi, a peer learning approach to teaching, where pupils and students are handed the responsibility of passing digital skills on to peers rather than by the teachers.
It is said that there is no better way to deepen one’s knowledge than by teaching. And this brings us to a remark that the irrepressible former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo was reported to have made a few months ago which all Nigerians, who genuinely seek the country’s progress should take note of. He pointed out that Nigeria has so far failed to graduate from merely being a country into becoming a nation. As captured in the Vanguard Newspaper, the former President said: “One of the things we need to achieve is nation-building. We have not built a nation yet. We have a country but we need to build it into a nation”. He went further to say: “We can’t make it unless we have equity and equality, and everybody has a stake in the project called Nigeria.” Love him or loathe him, there is one thing that nobody can take away from Obasanjo; he says it as it is. He possesses an uncanny ability to speak the mind of many Nigerians, both that of the ordinary man who has no voice and that of the elite who has a conscience but lacks the courage to speak. Collaboration, more than competition, produces unity and the sense of oneness required to have a shared vision. And a shared vision, one of the surest predictors of success, is absolutely indispensable for a society that wishes to rise.
It may be useful to mention at this point that it was when the government of Rwanda under President Paul Kagame made it an offence for its citizens to verbally identify with their tribe before their country, that they began their sure journey to nationhood. Within two and a half decades of emerging from a most gruesome civil war which pitted tribe against tribe, Rwanda announced its arrival as one of the continent’s rising stars.
Has this collaborative approach to education fared Finland well?
Well, it may interest you to know that this small Scandinavian country of 5.5m ranks fourth out of 167 countries in the Legatum Prosperity Index of 2022. This index goes beyond measuring wealth only but also measures the well-being of its citizens as well as the opportunities available to them. Collaboration works.
If Nigeria’s federal government can pay education the attention it deserves and strives harder to meet up with the UNESCO recommendation of allocating 26% of its national budget to the educational sector instead of the paltry 7.9% that it allocated in the 2022 budget, perhaps it would not find itself at the bottom of the global poverty index where it currently sits. It is not hard to fathom why African countries that allocate a greater part of their national budget to education such as Kenya which is estimated to have allocated 17.58% of its budget, and Tunisia, 20%, fare so much better on the various socio-economic indexes and are more prosperous societies. The tiny African Island state, Seychelles, is the only country reported to have fully met the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO)’s “education for all” target.
Will Africa rise or fall?
Before attempting to give a definitive answer to the above question – will Africa rise or fall on education – Africans must as a people first agree on what education should mean. It needs to be accepted that education is a holistic exercise which aims to develop the whole man; his intellect, moral character, competencies, skills, and his world view to name just a few. It is necessary one understands that the purpose of education goes beyond just ingesting and regurgitating information or formulas but it should increase the learner’s capacity for creative thinking and critical analysis. This is how a society can identify and nurture solution providers who will solve the multitude of challenges that every society inevitably faces, no matter how developed or underdeveloped that society is. It is through education that individuals who will make useful contributions to a nation’s political, technological and economic growth will emerge. This is perhaps why Lee Kuan Yew, the iconic father of modern Singapore said in his book, From Third World to First: “The more talented people I had as Ministers, administrators and professionals, the more effective my policies were and the better the results.” A wise man once said, “What you own, you treat better.” So, above all, there must be equal opportunity for all Africans to receive a quality education, as this is key to ensuring citizens have a sense of ownership in the project called Africa. Without this, “Africa rising” shall remain a pipe dream but with it, it can one day rule the world.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time