By Emmanuel Edukugho
Going by the statistics available from the World Bank as well as National Planning that 64.2% of our adults are literate and over 70% of our children are in primary schools, so statistically, Nigeria has no business with poverty, according to Professor Oye Ibidapo-Obe, President, Nigerian Academy of Science and immediate past vice chancellor, University of Lagos.
â€œWe should ask ourselves, however, what are they learning in these schools? Is the environment suitable?
Are the teachers knowledgeable?â€
He went further:
â€œI understand that corruption is the bane of our development. I believe very strongly that if we are properly educated, corruption will have zero tolerance in our body politic and in our way of life. How therefore can we progress under the burden of poor and shallow education that often times are mis-education?â€
Ibidapo-Obe recalled that the world leaders in year 2000 came up with the eight (8) Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) out of which seven (7) depend on the need for well organised and qualitative education.
For example, the issue of poverty to be halved by 2015, maternal health, eradication of HIV/AIDS? by 2015 form the bulk of the MDGs?
Are we going to make these goals?
The assessment made by National Planning in 2007 gave an aggregate score of 37.5% with 3 Good, 2 slow and 3 worsening!
â€œHow can we achieve these rather laudable goals if our leaders only pay lie service to education?â€, he asked, adding: â€œSimply look around us and see what our youths are doing from idleness through underemployment to desperation to vote with their feet?â€
Giving the first convocation lecture of Crawford University, Faith city, Igbesa, Ogun State, recently, titled, â€œThe Imperative of Learning, Integrity and Leadership Attributes For Sustainable National Developmentâ€ he submitted that we need good to great leaders with vision, set goals and commitment to achieve the MDG and other goals in the set time. Leaders who are inwardly assured, their reward is in seeing their world transformed for the better and â€œnow where can that be better inculcated than faith-based institution such as Crawford University.â€
While the challenges in our educational systems from primary through the university can be catalogued, â€œbut suffice it to say that the bedrock for the national upliftment is quality education allÂ levels.â€™
He contends that universities are perceived as the pre-requisites for the success of nations in a knowledge based economy and these institutions are required to be more flexible on their norms and become more accountable to social and economic demands (in order to sustain this status!).
The former UNILAG Vice Chancellor affirmed that education, as a vehicle for human resource development, remains the cornerstone of national development efforts and global competition is based on knowledge – hence the pervasiveness of the concept of â€˜knowledge economiesâ€™.
â€œKnowledge is a key defining aspect of contemporary and future societies in view of globalisation and ensuring competitiveness. The world is in an IT revolution phase and decisions are now taken in nano seconds. It is people with knowledge and skills that rule the world.â€
He stated that Nigeria is a country of 140 million people out of which some staggering 70.2 million are poor. Extreme poverty, that is, they earn less than N120 per day.
In other words, in any congregation of 10 Nigerians, 5 of them eke out a living.
â€This should be taken in contrast with the tremendous wealth of the nation and the envious human resources including the capabilities and capacities of our people.
What then is lacking? The synergy to collectively bring our knowledge to benefit our society. Maybe I should add quickly that without oil, this country will still have beenÂ rich with good to great leadership.â€
He explained that science and technology determine and enhance national prominence and national power. AlthoughÂ national power emanates from natural resources endowment industrial capacity including knowledge engineering/IT, socio-political structure and military power, it is evident that the efficient utilisation and deployment of natural resources depends largely on information technology and itâ€™s by products of intelligence.
It was pointed out that success at improving both length and quality of life depends on effectiveness of technology in solving the daily problems posed by the environment – hence the popular parlance that the history of civlisation is actually the history of technology.
â€œScience and technology are the bedrock of natural development and indeed the primary basis for socio economic advancement of any nation. It is a parachute to a knowledge economy/society.â€
In a period of rapid social and economic change, much of which is driven by innovations leading to a multitude of new products, processes and services; science and technology are emerging as a basis of national comparative advantage.â€
Ibidapo-Obe concluded by saying that science is essential to the economic social and cultural development of Africa. It is science and technology that can mitigate the negative effects of Globalisation, Food, Security, Energy, Health and Climate change.
â€œThe capabilities to confront these challenges reside in our universities and we just have to develop and apply new, invigorating, attitudinal vaccines that will create conducive environment for such productive work.â€
He urged Nigeria to recognise the crucial role of scientific and technological research in the modernisation of nations as a first class human resources base (which is abundantly available in the country) as the crucial mass for sustainable development rather than larger than sense natural resources base.
â€œOur human resources base must be developed from the training of engineers and scientists in the various institutions with a solid foundation in basic sciences comprehensive practice-in-training and close association with the local industries.â€