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Investment in human capital development

By Sam Igbe

THE power and significance of informal education cannot be discounted without the risk of losing the essence of human capital development. Before the growth of cities and towns, hamlets and villages were the human habitats in which inhabitants occupied themselves with the acquisition of needs of livelihood. These needs would reflect the nature of their cultural careers such as farming, trading, fishing, iron smithing, and general arts and crafts.

Civilisation grew with the development of these occupations from the desire to acquire the principal needs of society. Subsequent developments of these needs tended to either develop the response to overcome harsh climatic conditions or a complacent attitude in the face of comparatively comfortable weather conditions. This tendency visibly affected the development of scientific channels for the evolution of life-sustaining activities in conducive and compliant sectors of the world either positively or negatively. This might well have been the difference between Africa and the developed world. And it is the difference between their administrative and educational policies, being also the difference between the growth of human evolution in the various climatic regions of the world.

The growth of knowledge and capacity in the improvement of these occupations was manifestly responsible for the acquisition of better and more appropriate needs of society, through better and easier means suitable to the location of man’s habitation.

The natural efforts of our ancestors to improve their living standards were unplanned in the beginning. But it was later realised that planned developments were necessary to organise the achievements of the needs and development of society for unavoidable growth. Unfortunately, this later advancement required for our needs has not yet fully dawned on the Nigerian environment. This is the reason our education policy does not yet seem to cater for the overall needs of society. We definitely are not investing appropriately in our human capital education, which is the principal reason for the scarcity of technical job opportunities. It is however, absolutely necessary to make it clear here that to heap all the blame of joblessness on government is an attempt to cover up for our grievous negligence of our intrinsic responsibilities. It is true that government is to blame for the production of inadequate national education policy responsible for scarcity of adequately trained job seekers. But government is made up of parents and members of the society who obviously are themselves unaware of the dynamics of good societal education. Apart from just criticising, one has not seen any actions from those not in government on what is lacking in our education system. The opposition politicians are bad critiques and the rest of us are bad followers for failing to find time to point out what is wrong in the system, and what is required for positive growth. This is our duty as citizens. It is what education ministries and the inexorable incentives of college or university administration are all about.

Informal education is the collective responsibility of parents, the community and the larger society to prepare their young ones for a useful future that is widely functional. These young citizens should be afforded the opportunity to know the differences between responsibilities and rights. Like formal education, informal education is based on the needs of society which should reflect the nature of its cultural industry, and enable parenthood to grow the capacity to guide their children to develop useful and worthwhile living functions. From the beginning of time, families and communities raised their children solely as investments in the human capital and intellectual development of their society. Success in this endeavour was a source of pride to the family, and failure was a source of regret and shame. Where these responsibilities are abandoned, as is the case in our country today, parents should tuck their tails between their legs rather than blame their failures on governments. Their failures will affect available formal education negatively, and it becomes a herculean task thereafter to reverse the situation.

The science and technological students of tomorrow are made today by parents who have not abandoned their responsibilities to ensure informal education of their children. This home training, as has been explained in the forgoing, is all inclusive, and forms the foundation of the formal education to follow.

The key to the envisaged development of an all-inclusive human capital investment policy, therefore, must also devolve on an all-inclusive National Policy on Education. This would seem to pass the rectification of the persisting negative trend to formal education and to government; but it must be realised that the survival of a people depends on the benefits of the existence of a visible way of life. These contribute the combined features of verifiable training on community behavioural attributes, family values and morals, including roles within the family and community. They also include security awareness and religious beliefs, local physical health programmes and entertainment activities. A meaningful action to upgrade the development of our education can therefore not be complete without an overall review of the traditional education activities before and after the advent of formal education. Where they do not exist, it would be a great pity. The lack is, in my view, irreversible, and would play a part in the breeding of intransigent youths.

We are, however, now strongly aware of the dangers inherent in this lack of a properly planned investment in human capital growth in our nation. The dangers of the escalation of the nation’s jobless population are the very obvious problems it constitutes to the nation, especially when solutions seem intractable. The consequences are clear, and in spite of the fact that the solutions are herculean, they are also clear, but they cannot be solved through incoherent periodic employment figures which are unrealistic having regard to the numbers of jobless persons involved. They must evolve from the home and the educational institutions.

There is now no time for those misdirected recriminations and tantrums which tend always to pass the buck. The situation is serious enough to trigger alarm. We must wake up from our slumber and redirect the processes of our educational pursuits strictly towards achieving the needs of society. We need lawyers and doctors and accountants. But we also need engineers and artisans, practical ones; and we need the products of serious science orientation. We need the skills and we need caterers, tailors, beauty technologists, and we need vocations which are daily tools of living. We need an educational programme with a strong purpose all pointedly directed at achieving the goals of education.

And what are the goals of education? They have been mentioned over and over again in this piece. But it is necessary to realise that without goals, education is pointless. It is mind-blowing that neither the students nor the teachers seem to advert their minds to what goals of education are in the course of performing their duties. And worse still, even the proprietors of schools do not know, and their establishments do not have any mission. Therefore, a large majority of pupils, students and even undergraduates pass through educational institutions without any idea of their personal goals of education; and, in any case, without any goals; they just pass out of the schools and fuse into the market for the jobless. The knowledge of the goals of individual students’ course programmes should reflect the needs of society, and therefore would reflect the educational professions which the students actually undertake. The needs of society cannot be met without vocational, technological, and technical skills. These necessities must be provided for in the National Policy on Education, and covered in the ensuing curricula and syllabi for the various departmental courses, if the envisaged all-inclusive human capital development must be catered for. This serious lack in our educational system must be urgently rectified to enable the nation begin to recover the lost grounds. It must be borne in mind that a strong inspection and supervision machinery should be put in place for successful implementation.

The whole purpose of education is to achieve the goals of subjects and the individual students to acquire the necessary needs of society. Some of the needs discussed in the following analysis of goals of education should be noted and made sensitive to culture, religion, social and political principles of the nation. It is imperative to understand that the developing youths should know the principles of religion and the capital laws of the nation.

They are germane to the growth of the education of citizens.

A.The breeding of children and citizens for the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, which education assures, must be taken over by parents and the state as soon as possible. Such duties and responsibilities must be clear to both students and teachers, and made to remain part of their lives.

B.The assumption by school authorities that the task of unifying ethnic nationalities and helping this vast nation to develop together, grow and share a united single culture as a critical part of their responsibilities, must be reviewed. The Nigerian society is complex. Its education should increasingly be regarded as a means of inculcating flexibility into it to prepare the society for constructive change and growth. This should be done as a kind of mechanism that would enable the nation to consciously and continually renew itself through the development of its citizens. The schools should embody real workable common curricula and progressive administrative contents and structures to actualise the nation’s dreams and objectives. The main objective of the unity schools was to raise young Nigerians who would uphold the unity of the country above all other considerations, detribalised, tolerant in outlook and trained to accommodate others, irrespective of political, social, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. These attributes should be revisited in a robust form. The establishment of the schools was rather zonal. The dream of General Yakubu Gowon during his administration however, that each state should establish a unity school would definitely lift the main objective of the overall project, perhaps one step higher, into a more realistic ambition.

  1. The equipping of young people with technical and vocational skills should be strengthened in the belief that education in the fullest sense should enable them to develop their own judgement, evaluate their own lives and the institutions of their society. Basic entrepreneurial studies should be part of the training.
  2. As scientific and technological education seem to grow increasingly important, it has become crystal clear that to be a mature and effective citizen, a man needs to be more than a technician. The goal is to create many more such independent men and women.

E.For those citizens who must go on studying, the state must provide a different and more advanced kind of school as breeders where teachers and teaching methods have higher standards of training.

F.The society will certainly appreciate the state and interested private entrepreneurs who will establish such universities for gifted student citizens in science and science related subjects to acquire technological skills which would enable them eventually to set up proficient job-providing establishments for fellow citizens.

  1. University lecturers will, of course, be expected to keep themselves and their students abreast of the latest research and development positions. Technological activities will help them maintain their focus on such world achievements for personal uses, even after completion of their courses in the universities.
  2. Education will, through counseling and proper management, ensure that students are exposed to necessary social adjustment and understanding of the many problems associated with the period of adolescence. Schools, especially universities, should see students from a possible perspective, ensure safe and supportive environments, and secure friendly societies for them.

I.The authorities should ensure that every child is positioned within the reach of functional and creative education to put him or her in a position to find ready occupation in life. Education without jobs may end up producing robbers.

J.Education has to provide the capacity to open the door for human and capital developments to enable the creation of solutions for national and personal challenges.

K.On the whole, education is the only sure avenue for breeding men and women who, on leaving school, know what to do to earn a useful and satisfactory livelihood within the society. The reason is that education actually sets it out as its goal to breed such citizens.

These goals of education are therefore the foundation stones on which educational curricula should be built. Curricula are made up of subjects for class education programmes, each of which has its objectives which the teachers should strive daily to meet. Unless the subjects in the curriculum cover the goals, the general purposes of education cannot be achieved; education being an intensely purpose-driven endeavour, with the goals representing the primary and pre-eminent purposes. They are the ingrained purposes of project education and without them educational concepts are as good as absent.

Not many people will think of sports when writing about education, but it is my strong view that an educational institution without a sports playground is only half equipped for the task of the education of youths. Physical education as a very important subject is important enough to be chosen as a course even in a university. One of the basic facts is that it promotes physical education as a subject and the popular saying that it promotes the acquisition of a healthy mind in a healthy body is only too apt, the body being the life of the human being. The student cannot comfortably go through a course of education if his body is not healthy.

Sports include all forms of competitive physical activities or games undertaken with the aim of using, maintaining or improving physical abilities and skills to provide enjoyment for participants, and entertainment for spectators. Participants compete against one another constrained and yet bridled by attitudes of fairness, honesty and respect for one another in a furiously polite atmosphere.

Sports are governed by sets of rules and regulations which serve to ensure fair competition and allow for judicious and consistent adjudication by referees and judges of games tournaments. Depending on which games are being played, recorders are employed to compute points for requisite decisions to ensure fair and accurate results.

In a situation in which parents, families, communities and societies have abandoned their responsibilities to children and youths, sports become useful and handy to provide the goals of education for the benefit of participants and even spectators. Apparent and even obvious in sports competitions are obedience to, and respect for the laws of society, earning good livelihood, recognition of hard work as an imperative prelude to success, team spirit, patience, learning to be good winners and good losers, never-say-die attitude, and the acquisition of the spirit of general sportsmanship, all of which are necessary goals achievable from sports and physical education; and these are some of the best attributes of the desirable citizens of a society. Sports programmes are therefore principal foundation stones of general education. That is why it is believed in credible quarters that true sportsmen can do no wrong. They would be satisfied with whatever results they achieve after a hard-fought competition.

Our children should not be denied the benefits of this essential education. The best access to this form of education is actual participation. It is time-consuming, but it is more than rewarding in the end. It leaves one with little or no more time for senseless and dangerous addictions inherent in secrete proclivities which arise from excess leisure.

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The dangers of excess leisure are most apparent in universities, especially when there are no proper official programmes to occupy undergraduates during those many out-of-lecture hours. This actually breeds some of those activities and associations which have become a pain in the neck of school authorities, parents and governments. Such universities and such other schools need to think of what help they could derive from social clubs and organisations some of which specialise in desirable social ethics and moral norms of character. Perhaps the National Orientation Agency can take advantage of such programmes by sponsoring them in secondary schools and universities nationwide.

Chief Sam. O.U. Igbe, MON, D.LITT (Honoris Causa)

Iyase of Benin



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