By Chiedu Uche Okoye
MACMILLAN School dictionary defines education as “the activity of educating people in schools, colleges and universities, and all the policies and arrangement concerning this”. Down the ages, the African people have been engaged in the enterprise and activity of acquiring education as evidenced by the existence of the University of Timbuktu long before Africa and its people(s) came under imperial subjugation and rule.
The acquisition of education by the people(s) of Africa is the light that penetrated and dispelled the pall of darkness that once enveloped Africa. The White people brought Western education to us and built schools where knowledge and good morals were inculcated into people.
In Nigeria, those educated people helped to put a stop to some obnoxious, vile and inhuman cultural practices such as the killing of twins. And many people who attended schools built by White people secured employment in the civil service and contributed their quota to the development of Nigeria.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the post-primary schools and universities in Nigeria offered quality education to students. And good morals were inculcated into them. Little wonder, then, Nigerian schools became an educational Mecca of sorts for non-Nigerian students, who were very hungry for qualitative university education.
At that time, our universities were truly citadels of learning and bastions of scientific and humanistic knowledge. Products of our schools held their own in their chosen areas of specialisation at the global level.
However, sadly, with tempus fugit, the excellence that was associated with Nigerian schools was eroded. The diminution of the educational standard in Nigeria was partly caused by the military intervention in our politics. Our military rulers’ enactment of draconian laws to muzzle voices of dissent in the polity compelled our leading intellectuals to leave Nigeria.
We do remember that Patrick Wilmot, a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, was deported to his home country for flimsy reasons. And the devaluation of our naira currency owing to the mismanagement of our economy caused many a Nigerian professional to seek greener pastures outside the shores of Nigeria.
Again, the institutionalisation of corruption in Nigeria by the Ibrahim Babangida regime caused the erosion of family values in Nigeria. Owing to the entrenchment of corruption in the country, many people stopped setting stores by family values. The Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means”, became the lodestar and guiding principles of millions of Nigerians.
So, in no time, parents, who wanted their children to study such professional courses as Accountancy, Medicine, Law and others, would hire surrogate candidates to sit examinations like NECO, SSCE and NABTEB for their children. “Miracle centres”, which dot the nooks and crannies of the country, are being used to perpetrate large scale examination malpractices to benefit a great number of examination candidates.
And admissions of students into faculties of Law, Medicine and others are determined by factors of nepotism and inducement. Merit is destroyed and sacrificed on the altar of nepotism, cronyism and corruption. Not surprisingly, many doctors, accountants, lawyers and lecturers in Nigeria manifest and display charlatanism while performing their duties.
In contrast to what obtained in the 1960s and 1970s, when the certificates of secondary school leavers reflected their true academic abilities, some of today’s secondary school leavers are ignoramuses who know next to nothing in subjects they scored distinctions in examinations like NECO, SSCE, NABTEB, and others.
Even among students, the ruling weltanschauung is dislike for scholastic activities and ceaseless pursuit of wealth. So, against this background of pervasive corruption in our school system, can we discover true academic champions who deserve scholarship for their university education?
While the rot in our school system is deepening and festering, our political leaders at different levels are sitting on their hands and doing nothing. Not only are they insensitive to the plight and welfare of teachers, but also they do not equip the schools with modern science and laboratory equipment and computers. Add this to the intractable ASUU strikes over disputes with government, and you will get a graphic and true picture of the deep crisis into which our schools have sunk.
The incessant industrial actions by university lecturers, disrupt our universities’ academic calendars and elongate students’ stay on campuses. Because an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, the idling students do engage in the perpetration of heinous crimes like armed robbery and kidnapping. And the female students hawk their bodies for money. Were schools in session, the students would devote their time to studying their books instead of committing sundry heinous crimes.
But is the education obtainable in Nigerian schools qualitative? The answer is a categorical NO! In our universities, some lecturers seldom engage in researches to produce lecture notes for their students. Instead, they would dictate 30-year-old lecture notes to them. And most secondary school teachers, who are dispirited and disenchanted, moonlight to earn money to augment their meagre salaries.
However, there is a silver lining in the dark clouds as to the issues affecting our educational system, what with the recent ratification of government policies aimed at improving the living conditions of teachers in our post-primary schools and revamping our school system. When those measures are implemented, they will reduce the financial difficulties, which teachers suffer, and boost their morale.
The Federal Government should, however, settle its recurring face-off with ASUU, and articulate measures that would revamp our universities so that they can become world-class universities. If our universities become world-class schools, the educational tourism, which children of rich politicians do embark on, will stop as they will start to enroll for academic programmes in our universities.
To restore the past and lost glories of our universities should be the top priority of our political leaders, if they are desirous of transforming Nigeria to an economically and technologically developed country.
In today’s world, education is the bedrock of development of countries. As universities are citadels of learning, and bastion of scientific and humanistic knowledge, they should be well-funded, and lecturers’ morale boosted in order that the university teachers can push back the frontiers of knowledge and put Nigeria on the irreversible path of economic and technological development.
Okoye, a poet, wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State