Reinvigorating Education System In Nigeria

Reinvigorating Education System In Nigeria

Editor’s note: The purpose of education is to ensure the youths develop the knowledge, skills and personality traits that would allow them to respond adequately to the contemporary challenges and become contributing members of their respective communities. The Legit.ng columnist Japheth Omojuwa observes that the education system in Nigeria cannot boast of catering to these needs today.

The numbers are startling: one out of every three school-age children is not in school, that is some ten million children out of the formal education system. Failure in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination has become the norm. Between 2010 and 2014, the failure rate hovered between 70 to 80%. Nigerians are looking to acquire university education in Uganda, Kenya and Ghana, not to mention South Africa, Malaysia and Sudan. Something is wrong with our system and content of education, and that thing has been wrong for a long while. The system and the content of our education need a complete overhaul.

How others are doing it

How are our multinational companies involved with the syllabus, admission, graduation and internship processes of our universities? I will use Jaguar Land Rover automotive company as a case study of a reality that abounds in several countries serious about the need to develop graduates who fit into the needs of the modern and future economy. Jaguar Land Rover is involved with over 30 universities and academic institutions in the United Kingdom. Its relationship with Warwick and Coventry Universities especially come to mind. Jaguar Land Rover is principal sponsor of the Warwick Manufacturing Group’s (WMG) Academy for Young Engineers. WMG is an affiliate of Warwick University. The academy caters for the technical development of students 14-19 years of age and specializes in practical and academic instructions. Jaguar Land Rover and other major employers shape the curriculum of the academy. They are directly involved in the content of the instructions and practical lessons provided by Warwick to the students. With Coventry University, Jaguar Land Rover annually has some 100 of its employees enrolled as students in the university. Research activities are conducted in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover and other major employers.

It has to be said that this is not a model specific to Jaguar Land Rover and the aforementioned universities; it is fast becoming a universal model. Companies are now directly involved in the content of education provided by universities and in certain cases are also influencing the content of high school education.

Lagging behind

Nigeria appears quite far from this model because, as much as we spouted the word “autonomy,” especially during the President Obasanjo years in the noughties, the truth remains that most of our universities remain tied to the state governments and the federal government. You cannot look to be independent from a source that continues to supply the bulk of your funding. We are left with universities that more or less suffer the same fate and destiny. If one closes down due to union issues with the federal government, others are affected. The acronym ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) is more synonymous with school closures than it is with whatever agenda it is pursuing to make university education better in Nigeria. ASUU has done a lot to improve the lot of university lecturers and funding for universities in Nigeria, but “ASUU strike” is such a norm you would think that was the full name of the organization.

While some companies have supported and continue to support university and technical education in Nigeria, the majority would rather look to employ graduates of foreign universities in place of locally-educated ones. Companies will always do business according to their interest, and no one can successfully argue against that; but at what time would companies operating in Nigeria understand that Nigeria’s crumbled educational system will cost them more in the long run as long as the crumbling house continues to go down? A lot of these companies expend huge budgets on security and retraining of graduate staff. The sustainable thing to do would be for several companies to form solid partnerships to support universities in the cities or states where they operate.

Sponsoring celebrities, but not future "brain influx"?

Some companies are spending billions of naira on celebrities whose endorsements are more important to the celebrities’ bank accounts than able to influence the spending behaviour of consumers. There are laboratory tools that remain elusive in Nigeria that could be funded from money saved from yet another pointless celebrity endorsement. This is not to knock celebrity endorsement as some are indeed effective, but most are nowhere close to useful.

Instead of adopting celebrities, most of whom are out of the limelight within a decade, would it not be better for these companies to adopt universities? The idea should not be to just build halls or resource units, it should go beyond just awarding scholarships, or setting up endowment funds, it should have the companies directly influence courses related to the needs of their industries. That the companies are able to influence the content of courses should form parts of these sorts of engagements.

Investing in tomorrow

A situation where the economy is asking one question in terms of needs and the universities are providing answers that are irrelevant, in terms of graduates, to the needs of the economy is not sustainable. Before we speak of specializations, certain statistics indicate that some 70% of graduate employees cannot write in basic English. This is unacceptable. If we cannot get the basic things right, how then can we specialize?

The world and the essence of education and employment are changing at an increasing rate. Some of the top jobs today were not in existence less than half a decade ago, the top jobs of 2025 are not in existence today. How can a university system that cannot meet the needs of today’s job environment meet the needs of a tomorrow it is even barely prepared for?

Admittance is the first step to recovery

We have a long way to go but the least we can do today is admit our educational system needs to get fixed. That would happen only if we understand that this would involve a long process of developing a dynamic educational system rather than assume that new pronouncements would deliver the results. The way we thought changing the system from 6-3-3-4 to 9-3-4 would. Some would argue the change from 6-5-4 to 6-3-3-4 in 1982 only made things worse. Former minister of education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i even presented a reversal to 6-3-3-4 to the National Assembly but not without an amendment, adding 1 to make it 1-6-3-3-4. Whatever system gets introduced will be introduced in the same environment of teachers who would rather be anywhere but the classrooms and an education system that cannot meet its needs due to the shortage of private and public funding.

The revision of the basic education curriculum is a step in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done to revamp the system. We need a lot more investment in our universities, and we have already established the fact that the government cannot meet these needs. If it could not meet them during the years of unprecedented high oil prices, it cannot meet them now that oil prices have drastically declined. With a sizeable number of public universities still charging less than $100 per academic year as tuition, one is forced to wonder how such institutions will survive modern demands for university education where internally generated revenue is hardly enough to meet the basic needs of running the system.

If we cannot commit to making the sacrifice to make education work in Nigeria, we have already committed ourselves to a future of battling more insecurity, unemployment and high poverty rate. We can choose better.

Reinvigorating Education System In Nigeria
Japheth Omojuwa for Legit.ng

Japheth Omojuwa is a renowned Nigerian social media expert, columnist and Legit.ng contributor.

The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.

Source: Legit.ng

Authors:
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Khadijah Thabit (Copyeditor) Khadijah Thabit is an editor with over 3 years of experience editing and managing contents such as articles, blogs, newsletters and social leads. She has a BA in English and Literary Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Khadijah joined Legit.ng in September 2020 as a copyeditor and proofreader for the Human Interest, Current Affairs, Business, Sports and PR desks. As a grammar police, she develops her skills by reading novels and dictionaries. Email: khadeeejathabit@gmail.com

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