The Longman Dictionary of contemporary English defines education as “the process by which your mind develops through learning at school, college or university; the knowledge and skills you gain from being taught.”
Education is critical to the development of countries. Most of the first world countries are technologically advanced, and they owe their breakthrough and successes in the field of science and technology to robust and functional educational systems. Think of Japan and China, USA and Germany – these are developed economies. Their automobile and electrical products find markets in Nigeria and other African countries. They earn much revenue by exporting their products and goods to other countries, which boosts their economies. Their thriving economies are driven by both the implementation of prudent economic policies and technological innovations evolved by their citizens. But technological breakthroughs and inventions are achieved by students where the educational systems are virile and functional.
Here in Nigeria, mechanical engineers can’t repair their cars, not to talk of manufacturing simple tools. The economy is solely based on crude oil revenues. The nation’s inability to diversify the economy is intrinsically linked to its dysfunctional education system. So, what are the problems bedevilling Nigeria’s education system?
First, government’s budgetary allocation to education falls short of the UN stipulation. Due to paucity of funds, lecturers can’t access fund to carry out researches. Educational problems can’t be addressed when there is little money for running the sector. Some state-owned universities are utterly neglected and grossly under-funded. These institutions are better described as “glorified secondary schools”. Are their libraries well-stocked with the most recent books in diverse fields of study? Do they have enough lecture-halls that can hold students during lecture periods? Do they have teaching facilities, instructional materials and equipment for running some science-based courses? These are issues that impede the smooth transmission of knowledge from lecturers to students. Acquisition of knowledge by students can’t take place in schools where there is a dearth of facilities.
Equally, not long ago, teachers and lecturers embarked on industrial action to agitate for either increase in their salary or the implementation of a new salary scale, which led to stoppage of academic activities. As a consequence, the school calendar was altered, and the students stayed longer in schools than stipulated. As a way out, the issues that cause teachers to embrace industrial action instead of using other alternatives to settle their problems with government should be addressed.
But it is an open secret that teachers’ welfare is at the root of the strike actions. So, government and private school owners should not treat teachers’ welfare with levity. Teachers groom our future leaders. A poorly remunerated teacher can’t perform optimally.
But while blaming government, teachers also should share in the blame as many of them engage in multifarious unethical and corrupt deeds. In some universities, lecturers trade high grades for sex or money. This is the reason many lazy students graduate with classes of degrees they can’t defend.
Examination malpractice is very rampant in many schools in the country, especially during SSCE, NECO and UTME examinations. At times, some parents even offer school principals monetary inducement to help their children/wards during these exams. Surrogate and mercenary students are smuggled into examination halls to write examinations for the students. This leads to the bastardisation of the educational system. As a result, the grades that show on our certificates do not often mirror our abilities and level of knowledge, for which reason certificates obtained in Nigeria are treated with disdain outside Nigeria.
If government can curb the menace of examination malpractice during internal and external examinations, then those who are not qualified to gain admission into universities will be barred. This measure can reduce the population of cult members in our schools and make our campuses safe and conducive for learning.
As there are students who are not supposed to be in tertiary institutions, so are there teachers who are not worth their onions. In some states of the federation, the methods of recruiting teachers into secondary school are not stringent, transparent, and fair. People who boast of their relationship with political leaders are offered teaching jobs at the expense of better qualified ones. The factors of cronyism, nepotism, and bribery and corruption determine those who will land teaching jobs.
Furthermore, there’s been a proliferation of private schools across the country in recent times. While this in itself is not bad, it is sad that some of these schools are not fit to be called schools. Their owners run them solely as money-making ventures without caring about the quality of education the students receive. These schools lack libraries, science and technology equipment and sports fields. Worse still, some of their teachers are ill-educated and therefore ill-equipped for the task. Certainly, when a blind man leads another blind man, both of them will fall into a pit. Teachers, both in private and government schools, should be re-trained from time to time so that they would gain more knowledge and be able to perform optimally.
Finally, government should step up its regulation of privately-owned schools as this would ensure that only schools that meet the minimum required standards are left to stand.
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