By Oge Nwabueze
By 2030, the Nigerian education system would be referred to as top-notch. It would be a mirror to other universities all over the world. We would have world class structures with exceptional facilities. It would be an extremely competitive sector where people from all over the world would have a hungry desire to acquire knowledge from and get an education degree. Politicians, business mogul, the crème de la crème and the wealthiest in the nation would see every reason to allow their wards go through the Nigerian education system.

The sector would be building a total graduate not just graduates with theoretical knowledge alone, but also one with practical skills. They would be regarded as graduates of high intellectuals all over the world. Those that are studying overseas would beg to comeback home just to be called Nigerian graduates. There would be a hundred percent (100%) reduction crave for overseas education. There would be high enrollments and expansion in the sector. Nigerian students would compete with students of other countries in science and technology and then emerge winners. There would be massive competition between Nigerian institutions and other top-notch institutions overseas, but we would emerge winner. Our researches would be highly relied on. Our classrooms would have 21st century software; state of the art tech/facilities and instructional materials. And as students are dropping their pen, there would already be jobs on ground for them.

But all these would be hallucinations that can never be feasible if there is no paradigm shift in the education sector. This is the time for the sector to do something differently from what it used to. A famous quote says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” To be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, we need to move from the usual to unusual. The major cause of delay in the transformation of the country’s education sector is that Nigerians like to stick to the old method of doing things. They ‘chant’ change all the time, but when the change finally comes, they do not embrace it. They see it as either a scam or something that is not real. They criticize new things and kill the idea before it even starts to grow and then later, they say things are not working out well.
But how would they? I vividly remember when computer was introduced which was a replacement of typewriter, people still stuck to the use of typewriter. Most awkward was that during any ‘typing’ examination, they still made use of the typewriters. What can a typewriter do that a computer will not do better? People were of the opinion that typewriter was ‘blablabla’, but the actual truth is that they are used to the old way of typing documents and do not want to try something new. They had rather stick to old technology. Same thing also happened when the white board was introduced as against the chalk board; it would shock you to know that some schools are still making use of the primeval blackboard. Educators also need to update their old notes; there should be a change in the content they have been dishing out in the past decade. The government as well as those in the education sector should provide an educational environment that is all round tech-driven. There must be computers with efficient internet connections. If there is a new technology on ground, it should be instantly replaced with the old one. So, to build a better future in the education sector, there must be paradigm change, we must move away from doing things in the olden days way to doing things in the contemporary way. Every day, the world is changing, so we must be a part of the change.

I am tired of the ‘over used cliché’- Nigerian graduates are half baked. You would be shocked to know that people make this general remark because some graduates’ cannot communicate well; they can neither write nor speak well. For instance, you hear a graduate say I love to dot my T’s and cross my I’s which supposed to be the other way. So, who should be held responsible if a graduate can neither speak nor write well? Your guess is as good as mine. If a university graduate cannot speak or write well, check his or her foundation. Early years’ education is the foundation, so if it is wrong, every other thing will be wrong. All schools (primary, secondary, university) should make letter writing a compulsory weekly subject. There should also be dictionary check every day, where the students learn a new word, its meaning and usage. Basic education starts from the primary level which is the foundation of education and most primary schools do not set the right foundation for the students. If the foundation is faulty, it would affect other areas and we are bound to have faulty graduates who will pose a problem in the future, which is saddening. They started on a wrong foot and would most likely end on a wrong foot. More saddening is the fact that some schools are established as a self-start syndrome. They have seen that a lot of people are in great quest of education to garner knowledge. But they set up, with nothing to offer to the people in dire need of knowledge, what they are thinking about is how to enrich their pocket and not the knowledge of the pupils. They have seen how lucrative the sector is. In the olden days, no one wanted to be a part of it, anyone that mentioned education was looked down upon, but now the case is different, “The rejected stone has become the chief corner stone”.

While some set up a school, they lack vision, good teachers, instructional and teaching materials, good structure, serene environment good facilities that inspire learning. They give substandard education. They just want to own a school for the sake of it. They think education is about building structures together and then putting any male or female figure to teach the pupils. So, since people own a school for the wrong reason, then we may not attain that level we desire. So, education needs to be tackled from the foundation so that the future of the country’s education system will be solid. Even the bible confirms this, ‘For if the foundation is destroyed what can the righteous do?’
To be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, we again must employ people who are keen about education, people who just naturally have an affinity for teaching and for working with students; not people who took teaching as a last resort because they were unable to secure a job or perform well in studies. If this is the case, this is likely to affect the performance of students, because they are being taught by people whose minds are not in the job/people who do not want to have any dealing with the education sector. There is a need for teachers to undergo some professional/academic training to prepare them for the task of facilitating the education of scholars in the school. There should also be periodic trainings of both teaching and non-teaching staff in the education sector.
To be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, government must also make education available and affordable especially for those that are not financially capable. If this is made possible, a lot of Nigerians will be hungry for education without being coerced. Education is the bedrock/tool of a nation’s development. With education you gain knowledge and know how to apply the knowledge. If the quality of education in the country is of low standard, it is likely to inhibit the growth of a country.

To be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, an educational environment must be pupil and teacher friendly. It must be serene with no form of distractions if we want our students to perform excellently. It must be conducive, enabling and beautiful to help the smooth transmission of knowledge from lecturers to students. A beautified structure with various learning art works will help spur creativity and inspire learning. The environment of an institution can either make or mar a student.

To be referred to as top-notch, teachers must learn to teach the students sounds of each letters. The students must be good at sound and should be able to use it to pronounce a word.

To be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, there is a need for the budget on education which caters for all federal universities, federal polytechnics, federal unity schools, and federal colleges of education to be reviewed. Nigeria’s total budget for 2017 was 7.298 trillion naira while 500.443 billion (398.01 for recurrent, 142 billion for capital expenditure) was allocated to education as against UNESCO 26% recommendations. It is no longer news that Nigeria spends less than ten per cent of its annual budget on education when smaller African nations like Botswana spend 19.0%; Swaziland, 24.6%; Lesotho, 17.0%; South Africa, 25.8%; Cote d’Ivoire, 30.0%; Burkina Faso, 16.8%; Ghana, 31%; Kenya, 23.0%; Uganda, 27.0%; Tunisia, 17.0%; and Morocco, 17.7%. If we don’t invest in education now, which is the tool/vehicle for a nation’s development, then how do we want to develop. How do we move from under-developed country to a developed country? It’s high time we tackled the issue of (finance, basic teaching/learning infrastructures, shortage of staff/schools/ classroom/accommodation/offices, dilapidated buildings, lack of fund to carry out intensive researches, decrepit laboratory equipment, delay in salary payment/low remuneration, examination malpractices, terrible facilities, inadequate laboratories for teaching/research, shortage of/outdated textbooks/journals, establishment of substandard schools, pathetic structures, bad toilets, shortage of water, small libraries/ libraries that lack relevant materials and books that meet the information needs of the students, loathsome charges of the students through textbooks/handout/school fees.) If all these are not thrashed out, we would continue having ceaseless strikes. Educators will keep going on strike until their voices of dissatisfaction are heard. When there is continuous strike, there would be a pause in the calendar activities and this would later affect the school calendar year. In essence, the budget allocated to education must be weightier than what is currently allocated to it. Funding keeps any institution in existence. When it lacks the necessary fund, it would keep struggling to stand. The budget should be reviewed and the money channeled to the right source,

To be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, we need to have good amenities. Imagine a student that went to school to learn, but there are no chairs or tables for the student. It has come to the fore that most of the students of various schools sit on the bare floor in a classroom and write on their laps, because of inadequate chairs and tables, some even go as far as sitting on the wall. There is also the issue of leaking classrooms, when it rains; it becomes difficult to teach in those classrooms. The teachers will not even show up in the classroom. This is becoming too embarrassing. Also, visits to various schools show that most of their toilets are in decrepit states thereby endangering the lives of the students. Some time ago, there was this news that an eight-year old primary school pupil, fell into an open dilapidated pit toilet while defecating. Students in the University because of lack of good toilets, sometimes engage in situations such as the use of ‘shot put’ where faeces is disposed off in the bush or River. Anyone/group that is not ready to set up good facilities, should not erect a structure and then call ‘school’
To be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, teachers must be paid well. If there is no motivation, how can they do a satisfactory job? It is saddening that teachers who are the foundation maker of any individual are among the lowest paid in the country. This is why people have taken the teaching career as a last-resort, till they get better jobs. Some educators are poorly paid. They at times yield to receiving bribes (exchanging marks for money or body for marks) thereby encouraging brain drains. For maximum performance, they need to be taken care of. Their wages/welfare packages/ retirement benefits should be mouthwatering. There should also be special salaries. There should be superb rewards for their efforts; this would help encourage them. I once worked in a primary school where everyone looked forward to the month of December. This was because December was fully packed. You get to work for limited number of days and still get your full salary, there was also the 13th month salary as well as food stuff given in that same month.
To be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, the curriculum must be reviewed and updated to include programs that are more responsive to nation’s development and that enhance relevant learning. There should be a continuous renewal of the curriculum. Most of our curriculums are outdated.
Lastly, to be referred as top-notch in the nearest future, government needs to be extremely concerned about the growth of the country’s education system and keep to their promises concerning the education sector. They need to put their words into action, and not just leave it as words of mouth. They need to awaken programs that will make the future of the country’s education bright. Nigeria had toiled with some educational programs that did not work out. The nation launched the Universal Primary education (UPE), the Universal Basic Education (UBE), what about the 6-3-3-4 education; not much has been heard about these programs. The new government is yet to enforce nine years of compulsory basic education to every Nigerian as well as provide free education to tertiary level for students in the science, technology, Engineering and mathematics (STEM) and Education fields, and also provide free meal. The education sector would be better if government promises are kept.
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