The greatest challenge will be how to raise the standard of education in Nigeria with minimal or no government involvement. Please do not ask me why, because events in and around our educational sector has shown us how serious our government can be when it comes to improving the educational standards. Part of the reason why our “rulers” do not give education the required attention is because some of their children are studying overseas. Many are studying in nearby Ghana and other African countries. This reminds me of a suggestion that I made earlier that all government functionaries should have their children study in Nigeria while they are still in government positions. Exception should be for people on foreign services.
It should be an unpatriotic act to have your children studying abroad while you’re holding a government position. Nigerians should take this matter to the National Assembly and all states Houses of Assembly to pass a law prohibiting children of government functionaries from studying abroad while their parents are still holding government positions. Same should apply to health care. Perhaps a policy in the above direction might bring some seriousness on the part of government officials and thus usher in changes in our education and healthcare system.
Having said the above, I want to propose exchange programmes between the private universities and government universities. I want the 41 private universities, polytechnics, and other privately owned higher institutions to design an exchange programmes particularly for the students of public universities. The idea will be to cross exchange ideas, learning skills, study experiences, share books, journals etc. I want the private universities to take up the challenges of improving the standard of education, by assisting the students of public universities using the mechanism of exchange programmes. On the fallen standard of education in Nigeria, private institutions (universities, polytechnics etc) cooperation with government institutions provides a viable option that can improve the quality of education. Exchange programmes should also be encouraged between government and private owned primary and secondary schools.
A lot has gone wrong with the public schools. The lack of funding (below the UNESCO standard of 26% of annual budgets) is a big factor. The industrial disputes between the government, Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) etc, has taken its toll on Nigerian students. Let us also factor in the internal university crisis, like the tussle to become the University of Benin Vice Chancellor etc. All these have negative effects on the students. Obviously, when two elephants fight, the grass will suffer. The grasses in this case are the Nigerian students who are paying the price.
As it stands, I appeal for a rescue plan from the private sector. Education is light and knowledge will forever govern ignorance. Ignorance is also a disease. I want the private sector (parents, teachers, non governmental organizations, business community, churches etc) to embark on a massive campaign to raise the culture of reading. Let the private sector do whatever it will take to get Nigerians reading. We need to read more to improve our standards. Let the Nigerian people take this as a challenge to encourage children and youths to read, as this will have a clear and positive effect on academic achievements in school and outside the school. Another fact we need to understand is that, low levels of literacy can lead to poor outcomes amongst students, which in turn can lead to high unemployment, crimes, etc.
Nigerians need to encourage their children and the youths to read more science and technology courses. It gave me serious concern when I learnt that South African government is recruiting mathematics and sciences teachers from Nigeria. This is an area we need most. This is also another brain drain, but again they will remit foreign exchanges back home. In the absence of our oil revenue, remittances from Nigerians abroad are the second largest source of foreign exchange. Though that I will not blame any teacher that leaves Nigeria, but my advise is, let them fashion a way of transferring their foreign experiences back to Nigeria.
We need also to encourage our people to study skills acquisition in addition to their normal academic programme. We can design skills acquisition courses at the end of every academic year for our children/youths etc. This will take away their mind from crimes etc. An idle mind is a devils workshop. Let us also encourage our people to take overseas distance learning courses. Exposure to overseas distance learning might be a better way for people to experience the standards of education in the western world. Quiz competitions amongst students should be encouraged as well.
I will recommend adult education for parents and families who are not educated. There is need to educate our uneducated parents and families. I have said these because, the child’s first and most important teachers are the parents or the family members. Educated parents will likely engage in their children’s education. Better still, there could be home study programmes if parents are educated. In a report on Time Magazine of November 23 2009 edition, many Chinese students spend twice as many hours doing homework than their United State counterparts, partly due to family involvement. I will ask private educational providers to design programmes whereby tutors can visit people at their work places or business places to deliver lecture. I understand some people might be too busy to leave their offices/business to attend adult education centers, in such situation, tutors can visit such people.
I will also propose the establishment of community libraries and learning centers in every community. This project should be undertaken by the communities. It could be a room or two. Nigerian communities/villages should build community libraries the same way they established community banks. Many communities established community banks, same spirit should adopted to build community libraries. It should be equipped and managed by the communities. Nigerians at home and abroad should donate books to these libraries.
I will recommend an arrangement whereby the federal, state and local governments will grant tax waivers to private institutions in return for them to increase their yearly students’ enrolment, offer scholarships, studentships, funding, etc. Let me also propose more private sector (companies, banks etc) collaboration and funding of research projects in private universities.
Finally, I wish to appeal to Nigerians to participate and join the fight against global warming. Turn off your electrical appliances/lights when not in use. Plant a tree or sponsor one to plant on your behalf. Government and companies should send less paper work and do more email, telephone, and sms. May God bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK