Education In Nigeria: The Journey So Far
Education is a very important aspect of a nation. Any government that looks down on the education of its citizens will pay dearly for it. Chika Mefor writes that Nigeria’s education sector has been on the downward trend since the early 80s, a situation, which has taken a toll on all aspects of the economy.
ducation is an important tool that develops an individual, promotes knowledge, skills, habits, and values. Over the years, the import of its role in every human endeavor cannot be over-emphasised. It has long been recognised not only as a central element in economic and social development but also in the human development.
It is has a vital input in modernisation and a means not only of raising political and social consciousness, but also of increasing the number of skilled workers and raising the level of trained man power for every country. It is no doubt an important factor in determining the level of human development of a given country. That is why countries who are serious and desirous to keep pace with developments at global level, place education at the top priority of its agenda.
The story of education in Nigeria could be described as the story of the nation itself. As at the 1970s, the quality of education in Nigeria was the envy of many developing and developed nations of the world. People of different nationalities moved enmass to acquire qualitative education in Nigeria. But after many years, the story became different. It has all become history and an unpleasant one at that. When the Nigerian youths listen to the story of education and how it had degenerated to an appalling state, they wonder whether there would be any magic to restore the sector to its former glory.
But unfortunetly such magic seems to far fetched, as a sharp turnaround has become the case. A trip to the U.S.A, Canada, the UK and even Ghanaian embassies in Nigeria would show a large number of people desperately seeking to get visas to other countries to study to get quality education from such countries. Some of there students most time sleep in such embassies and high commissions in a bid to secure a visa to fly to a safer haven, where quality education is assured. There is anguish and lamentations when a family member is denied a visa to study abroad. On the other hand, securing a visa goes with such celebration and thanksgiving in the church.
Nigerian youths have spent lots of time and money in the cyber café in search of scholarships for admission in one foreign school or another. Parents would sacrifice anything in other to get their children and wards to study overseas. That is the story state of education has found itself in the country.
Where did it go wrong? What is the reason for the sudden change in the nation’s education? Why does a visa to study abroad attract celebration? Theses are questions that are begging for answers. Whenever the question on why the mad rush outside the country to study comes into focus, people have given many reasons. The reasons range from the poor quality of education in Nigeria to the incessant strike actions in the country.
Zack Ikedi is a graduate from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Though he is now a graduate, he still feels embittered when he remembers the many years he wasted in school due to unending strike action.
"When I got admission, I did not know that I will waste a whole two years and more to strike action. It was not funny at all. It was either the internal strike by the lectures in my school or that of the nationwide strike. It went on and on that I got scared and wondered whether I will ever graduate. Thank God I did". That was before Ikedi was forced to pursue another admission in the University of Ghana.
"Before I got admission into the University of Ghana, I had wanted to study in my state’s university which was the Anambra State University. I am now in my second year studying Information and Technology (IT). I will ever thank God for helping me with that admission. Back home, the universities in the South East were on strike for over five months in 2010. This is what I could have been experiencing if I were there," says Ekene Okafor another Nigerian student studying at one of the universities in Ghana, when asked why he opted to go to Ghana to study.
It is true that the option of studying abroad has offered people a wider international career opportunities and an advantage that equips them with skills that employers of labour would jump at whenever one mentions a degree from a university outside the country. But one major reason for the rush of students to abroad, according to Ekene and Ikedi, is because of the of the incessant strikes in the nation education sector.
Hope seemed to be on the way when the private universities sprang up across Nigeria. For students of these institutions are known to gratuate at a stiputed time.
"The private schools have given us alternatives to choose from. I went to Madonna University Okija. My younger sister got admission at the University of Nigeria Nsukka a year before me. But I graduated the same year as she did. We went for our youth service together the same year. That is how the private universities operate,’’ said Anene James, when she spoke to LEADERSHIP EDUCATION, recently.
While the private institutions seek to solve the problem of instability experienced through strike actions which have been the problem of most of the government-own universities, Anene, however, said that their school fees are exorbitant and that not everyone could afford it.
What then is the future of education in Nigeria?
Recently, the Federal Government approved the establishment of twelve new universities and plans are also to upgrade others, which many believe would ease access to tertiary education. Nine out of the twelve universities are soon to commence studies as thier respective vice chancellors and the registrars have already been appointed.
In 2010, the Minister of Education Prof Ruquyyatu Ahmed, Rufa’i organised an educational summit where issues bothering on education were discussed. She had also planned a one-year strategic roadmap and has inaugurated task teams that would make sure that the plans were implemented.