Nigeria At 50: The Way Forward For Her Education

Melissa M. Taylor

It is no longer news that the rate of failure in the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the National Examinations Council (NECO) exams; the two foremost examinations students have to undertake for successful completion of secondary school, and to qualify for admission into higher institutions of learning, have increased tremendously over the years. The percentage of failure as Nigeria turned fifty this year is so alarming as over 70% of students who undertook the aforementioned examinations failed Mathematics and English Language; the two major subjects a student must pass in order to get admitted into most courses in higher institutions. A question must be asked; should our education sector improve or decline as a nation?

These recent events have confirmed the insensitiveness of those put in charge of our education sector in the past few years to the rotten nature of the sector. Each of the decision makers in the sector bring up their own policies as soon as they assume power, and this has led to the instability of our education as new syllabus and styles are employed each time there is a new decision maker in the sector. Funny enough, the current Minister for Education in the wake of the recent failure of students in Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE), suggested that the number of subjected offered in these examinations could be reduced from nine (9) to five (5) as she believed the enormous nature of most of these subjects might have been responsible for the students’ failure. Sadly, we may wake up tomorrow and find out that her opinion has become a law. I strongly disagree with her opinion and I believed many well-meaning Nigerians would do same. At fifty, I believe Nigeria would have gotten it right, at least in this important sector, but obviously, we haven’t.

We all believe that youths are the leaders of tomorrow. Unfortunately, we are hardly doing anything to ensure that the future is bright. Education is more than just teaching, reading, and passing examinations. Perhaps, that is where we got it all wrong. If Nigeria is going to achieve anything great, more attention needs to be given to the educational sector. We may not need professors to build this sector as we all know how corrupt the world has gotten, and anybody could have become a professor by any means- I stand to be corrected, though. We need people who are passionate about the future of Nigeria, people who would be ready to forsake their comfort for the nation’s sake, people who are visionary. We need leaders, not managers. Leaders work by vision, Managers work by sight.

Our educational system is obviously heading for doom and our nation’s future in jeopardy if people who understand education as the teaching and training of the mind and character, and not just passing exams are not allowed to run it. Saving our education is the only way to save Nigeria’s future. The future leaders need to know what leadership is all about, their character needs building. This can be done through education. We must save our education from the savaging decision makers.

I don’t know if I’m the only one who has noticed that not only the decision makers are killing our education, the corporate bodies aren’t helping either. In times past, schools used to be interesting for the brilliant students that the other students strive to be better than them in other things so as to strike a balance. This was how great men in various fields were born in the past. There used to be several contests and competitions that saw a healthy rivalry develop amongst students, and that brought out the best in many.

There is a disease in Nigeria now that would see corporate bodies and individuals do only things others are already doing. Maybe it was existent then and probably that was why there were many companies sponsoring many competitions in schools. The spotlight moved to entertainment some years back and it had been hard on our education sector since as several talent-hunt shows and contests emerge daily with big corporate bodies as sponsors. Almost all companies doing well and sponsoring things in their giving-back-to-the-society plan has forsaken the educational sector. Young people win millions of Naira in several talent-hunt shows across the country and their counterparts struggling to keep up with the challenge of focusing on education despite distractions from the sides are blown away. Nobody seems to be waiting for what the future will bring if they keep doing well in their education when there is an opportunity of winning millions if you can showcase your talent. The era of educative contests and shows seem to be fading away. We now hear headlines like “21 year old wins N2.5 million in talent-hunt show”. MTN’s “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” seem to be the most popular and most rewarding educative show left, but how many young people in the 16-25 age range has won something substantial on the show?

Youths seem to be losing it. There are books of general knowledge, motivational books, and the likes. How many have you bought in the last three years as a youth? There are organizations with educative programs like talk shows, contests, etc. Have they ever gotten a chance at getting good sponsors? Some youths showed me the prospectus of their organization and I was impressed to know there are still youths who have a lot upstairs. Sadly, I’ve not been able to hook them up with a sponsor ever since.

I am not saying the talent-hunt is bad, neither am I saying it should be stopped. I’m just a crusader for change who believes we could use more sponsors in the educational sector to support organized essay competitions, subject quizzes, poetry contests, etc. Let’s give educating the youths our best shot and watch what becomes of our great nation.

As the elders say; “What an old man sees sitting down, a boy cannot see it even if he climbs a tree”. Let’s hear out the old men who have always been here and follow their good advice. They might have seen what we may never see.

Nigeria is fifty. Let’s join our hands and work hard to make this country a better place for the coming ones.

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