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Opinion: Nigerian educational system and the reign of philistinism

Chiedu Uche Okoye

Education is broadly classified into two; namely, formal education and informal education. Before the Caucasoid imperialists colonized Africa, and brought western education to us, African parents would give their children informal education, and socialize them into the cultural mores of their respective towns and kingdoms. In the pre-colonial Africa, however, the University of Timbuktu in Mali was a revered centre of learning and scientific research. And it’s in Egypt, which is reputed as a cradle of civilization, that hieroglyphic (a form of writing) was invented. Both Egypt and Mali are on the African continent.

Before the advent of the white people in Africa, children were always given informal education in diverse areas to prepare them for challenges of life, such as eking out livelihoods. In Igboland, Southeast of Nigeria, for example, a man would teach his male children how to cultivate food crops, hunt wild animals for food, build houses, and mend leaking thatched roofs.

And the young females were taught how to cook many types of delicacies. They would learn social etiquettes from their mothers, too. Chinua Achebe’s anthropological novels describe vividly the Igbo people’s ways of doing things in the pre-colonial and colonial periods.

When the white people came to Africa for the reason of subjugating it to amass wealth for their respective countries, they built schools in the colonies where native Africans were taught languages of the white people, Mathematics, Biology, Geography, Economics, Chemistry, and others. During that period, the educated Africans were recruited into various cadres in the civil service to assist the white people in administering the colonies. Till now, we are still thankful and grateful to the white people for bringing western education to us as it hastened the political emancipation of African states. The educated Africans like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and others deployed the knowledge they acquired from schooling in fighting for the decolonization of Africa.

Education, we all know, is the light that dispels the darkness of ignorance. So, today, no nation-state desirous of achieving economic prosperity and attaining great technological heights neglects the issues concerning its education. And it will religiously abide by the UNESCO stipulation or recommendation, which says that countries should allocate 26% of their national budgets’ estimates to education.

In the first republic, soon after we had gained political freedom from Britain, Nigeria had political leaders, who set store by education. Alhaji Tafewa Balewa, our prime minister then, was described as a man with literary and intellectual disposition. And Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an erudite journalist par excellence, was our president. Then, Chief Obafemi Awolowo whose political leadership tended towards democratic welfarism formulated and   implemented the free education policy in the western region. Many people from impoverished homes benefited from that free educational policy. Today, they are responsible citizens of Nigeria, who are contributing their quota to our national development.

So, before the 1983 military putsch that brought Muhammadu Buhari to power, the quality of education obtainable in our schools, from kindergarten to the tertiary level, was very high. And degree certificates obtained from Nigerian universities by people were highly regarded and treated with deep respect overseas. More so, products of our schools could compete favourably with their peers form other countries. But the military interregnums we experienced contributed in no small way to the educational crisis we are experiencing now because they destroyed our ordered systems of doing things. 

Now, the golden age of our educational system has gone. Most of our universities, which are glorified secondary schools, are no longer the bastion of academic excellence and centers of scientific and literary researches. And they do not rank among the best universities in the world. Worst still, on campuses across Nigeria, religious activities and beauty pageantry have taken the centre stage at the expense of academic researches and intellectual undertakings. But more worrisome is the stark fact that our schools are suffering from acute infestation of cultism with its concomitant deleterious effects.

Again, in most tertiary institutions in Nigeria, lecherous male lecturers demand sex from female students, who want to scale the academic hurdle at any cost. And other lecturers who have no moral scruples award high grades to undeserving students who give them money.

That’s how our university lecturers contribute to the commercialization, bastardization, and the lowering of the standards of education in the country.    Consequently, degree certificates got from Nigerian universities are viewed contemptuously in Europe and America as those certificates are not true reflections of the mental and academic capabilities of their possessors.

Today, our university graduates are semi-literate people who are found wanting both in character and learning. Those university graduates, who are not in the habit of reading books, got admissions into schools through underhand means. Their rich, well-connected, and seemingly educated parents   hired mercenary students to sit UTME and SSCE for them; so, they got admissions into Universities to study courses like law, Medicine, Engineering, Accountancy, and others. While in universities, they cut corners to pass their courses instead of swotting hard to acquire knowledge in their areas of specializations. Consequently, now, Nigeria is ravaged by the epidemic of philistinism.

Young Nigerians, who are future leaders in our country, do not place much premium on reading, anymore. Yet, we’ve this saying: Readers are leaders. But, sadly, even our current leaders are not avid readers of books; they are intellectual dilettante. That’s why our country is at the cross-roads of economic stagnation and technological backwardness.

No countries in our today’s world can rise above the visions, dreams, and imaginings of their national leaders. A great leader imagines the type of country he wants, and works assiduously to achieve it.

So, it behooves our leaders to lead the charge to reignite and revive the dying culture of reading books among our teeming millions of youths. Reading books can displace the prevalence of cultism in Nigeria if those wielding political power and forthright parents can sensitize our youths to the benefits derivable from reading books and the dangers inherent in being a cultist.

Reading widens one’s mental horizons and imbues one with knowledge. Our leaders at different levels should prioritize revamping our comatose educational system as it is not unconnected to the dying culture of reading here.

Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi Anambra State

-Sun

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Posted by on May 14 2019. Filed under Education, Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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