When Segun Odegbami, one of the most respected sports personalities, returned to Nigeria a few weeks ago after spending about three weeks with Nigerian athletes in the United States, he shared his observations with his readers in his blog www.mathematical7.com.
Odegbami writes: “They tell me there is a feeling that Nigeria needs them now to come and contribute their different skills and experiences to lift Nigerian sport from the abyss where it has been for many years to new heights of Olympic proportions. At no time in Nigeria’s history do we have such a rich pool of learned, experienced, and authentic retired sportsmen and women, trained in different fields of sports that are prepared to commit themselves to produce the next generation of world class athletes!”
This characterization of the general feeling of Nigerians in the Diaspora is what is driving the Coalition of Concerned Nigerian Educators – USA (CCNE), a newly formed educational not-for-profit organization, whose aim is to return Nigerian education to its glorious past. The organization has pledged to close the education gaps in Nigeria by the year 2015, and in doing so, will open the path for Nigerians in the Diaspora to make contributions to education in Nigeria.
Almost a decade into the 21st century, Nigeria has not found a sustainable solution to the myriad problems facing education in spite of the development dollars coming to it from various educational reform interest groups within and without.
There is a general agreement in the Diaspora as well as in Nigeria that Nigeria’s educational system now needs more than ever the human capital and financial support from Nigerians in the Diaspora, despite the recent negative comments being expressed by high ranking officials in government. If the nation truly hopes to meet the Education for All (EFA) goals and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, there should be an urgent reexamination of the strategies currently in use, as many observers of and writers on education continue to draw perplexing conclusions that the current methods and approaches are simply not working.
The connection between education and national development has been established; education is a catalyst for human and capital development. Sustainable economic development in any part of the world has predicated on obtaining more knowledge and more skill, requiring increasingly higher levels of education, technical competence, and computer literacy. This has fueled successful efforts by a handful of developing nations to strengthen human capital in ways that have contributed significantly to their current status as emerging global markets (Eke, 2009).
According to UNESCO’s 2009 EFA Global Monitoring Report, one out of every nine out-of-school children in the world is a Nigerian (UNESCO, 2008). A vast majority of out-of-school children are girls, this underscore the problem of inequitable and lopsided access in the system. This fact, when married to the high adult illiteracy rate undermine Nigeria’s quest to be a top 20 economy by the year 2020. Further cause for concern could be found in the fact that trends suggest that Nigeria is not about to give up the dubious distinction of having the largest out-of-school population in the world any time soon (Eke, 2009).
The same report projects that Nigeria’s out-of-school population will only slip from the current 8.1 million to 7.6 million by 2015 if current educational policies continue to guide programs and practices. On the quality front, the problem of poor quality has become endemic in the entire educational system, from primary to tertiary education. This poor product quality is most glaring at the tertiary level where World Bank surveys of employers of graduates show that tertiary education graduates are weak in problem-solving, business understanding, computer use, communication, and teamwork skills. These are all high value skills in the new global economy. The employer surveys further reveal a “total lack of practical skills among technology graduates in Nigeria” (World Bank, 2006). While not intended as a catalogue of the ills and shortcomings or a complete indictment of Nigeria’s educational system, the discussion above only address some of the symptoms of the deeper challenges facing Nigeria as it strives for economic development in a “flat world”(Eke, 2009).
Whatever the reasons for the current dismal picture one gets from the 2009 EFA Global Monitoring Report, it is now apparent that Nigeria cannot afford to continue with an ineffective and unresponsive educational system that does not meet the country’s development challenges. This is why the CCNE has decided to take a look at the impediments to educational progress in Nigeria. The Washington D.C. Summit is a critical first step in correcting the problem facing education in Nigeria. Time is indeed running out for Nigerians to solve the education crisis that threatens to rob the nation of the intellectual capital of a second generation of young men and women, and the opportunity to achieve its Millennium Development Goals and Vision 20-20 aspirations (Eke, 2009). This is a call to come together to chart a new course for education in Nigeria.
The newly appointed Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu, has also made a pledge to put the nation’s education system on a pedestal of efficiency and functionality. The CCNE must seek consultative status with the National Council on Education (NCE), the highest policy making body on education in Nigeria and the Nigerian Educational Research and Development council (NERDC). This partnership is consistent with the vision of President Yar’Adua.
The CCNE-USA Washington, D.C. Summit begins May 1-3, 2009. For more information, please contact, Eke at 610-203-9768 or at keoyeeke.msn.com. I strongly urge my readers and friends (particularly Sabella O. Abidde and others in the Washington, D.C area to attend.