Imperative of Reforms in the Education Sector of the Nigerian Economy

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

It is consistent with humanistic trends the world over that people are generally hostile to change and the changes that change brings. At the onset of the move by the CBN to align the nation’s financial industry with best practices around the world and introduce a cutting edge banking culture based on prudence, integrity and professionalism, there was a hue and a lot of cry when this novel idea was mooted by the CBN Governor mostly because there was a comfortable culture of impropriety and unethical etiquette prevalent in the banking industry. Not all knew that such a move to reposition the banking sector of the Nigerian economy was a part of the think-tank of the Federal Government’s NEEDS initiative within the National Planning Commission of which the CBN Governor was Chairman. Today, the NEED to introduce the same kind of changes in the banking sector that have brought significant and appreciable decorum in the banking sector has become all too necessary now in the education sector of our economy. The objective of this essay is to establish that there actually is a great and urgent need to push for the proposed reforms being introduced by the Honourable Minister of Education.

From quoting Philip Emeagwali from a speech titled ‘Recapitalization of the Financial Services Industry: Impact on the Nigerian Educational System’ delivered by the Chairman of Access Bank, Mr. Aig-Imoukuede at the University of Benin’s Inauguration Ceremony, on Saturday 21st August 2006 that, ‘…those who create knowledge are producing wealth while those who consume it are producing poverty’, we find that the educational sector of the Nigerian economy cannot be described as a creator of knowledge but a whole scale consumer of the proceeds of knowledge. The Nigerian economy is a consumer economy. It consumes a lot of the products of knowledge from nations of the world that invest massively in educational research and we attest to this mostly because nearly all of these products that are from scientific research and inquiry from the Western world find their way into Nigeria the minute they leave the factories where they were produced. In the last twenty years, emphasis on educational pursuit as a veritable engine house to power our country’s intellectual capacity that should drive the wheel of progress shifted drastically to the celebration of the mundane and the orchestration of the values that half-baked personalities who held positions of power exude. What this means is that there has been a paradigm shift in the focus of interest and attention of our young people: they no longer see the relevance of the institutions of learning in the country today if indeed such institutions hardly meet the needs for which they were instituted. Nearly fifty percent of those who go to school in Nigeria today have no idea why they are there, apart from the fact that attending university became a fad, a means to clinching the top jobs in government and with multi-nationals. Are there programmes in place in our secondary and tertiary institutions where graduates become employers rather than employees of labour? Is the curricula in our schools today structured in such as way as to make graduates be able to create, produce wealth rather than mere consumers of knowledge?  Thus, what comes off from this scenario is that we have found ourselves  at an educational crossroad where the confusion and crisis of identity and of perception have made a cross section of our young people identify with some of the reprehensible methods that our leaders have employed to ‘make it’ in life. There are no strata of our educational sector that have not been infested with the virus of examination malpractice, secret cults, and all of these leading to perennial poor results in examinations, the stain thereof diminishing the value and esteem that we used to place on the fabric of our national patrimony. In our estimation, the greatest backlash of this unfortunate culture of attaining enviable heights in society via unedifying tactics produced two things: one, since the results that some of our politicians are parading so as to be cleared for elective positions are fake, our young people too look for jobs in the country and for admission for further studies abroad with the results attained via rent-a-brains. That is why educational authorities abroad no longer have any respect for a country that once had Indians, the British, Americans, Ghanaians queuing up to come and take up teaching employment. Of course these expats all promptly hurried off in the early nineties when successive government after government owed them salaries and allowed them go on strike for months on end without thinking of the cumulative adverse effect that teacher-strikes had on the educational system and structure of any country. Since nobody anywhere in the international community no longer is seriously interested in degrees produced within the country, this has led to a lot of our students leaving the shores of Nigeria in a massive exodus to go to school mostly in the USA, the UK, Canada and (most appallingly for a nation with very vast material resources), to go to school in Ghana and Cyprus. If a Nigerian attempts to study in any foreign university anywhere in the world, most schools insist that they must do a foundation programme and they do this mostly to ascertain whether or not that candidate rented another person’s brain to prosecute his exams. If you do not feel embarrassed at this insult, it is indeed a shame. It goes to show that we still have not realized that there is a major crisis in this vital sector and the reforms proposed by the Honourable Minister are long overdue. We should not at this point be involved in the financial implications of Nigerians studying abroad because Nigerians are known abroad to be people who hardly have any idea what to do with their wealthy acumen.  The situation is even much more compounded these days especially when we now know that most multinationals prefer to go abroad to recruit Nigerians from foreign universities because they believe that students who studied abroad are better groomed to handle the socio-political challenges they will ultimately face when they enter the job market. That is not even the crux of the matter. It is this: that our educational system and curricula are still built on the colonial foundation that we inherited from the British.

Nigeria’s educational position, vis-à-vis countries within the West African sub-region is an embarrassing one to say the least. Some states in the North are very well known to have the lowest human development index according to the current United Nations Human Development Report. The indexes for measurement include those that the Federal Government has articulated within the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations and they include specific infrastructure put in place by relevant agents of government to give people access to education, health and the means of wealth creation. Going by this, it is not out of place to assert that the educational sector of our economy as the engine room that should be propelling force for the consolidation of these primary goals of the MDG is in crises. If something is not done now before the first quarter of the year 2007, we predict an entire collapse of the system. We strongly believe in the reform programme initiated by the Honourable Minister of Education and are delighted in the proposals being put in place to do something relevant to restore sanity and some order to our Augean educational stable. 

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Abiodun May 22, 2007 - 12:40 pm

The Federal Govt. should be considerate in its reforms.

One of the 48 Laws of power stipulated that 'never embark on too much reforms at a time…..' The reforms should be given some human face.

greg March 1, 2007 - 1:47 am

Excellent piece, reiterating the decadent fall of Nigeria. Only a complete revolution and social engineering can save us.

greg, usa

SMJ February 27, 2007 - 5:36 am

Very good article about Nigerian educational system. I am happy that those of you at home can see the loop hole now. The whole educational system is a mess!

I will disagree with you on the reform initiatives of the current minister. It is just a change of name, that is what she is doing. Change name of university, combine one school with another, merge two universities together etc. THAT IS NOT EDUCATION REFORM and please do not be fooled.It will all lead to another total collapse.

How can you merge two universitie with different mission and you do not provide a new mission and restructure the curriculum of the new institution? The old universities across the country are over crowded beyond capacity, why not look into what they are lacking and upgrade them financially. Why not equipped them with cuurent needs of these century rather than merging and renaming institution.

It is only in Nigeria that when a school building is re-painted that people see that the principal is doing a good job of reforming the school. What the Minister of education i s doing is not a reform, she is just repainting. She should go back into archives and look at recommendation on renowed professor of education in Nigeria on "Higher Education in the Nineties and Beyond"Main Report by Professor Segun Adesina, Babs Fafunwa, Late Olikoye Ransone-Kuti, Prof. Jibril Aminu, Prof. Ade-Ajayi, Prof. Yesufu,Prof. Adekola, Prof. N.O. Adedipe, Dr. Mrs.Arene and Mr. Angulu to guide her reform initiatives. Don't be fooled again.


Virginia, USA


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