My article on Education and Democracy in Nigeria: Vision 2020, which was published in January 2007 in Nigerians in America has generated many commendations and recommendation. Some of the recommendations have focused on the lack of supporting evidence or the lack of empirical data to back up the claims and issues raised in the article. One critic has suggested that the article lacked “so much facts in it for the Nigerian student to use in the case of history study!” Another critic said, “if we really want to improve the standard and quality of education in Nigeria, let them send their delegate to the various states and see what is going on with their naked eyes.” Yet, another critic said, “…well, there is really a lot to be learnt from this article but please give us the facts and fantasies of this inspirational and possibly realistic vision.” The most compelling reaction came from Segun Akinyode’s piece: The Hope for Education in Nigeria by 2020: A Reaction to Sadiq Abdullahi. Akinyode made the observation on the state of Nigerian education system and writes that “Nigeria has never lacked sound, workable and well-intentioned policy on education neither has the country lacked practicable system of education.”
Since January 2007, I have had time to reflect on the issues raised in the article and the recommendations people have offered. Here are my thoughts: First, we can all agree that the Nigerian education system needs a total overhaul. We need to revamp or restructure. The primary and secondary education sector needs immediate assistance. In America, for example, secondary education has been under fierce attack from the left and the right. America has been described as “a Nation at Risk”. This has led to a secondary school reform movement that is sweeping the nation, and the federal government is investing heavily in the reform movement. Furthermore, the federal government of America is encouraging non-governmental agencies and foundations and colleges of education to devised programs that will support the shift from a comprehensive high model to a small learning communities’ model. School districts across America seemed to be latching on because the federal government gives huge grants. And many believed that the idea has the potential to significantly increase student achievement at the high school level.
There are other secondary school reform initiatives that Nigerian education sector could benefit from. But first we have to revisit our conceptual and philosophical underpinning guiding the purpose of education in Nigeria. A discussion of where we are and where we are headed is timely. Akinyode is right. Nigeria has never lacked the intellect to design programs that will correct the problem facing education in Nigeria. Neither do we lack the human and capital resources. Nigerians before me have written extensively about these lingering educational problems. Many have offered solutions. As I end the year in reflection, I remain very optimistic about our educational future and about our dear nation. The hope for education and the vision for education in 2020 is a realistic one, at least for me. I am reminded of my contributions to sport development particularly to the game of tennis in the 1980s and continuing. In education, a different conversation must ensue. We must begin a dialogue for a change in direction in education. Nigerians in America, in the Diaspora must set the pace and the agenda. We can do more. We can sacrifice. It is my hope to travel to Nigeria soon to gather the necessary data and evidence so that Nigerian students can use the information in their history classes and so that I can contribute to the quality of education in Nigeria, as my critics have suggested. We know where to begin. I hope we have the moral, political, and economic will to do something educationally for Nigeria.