The State of Affairs In The Ijaw Nation (2)

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

It does not take a genius to know that if you have poorly trained teachers, you are likely to have poor and incompetent teachers. If you have poorly built, poorly staffed and poorly equipped schools, you are likely to have a poor learning and poor teaching environment. If you don’t pay your teachers competitive salary, they are likely to leave for other regions or more lucrative endeavors. If you don’t invest in your educational system, the state and the people will suffer. There are no two ways about it: invest and reap the benefit of education; or ignore education and forever be a hired-hand in an increasingly interconnected and interrelated world.

Today, scholars are suggesting that any responsible government must invest in human capital, which will, in due course, result in people taking control of their destiny –enabling them to confront and overcome tyrannical and energy-sapping power structures. The world over, oppressors are uncomfortable with the educated mind. With this in mind, why hasn’t it occurred to successive Bayelsa State government that it must invest heavily and wisely in education if the state must progress? Available data show that fifty percent of the amount that was stolen and misappropriated (since 1999), would have been enough to build a first-rate educational system lasting into the next decade.

Education is a vital ingredient in the life of any nation. The primary purpose of education is to develop the mind, allowing one to conquer, shape, and put to use ones environment — be it the physical, the supernatural or the mental. There are multitudes of causes, but mainly, it was education that allowed societies to move from foraging to agrarian and from industrialization to post-industrialization. Education allows one to function ably and at ones best in a modern and an increasingly interconnected world. Without education, the mind is foggy, rough, confused and easily manipulated and controlled.

To be clear, education is not just about the ability to read and write, memorize and take examinations and be awarded certificates and degrees. Oh no, it is much more than that. At this point in our state’s economic, social and political development however, one would gladly welcome the simple purpose of education: to become literate, have the ability to read and write, secure a job and function in a simple environment. In the words of Kusterer, Rock and Weaver, “to be illiterate in a literate world is to be severely disadvantaged. One’s employment opportunities are seriously restricted…Becoming literate is a powerfully liberating experience.”

How could our young men and women compete in today’s Nigeria unless they are well educated? How could our graduates compete in the regional and global economy unless they have first-rate schooling? How could our brothers and sister partake in a globalizing world unless the foundation and policies are laid at the early stages of development? And how these foundations could be laid without government’s efforts is unclear to me. Consecutive Bayelsa State governments, since 1999, have been in the habit of ignoring elementary and secondary school education. Higher education is even worse.

Least we forget: schools are more than miserable four walls and a tin roof. They must be built to meet modern standards in terms of structures, amenities, staffing and reward for teachers and other staff. In other words, it is not enough to erect a stone-age building with blackboards and call it a school. To receive proper education, policies have to be in place; there must be an assurance and willingness on the part of the government, the parents and the community to make it work. Additionally, there must be an enabling culture of learning and teaching for any form of education to have positive effect on the students, their parents and the larger community.

What we have in Bayelsa State today — in terms of primary and secondary school — belong in the ice age. And the Niger Delta University is not only an eyesore; it is a disgrace, a shame and a dishonor not worthy of our land. We can do better. The Niger Delta University (once refurbished and brought to national and international standard) could serve as the focal point for the State’ development; hence the importance of all areas of studies be it the arts and sciences, business, divinity, and science and technology. All areas of academic discipline are relevant to the growth and progress of society. One discipline is not more important than the other. They all play complementary roles. Poets, engineers, painters, mathematicians, and the historians, sociologists, city planners, the medical doctors and the artisans are all important in the overall scheme of things.

It is not inconceivable that every Ijaw man and woman in Bayelsa State know of one or two sorry story to tell — real life stories of teenage girls engaged in partial or full-blown prostitution, instead of attending school. Do we not know? Do we not know that in most schools and in most villages, more than 40% of teenage girls drop out of school before their sophomore years mainly because of pregnancy? How could we as a people allow such to happen? How could we turn blind eyes to the plight of our young girls? Some are unable to attend school because of poverty; others can’t or won’t finish school because of prostitution or pregnancy. And those who manage to finish receive half-baked education. Common, this does not bode well for our future. If we cannot and won’t tolerate the oppressive behavior of outsiders, why should we tolerate the oppression of our girls?

There should be stiff penalties against those responsible for impregnating any girl under the age of 19, or any girls who has not completed her secondary school education. The penalty should be stiffer if the culprit is more than 5 years older than the girl. Culture is a big part of our life; nevertheless, any and all part of our culture that is stifling or is anti-progress should be redefined and refined to fit the modern times. For instance, why is it permissible for a man, at 30, 40, or 50, to cut short the promising life of a 12, 14 or 16 year old girl? Why must we, as a society, allow any man — rich, powerful or influential — to use his position to oppress or impregnate our teenage girls? While they mess up the life of such girls, they send their own sons and daughters to colleges and universities in readiness for a better life while the victim is consigned to a life of penury and baby-production. Why is this type of behavior acceptable? Where is the justice?

In the end, even if the government of Chief Timpre Sylva does nothing else, he should spotlight quality education, the place of women, transparent government, and the provision of human security. He need not be all over the place with scatter-scatter policies shrouded in sleazy cloud. He will do better in the name of man and in the name of God if he is honest about his intentions, and then go forth with clean hands and a clean heart. No one demands perfection from him. No; he will make forgivable mistakes every now and then. It is the return to the path taken by previous governments that will bring the hammer down on the nail.

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1 comment

Owena July 9, 2007 - 5:54 am

Nepotism goes a long way in Nigeria. I was surprised to hear that many on the Medical programs in top Nigerian universities such as UniLag and Ibadan are there because they knew someone on the board or who just happened to work for the university. I think that unless we get rid of the blatant show of favouritism to people we happen to known then the capabilities of our home grown professionals will be reduced to nothing more than an farce. It beggar’s belief that someone who has shown promise in a particular field will not be able to get the right training in their home country because they do not know someone who works for a particular uni and on the other hand someone who languished their way through school goes on to become a qualified Doctor or other professional.

I am off the particular belief that education will benefit Nigerians as a whole greatly but more effort needs to be put into education the Nigerians who don’t have rich parents or people in the know to rely on to help them. One shouldn’t have to be a rich kid to receive the best education in Nigeria neither should one have to travel abroad to receive the best education. The Senegalese and the South Africans have world class universities so why can’t Nigerians?. I think we need to flush out this nepotistic behaviour first and then start looking at the quality of the teachers teaching our kids and then the physical state of the schools and their equipment.


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