17 January 2008

Nigeria: Why Our Standard of Education is Falling


Let me first of all define what education is all about. Education is imparting and acquiring knowledge through teaching and learning, especially at a school or similar institution.

Webster Dictionary defines education as the process of educating or teaching. Education is further defined as "to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of.." Thus, from these definitions, we can assume that the purpose of education is to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of students. Unfortunately, this definition offers little unless we define words such as "develop," " knowledge," and "character."

What is knowledge? Is it a body of information that exists "out there" apart from the human thought processes that developed it? However, knowledge arises in the mind of an individual when that person interacts with an idea or experience.

Although, there have been of publications on the falling standard of education in Nigeria. Some people have argued in the past that the standard of education has fallen totally, to which I personally disagree. It is not the standard of education that has fallen per se but the system itself.

Many factors are responsible for the falling standard of education in Nigeria. More so, the importance of education cannot be over-emphasised, hence the need for the government to pay more attention to it before its total collapse.

Moreso, it is disgusting seeing the state of our educational sector with dilapidated, decayed structures in our schools namely, primary, secondary, polytechnics, colleges of education and universities. The situation has become worse in some tertiary institutions, especially the universities, which makes learning impossible as a result of lack of conducive atmosphere.

Lack of proper funding of the universities is one other major factor that contributes to the low standard of education in the country, which often leads to brain drain of some experience lecturers and administrative staff of our higher institutions. And more so, most of the universities in Nigeria lack well equipped libraries, and indispensable aspect of research and studies in the tertiary institutions. Govemment should endeavour to do something in this direction by providing funds for the purchase of textbooks for the university libraries.

Again, poor remuneration of lecturers as compared with their foreign counterparts is also one of the factors that causes low standard of education in Nigeria. With so much past history of exploitation and mismanagement, there is little wonder then, that we are so poor and deprived. Over one-fifth of the world live on less than one US dollar a day (especially Africa) per capita while the national minimum wage for the United States is 5 dollars per hour.

Why can't the Nigerian govemment emulate other foreign countries since we have both human and material resources that can cater for our education system? Since this has affected the morale of the lecturers, definitely, it will affect the standard of education because, "a hungry man is an angry man" vice-versa.

Furthermore, the government, in an attempt to consolidate on political power, protects corrupt practices and detests criticism from the university dons. This mutual suspicion has led to the massive decay in the system. Despite the astronomical rise in student intake, the govemment refused to rehabilitate collapsed infrastructures or develop new structures thereby making learning haphazardous.

However, the govemment's negative attitude towards making the universities centre of academic excellence has converted the institutions to centre of trade and marketing.

Moreso, some intellectuals who could not bear the rot troop en-masse for greener pastures in foreign countries for better remuneration and job satisfaction. Despite the federal government's drive to promote quality of academic programmes through various initiatives, there is need for the government to revitalise education sector to a befitting standard.

For the past 12 to 14 years, the universities and the government never enjoy any healthy working relationship. Their relationship has been based on industrial disputes with the universities' lecturers, workers and staff.

This is because government has refused to implement agreement signed between the university lecturers, hence the cause of incessant industrial dispute in the universities, which hinders academic calendar. This also killed the morale of students to put more efforts in their studies.

With this, one can imagine the kind of graduates we produce in our institutions today. Some of them can hardly construct simple and correct English. This does not portray good image of the country and which is the reason why some people are saying that, the standard of education is nothng to write home about.

Given peace, stability, proper funding of educational system, rehabilitation of decay structures, adherent to agreement reached between the government and lecturers, definitely, the standard of education in Nigeria would improve seriously. And this will enable the university to produce good graduates.

Again, students on their own should endeavour to eschew social vices like cultism and examination malpractice that are capable of undermining their educational pursuits.

In addition, one cannot compare the graduates of 80s with the present ones. At that time, the government was more committed to education by providing conducive learning atmosphere, proper funding of universities and there was no frequent industrial dispute unlike the present time.

Therefore, the federal govemment should emancipate the universities from its present position by rehabilitating the decay structures; proper funding so as to meet up with the functions of university education - teaching, research, storage and retrieval of knowledge, publication of standard textbooks and other intellectual activities that are necessary for the promotion of the growth and development of the society.

But these functions cannot be effective if there is no good working relationship between the federal government and the universities lecturers. Thus, dialogue and diplomacy should be the best instrument in resolving industrial dispute between the two parties.

I believe that the present administration of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua would do all that is humanly, administratively and politically possible to tackle the constant problems beetween the federal government and the administrators of our highter institutions of learning in Nigeria.

Alhassan Isah wrote this from the University of Abuja

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