Vanguard (Lagos)

10 December 2012

Nigeria: Obi's Epistemic Credentials

opinion

THOUGH we have metaphysics, ethics, logic and other branches of philosophy, epistemology is one of the most important branches of philosophy because it has to do with knowledge.

It asks the question: What is knowledge? Is knowledge worth getting? How do we acquire knowledge?

The issue of knowledge which the wise one says comes one quarter from travels; one quarter from experience; a quarter from personal efforts; and another quarter from the class room has remained the subject of deep inquiry. Our society is so concerned about classroom knowledge because that is where the State is expected to make contributions as the guardian of the people.

When asked to differentiate between the educated and the uneducated, Aristotle said it was like the difference between the dead and the living. To the same question Aristippus said it was like the difference between the living and the dead. This was why when Diogenes saw an uneducated man seated upon a stone said "Behold a stone sitteth upon another stone".

Throughout the history of civilisation, man's quest for knowledge has seen him start Plato's Academy (first University to be established) to improve the lot in education.

Today nations, serious countries, do not joke with education of their people, because that it is the only currency for tomorrow's competition in a globalised world. If you go through the budget of many States and countries you will see that education has a lion's share.

Education redirects the anarchic impulses of man to order and progress. The school is regarded as one of the agents of civilisation through training and retraining. Education molds beings into humans who otherwise could have become animals.

This is not a matter for long debate because it is empirically verifiable. There are certain jobs you cannot entrust to the uneducated no matter the relationship because he is simply not capable.

The other day, during a ministerial briefing on the state of education in Nigeria, the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruquayattu Rufai painted a gory picture of the state of education in Nigeria.

With figures and pictures, she showed that the sector is dead with evidence that proved that where students are living are not better than piggery. Most students in secondary schools do not even have the capacity to pass WAEC; this is why special centres and related institutions are now in vogue.

In the past, those who teach in higher institutions usually emerge through rigorous process in order to get the best. But even the best of what are churned out of the Universities today are questionable. It is no longer news that some Professors have nothing to profess.

Scholarship and research have simply taken flight from the Ivory towers where students these days are forced to read plagiarised copies called handouts as substitutes for insightful works.

If you measure those who went to secondary schools in the 60s, 70s and of course 80s with today's graduates, you will discover a great difference in favour of the older generation of scholars.

The original idea of University as amply demonstrated by Carl Jaspers is that graduates become cornucopia of knowledge even in eras when knowledge was fragmentary.

Today, all that is gone. Going by the report of the Minister of Education,Nigeria ought to declare education a distressed sector and start almost anew to rebuild it. But we do not need to look far; from Anambra we have a Governor who has started rebuilding the sector anew.

Studies he commissioned showed the decline of education started when schools were taken from the missionaries in 1970. From that time on, government as proprietor made a mess of managing these schools.

Mrs. FRANCISA EBELECHUKWU, wrote from Anambra State University, Uli, Anambra State.

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