Vanguard (Lagos)

20 December 2012

Nigeria: Best Brains Should Be Given the Opportunity to Learn - Dr Nwekeaku

interview

Dr. Charles Nwekeaku is the Head of Department, Public Administration, Nasarawa State University. In this interview with Favour Nnabugwu touches on issues bordering on the decay in the education sector and the way forward. Excerpts.

What is your perspective of the reforms in the education sector?

We have been getting it wrong and turned the sector upside down. Initially, it was 6-5-4 system, later it was changed to 6-3-3-4 and now it is 6-9-4- system, and this is not good for our country. Our problem is not necessarily the system of education but our learning environment, which is not challenging and stimulating while our method of learning is nothing to write home about. The way we admit students and the way we promote staff are wrong and not done like that in advanced countries.

In advanced countries, students are admitted on merit but in Nigeria, students are admitted based on religion, ethnic group and other primordial forces, thereby leaving the best brains behind. The best brains should be given the opportunity to learn, which we don't do here, rather, we promote mediocrity in our educational system which is why our institutions of higher learning produce graduates who are job seekers rather than job makers.

What is responsible for this abysmal performance?

Education is the sub-system of the larger society, so what happens in the society reflects in the school. In the larger society, Nigeria, parents organise people to write JAMB and WASSCE for their children or look for special centers. People are not doing what they are supposed to do and that is why we keep having the abysmal performance every year, and we can't continue like this as a nation.

How would you rate students' performance in Nasarawa State University?

The school is about 11 years old and I think it is among the top state universities in the country today because of her academic excellence. The top student at the last session of the law school was a product of Nasarawa State University who made first class in law and was the best graduating student in law school.

Our students are making waves everywhere because we don't practice mediocrity. The management goes for the best hands not minding where you come from and that is why the school is performing excellently well. For us to maintain this excellence, our under and post graduate students must take entrance exam.

Are you aware that UBEC has 2% intervention fund for private schools?

Yes, and it is not only UBEC, you are also aware that there is a standing law directing all commercial banks to set aside 10% of their annual net profit as facility to small and medium enterprises, but the banks don't give out this funds. Since what we have is in theory, private schools don't have access to the fund.

What do you think is responsible for the numerous unqualified teachers in the sector, especially in the private schools?

Well, like in this Ultimate International School, every teacher here is a university graduate trained in education. Myself, as the chairman of the board, I am a professional teacher and that is why you see we are not so big but we are doing the right thing. So, we don't have any unqualified teacher in this school.

But the issue of unqualified teachers is still part of the problem of the society where we promote quacks and mediocre, people who are not qualified will give bribe and will be recruited while people who are qualified are not given opportunity to teach.

What is the way forward for education sector?

We need surgical reorganisation of this country; we need to restructure the entire country, especially our economy which is being controlled by less than 10% of the population. We have a very long way to go, we need total reorganisation of Nigeria and that is the only way forward.

According Karl Max, the economic foundation determines every other thing in the society because those who control the means of production, the distribution and exchange, use that opportunity to occupy sensitive positions in the production process and because they occupy sensitive position, they get lion's share of the proceeds and with that lion share, they use it to control government.

Many eople who are in government are there to steal, so we need to urgently restructure this country and when we restructure it, we solve the problem of inequality and when we solve the problem of inequality and have even distribution of resources, kidnapping, armed robbery and prostitution and all these social vices bedeviling our nation will go.

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