Friday, October 14, 2011

Education in Nigeria – a legacy?

A legacy is an inheritance bequeathed to generations yet unborn. It is usually sustained from one generation to another. As a young child in primary school, I often heard that the best legacy a parent can give their children is education (used to mean both formal and informal). In fact, most schools touted that word as a selling point for whatever they offered.

Let’s take a journey down memory lanes – during the days of our parents. There were missionary schools – affiliated to a particular religious organization – which were the first sets of schools we had in Nigeria and the government owned schools. Those schools ran side by side and there was hardly any difference in the standard of education in both. I remember being told that back in the 50’s and 60’s, universities had lawns with luscious green colour and they were dutifully mowed. I remember being told also that students needn’t worry about food because there were central diner halls where each student go to with his/her tally to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I heard about how sumptuous and nutritious those meals were. So essentially the student need not worry about what he/she would eat. Electricity was very constant and schools were usually given the priority for power. The student didn’t need to worry about the number of candles left in his/her locker nor the length of time the rechargeable lamp will last before it goes out. Water ran freely in the taps and since it was treated from source, it was consumed without fear of infections (typhoid, dysentery etc). Libraries were well equipped with materials of the time and students made use of them as they needed. The students were mostly able to concentrate on the purpose of being in such institutions – which is to acquire knowledge and utilize such knowledge to make a change in an organization, the nation and indeed the world – and they were able to think critically as this process is an offshoot of an mental environment not beset with the need for food, water and electricity (the basic needs of man).
Lecturers (and teachers) were highly respected educational professionals in their various fields because they were well trained and they understood what their roles were i.e. to pass information in a structured format to younger generations. They go for extra studies to enhance their effectiveness and keep up with new information as it relates to their subjects. Research was a part of their work which involved them thinking creatively about a particular aspect of their field of study to bring about solutions to problems of the time as well as envisaged problems of the future. The non-academic staffs of such institutions also played their roles very well by ensuring the hostels and halls were well maintained, payments were not extra burdensome and that salaries were paid when due.

After independence, the civil war and the set of successive military usurpations affected the general atmosphere negatively as the values that were evident had began to change - brute force against citizens as opposed to freedom, power tussle as opposed to stability in government, ethnicity as opposed to nationalism, mistrust as opposed to truth and trust, fear as opposed to love and faith. The oil boom also opened the eyes of people in government to the potential for recklessness and avarice which has since become the order of the day. People who had no business being leaders became leaders and lorded it over the rest of the people. The atmosphere changed completely and each person began to redefine their own values as they see fit because the societal and national values were no longer consistent. Gradually, all the infrastructures which made learning enjoyable and easy collapsed like Humpty Dumpty and all the successive governments have not been able to put the pieces back together again. What we have now is chaos, disorderliness, greed, lack of patriotism, short term benefit- seeking, lack of care and a general bad attitude by almost everyone within the system. For the student, the interest is more in the acquisition (by hook or crook) of the paper certificate than in actually the knowledge which warrants it. For the lecturers, the focus now is in the usage of the latest car and the erection of grand personal buildings. These they achieve by being taskmasters to the students (and indirectly to their parents, guardians and sponsors) through the illegal sale of handouts, textbooks and materials. The non-administrative staffs also milk the students dry by collecting bribes to render their normal services.

So instead of an upward climb to better and current facilities, we retrogressed to nothing at all. Today, some of the few private institutions with reasonable quality of education (which is not accessible to ordinary Nigerians) have an undertone of wrong values in the sense that most of the owners of such institutions got their wealth by illegitimate means - embezzling government funds, manipulating members of religious organizations to part with their monies. In the midst of all these however, you will still manage to find people who still hold on to those good values which made the story of the earlier days sweet. These are exceptions for the rule nowadays is cheap, uninspiring, desperate and unfocused.

The question then is “are we thinking about the next generations and what we might be leaving for them as an inheritance?” As young people what role do we think we have to play in all of these? Or are we helpless, unconcerned and blameless?


  1. I wrote this a long time ago and just published it today.

  2. When a society lack working systems.This is what we expect,even worst.I hope and pray nigeria are bless with many noble minds like you.

  3. Thank you Shina. You are also an answer to this nation. Let's join hands together to build the new Nigeria.