‘The foundation of every state is the education of its youth’ – DIOGENES
I could not agree with Diogenes more. My people say that one does not need a mirror to look at what one is wearing on one’s wrists. The effect of the low level of education in Africa is only too obvious and glaring for anyone to see, except of course if you chose to be blind to it. Education of the youth is the foundation and the future of every society. We also know that a structure without a strong foundation is not going to stand for long, if it even stands at all.
Now, why is this case so in Africa? It seems we function on an entirely different principle here and look what good it has done us. Look at my dear country Nigeria for instance. Every year, the federal government earmarks a huge chunk of the budget for education. Yet the level of illiteracy in the country remains high. Even though the amount mapped out for education is not enough when you think of the importance of that sector, yet the much supposedly spent on it bears little impact. The issue is not just the federal government. Even when the funds are there for the state and local governments to access, they don’t, why?
This is where the hydra-headed monster of corruption rears its ugly head. When they reel out the amount set aside for education and at the end of the year, you see little improvement in that sector; you wonder what they did with all the money. Recently, some pupils were shown on television, studying under the tree, some climbed on top of the trees. Another school was so deplorable that the students were studying without desks and chair, before a puddle of water leaking from the roof of a dilapidated building. The strike actions by the teachers and the lecturers are still biting hard. One wonders why more schools cannot be erected, why the existing ones cannot be better equipped and renovated, why more qualified and patriotic teachers cannot be employed, or why more awareness should not be created in the rural areas where some parents still do not see the need for education especially of the girl-child, and so on.
It is hard to believe if you have not witnessed it, but it is true that some parents and guardians will rather send their wards to hawk than send them to school even though to a large extent, education is free up to secondary school in most parts. Week days when their mates are at school, some children could still be seen selling stuffs on the streets or in the markets and shops, if they are lucky. The situation is so bad in most places that some state governments have had to set up task forces to arrest kids seen outside school walls during school hours.
Even among the literate number, not many of them are truly educated in the real sense of it, a term we refer to as ‘half-baked graduates’ here. Africa especially Nigeria has been known to churn out ‘illiterate graduates’. This is where all of us have one role or the other to play. From my experience in the university, it is little wonder why some ‘graduates’ cannot write good application letters on their own. Right from the moment they write entrance examinations to the universities to the day they write their final examination, it has been one form of cheating to the other. They get someone they believe is more intelligent to write the assignments/examinations, or the ‘intelligent one’ solves the question and smuggle in the answers. They bribe the lecturers, a common practice in the university or use microchips to assist themselves. There are too many forms of malpractice that ensure that at the end of the day, a graduate cannot defend his/her certificate. Oh, did I forget to mention the method of using what you want to get what you want? Like sleeping with the lecturer for improved grades? All you need do is find out which method works for a particular lecturer and if the lecturer is a tough one, microchips and impersonation come to the aid. They simply have no appetite to study and pass their examinations on their own, not when there is an easy way out. They would rather surf the net and ping away their lives.
Funny enough, once these ‘half-baked’ graduates enter the job markets, they easily get employed because they know the right people in the right places and know the right buttons to press to get themselves juicy jobs.
I leave you to imagine the rest. That is what we do to ourselves in Africa, if you must get education, then get it any way you can. The end justifies the means. However, ‘To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. – THEODORE ROOSEVELT.
Another area our education system is lacking is in content. JOHN W. GARDENER said that ‘Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.’ In school, you are taught everything but the basic, practical stuffs you need to truly become someone on your own. You come out only to realize that the theories you were fighting to master in school are not actually what you need to make it on the streets. The theories are inadequate and do not prepare students for the real world such that without being employed by a corporate organization, the graduates have no way of helping themselves, no knowledge of alternative means of survival. So, many of them wander around for years, looking for the non-existent white collar jobs.
What kind of society does that leave us with? What kind of future do we hope for?
Until we are able to have attitudinal reorientation, from bottom to top, from the led to the leaders, we shall remain in this quagmire. The change has to start with us as parents, students, teachers, siblings, government. Instead of paying for one form of malpractice or the other for your ward, why not pay a good home tutor to teach him/her? If the government will not restructure the curriculum to include technical and practical education, you can encourage these younger ones to go learn one trade or the other during their holidays or the incessant strikes. This will enable them become better future leaders and make them independent. You and your friends can help improve the structures in that your Alma mater so the pupils can study in conducive environment.
As for the government, we will not get tired of telling them where the shoe pinches us most. Designating so-so amount for one project or the other does not necessarily mean that the issue will be addressed. There should be follow up and the presence of the government felt at the grassroots or how will the projects be monitored and evaluated? I remember one case in Edo state Nigeria where the Governor visited a school and a teacher there could not pronounce one simple word. Of course she lost her job instantly.
A lot needs to be done to take our educational system where it ought to be but the change starts with us. Until we are able to join hands to make things better, only then can more people get educated and move from darkness to light as Allen Bloom said, ‘Education is the movement from darkness to light’ . That is when education can translate to better opportunities and that is when we can grow.