TOPIC : Nigerian Educational System and the 21st Century Challenge, A Need For Fundamental Reformation
SUBMITTED BY – Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa
“In honest hands, literacy is the surest means to true education. In dishonest hands, it may be a most dangerous, in fact, a suicidal acquisition”- Obafemi Awolowo
6 years of secondary school education meant a daily encounter with Mathematics through either assignments or boring classes. It also meant coming back home in a uniform that had been permeated all through with sweat, a smelly pair of socks, very dirty shoes and sometimes a torn piece of clothing. But it wasn’t a comeback home to rest, it was a comeback to the sight of the lesson teacher who usually arrived early because my detours on the way back from school meant I got home late.
He usually came with his bike. He was obviously in need of the job. His salary was probably not enough to solve his problems. He must have had an hectic day of shouting on top of his voice; his arm still hurting from swinging the cane on students who did not understand him and scored low marks agan. He needed rest but he could not have it because he needed money.
The teacher’s task which he had come for on the bike which he equally used for transport business was to teach a boy who did not want to understand Mathematics because he was tired of forcing himself to learn. Someone who did not have the natural flare, who preferred Government and Literature, who had read his literature texts more than 4 times each to completion even though he was still in Senior Secondary School 2.
The teacher was a victim of the combination of government, society and the educational system. The student was a victim of the same. But while it was easy for the student to grumble and complain,the teacher could not because he understood life better and considered himself helpless against the system. He may complain however in a means most people did not understand. He complained by inflicting pain on those he taught. By beating them over and again. By picking on those helpless children in class.
In another country up the globe away- Finland. The country is reputed for their educational system and some argue it is the best in the world. There is a student in Finland lets name our imaginary student Olivier.
Olivier enjoys his school life while his teachers do same. He does not face unnecessary stress or rigour. His education is streamlined and customised to fit his preference. He intends to become an artist and he has written his qualification examination into the Institute of Arts. His Nigerian counterpart however must go to a University or else he would be considered a failure. Olivier does not face the rigours of 8am to 4pm classes and an additional 2 hours of home lecture. Olivier has a friend named Ozil and Ozil intends to become an engineer. His education is streamlined to make him an engineer. During their breaks, Ozil works in a Ford car factory. He helps in the assemble process of vehicle engines.
In Nigeria, the author of this piece is in the University. His entire first year is spent on only one Faculty course, he enters his room in the Hostel to hear that his roommates have checked their MTH101 result and have failed. He laughs and mocks them. But the next day, his EGL101 result is out. A course that deals with clauses, phrase and other things that do not concern a lawyer who already has basic knowledge and mastery of English language. He has barely managed to pass his EGL101.
In Germany, Ozil’s work is mainly practical. He has worked with Boeing despite being a student on the development of their Boeing707 jet engine. A job is waiting for Ozil after graduation. Law school is waiting for the author and a survival of the fittest struggle in the real world.
The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are the two most prestigious law faculties in the United Kingdom. In 2013,152 students sat for the Cambridge LLM examinations. An astonishing 32% finished with First Class Honours, whilst 61% finished with Second Class Upper Division. In essence therefore, in a class of 152 students, about 48 finished with First Class Honours, whilst 92 finished with Second Class Upper Division. 2011 marked a seven year record low for First Class degrees from the University of Oxford. Students in that session performed so badly, that only 12% of the cohort made First Class Honours in the Faculty of Law. Both institutions are still ranked amongst the best three law schools in the world, bettered only by the Harvard Law School.
The application of Cambridge’s percentile would mean that if 6,000 students took the Nigerian Bar Examinations, 1, 920 of them would have finished with First Class Honours. On the other hand, if we were to apply the record low of Oxford, the number will be 720. Using the 4 First Class graduates from the Nigerian Law School, we have a really shocking 0.0667%. A pointer to failure of the system.
The difference between the educational systems is that a particular country understands the need to modernize and that education should change. It is aware success is not measured through failure and how hard it is for a student to make it through is not reflective of the institutional strength. Nigeria still uses the inherited colonialist approach to education which even the colonialist had stopped as at the time they were introducing it.
While Nigeria continues to churn out graduates that will have good grades but cannot practise what they studied and are also eager to travel abroad for further studies in order to better their chances, other countries are using their local knowledge to drive their local society.
A lot of students are unable to access education because of the cost. Universities are very expensive particularly privately-owned ones. A student born to a person on minimum wage of 18,000 naira cannot for instance shoulder with ease the 85,000 naira required from First year students in a school such as Obafemi Awolowo University. The student may be brilliant, he may have had 9 A’s in his qualifying examination. But the system does not care. It cares more about the student as a commercial item to be exploited and used as a source of revenue.
Knowledge drives advancement. Nigeria cannot continue to use a backward model in a futuristic setting. Nigeria cannot continue to underfund education. Nigeria cannot continue to pay graduates meagre salaries. Universities cannot be in such a state of infrastructural degradation that they would resemble Nazi concentration camps. If Nigeria will work, the educationall system must go through reforms.
The reforms should include a funding campaign of Universities, development of laboratories for the science and technology departments, introduction of a syllabus customised for each student, reduction of costs involved in acquiring education, proper renumeration and as at when due for teachers and lecturers, enhancing interest in education by changing teaching systems from archaic settings. A lot of other reforms should also be introduced.
Wole Soyinka, the first and only as at yet Nigerian Nobel Laureate winner said “when the present is intolerable, the unknown in fact, harbours no risks”. The Nigerian educational system should undergo fundamental reformation based on successful models in other countries and a complementary design that considers local realities.