In discussing the acute problems besieging education system in Nigeria today; what primarily come to mind are: chronic underfunding, examination malpractices, deterioration of facilities and decline in standard-as a result of half-baked handlers-to mention few.
The role of knowledge and skill acquisition which education is all about in the actualization of development and growth in any society cannot be overemphasized. According to the World Bank report in 1999, “successful development entails more than investing in physical capital, or closing the gap in capital. It also entails acquiring and using knowledge as well as closing the gaps in knowledge, and to successfully confront the challenges of development, a developing country must undertake three major tasks:
Acquire and adapt to global knowledge and create knowledge locally. Invest in human capital to increase the ability to absorb and use knowledge; and Invest in technologies to facilitate both acquisition and absorption of knowledge.
Also emphasizing on the importance of education to national development, the Guardian online in 2001, compiled views on the shamble state of education in Nigeria and suggests that, “Nigeria has to change her value system and invest in education, which is the intellectual laboratory of any nation and the engine that propels economic growth.”
Similarly, Fafunwa defines education as, “The aggregate of all the processes by which a child or adult develops the abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviour which are of positive value to the society in which he lives; that is to say, it is a process of disseminating knowledge either to ensure social control or guarantee rational direction of the society or both.”
But unfortunately, Nigerian government’s insensitivity in relation to education had influenced the contribution of the sector in terms of productivity to national development. Education which is the intellectual laboratory of any nation and the engine that propels economic growth had contributed very low in Nigeria due to lack of encouragement by the government, poor funding, lack of the spirit of hard-work among growing number of students, poor infrastructure, inadequate classrooms, lack of quality teachers, poor learning environment among other problems militating against educational development; which had plagued the sector with numerous social-vices such as cultism, hooliganism, examination malpractices, bribery, corruption, immorality and sexual harassment etc.
Experts in the sector have been able to identify examination malpractices with poor preparation of students for examinations and lack of self-confidence as part of the ills affecting the output of the sector. In view of the rising costs of education (school fees, enrolment fees, cost of books and other materials); students and even their parents would not welcome failure or deficit in any of the required subjects; hence will go to any length to ensure success.
Well funded and standard education knowledge is supposed to help us fight poverty, ignorance and disease. Unfortunately, the process of acquiring this desired knowledge has gradually turned into money spinning ventures for those in dire need of the knowledge and skill. It is now a source of exploitation from the service seekers with little or no consideration for quality of service rendered and facilities on ground, and made an offer for the highest bidder. A trend which has cut across all levels of education; from nursery schools to tertiary institutions.
Admission and being in school today is merely an ability to pay what is demanded in monetary terms by school operators and not on ones qualifications. This in essence increases the prevalence of poverty as well as widens the gap between the rich and the poor which education is designed to bridge. While people wonder why graduates from many of the institutions exhibit lack of commitment to societal values and lack of creativity due to the inadequacies associated with the learning and training process, which also observed to be partly because many of those that offer this service do so with greed.
Instead of parleying with those in the academia to find workable solution to the deplorable state of education in Nigeria, the government and political leaders further unleash abysmal attack on the sector via introduction of exorbitant fees and other anti-people policies which have made education accessible only to the privileged few. This monolistic approach to knowledge acquisition had placed Nigeria at the forefront of technological and scientific dependence and starvation in the committee of nations.
However, UNICEF in its state of the World’s children report for 1999 pointed out that about four million ‘Nigerian children’ have no access to basic education, and the majority of those that are lucky to enter schools are given sub-standard education. Explaining this, Dike opines that, “Today, there are about 48,242 primary schools with 16,796,078 students in Nigeria. In addition, Nigeria has 7,104 secondary schools with 4,448,981 students.
Most of these schools are in horrible state. This shows that Nigeria has a weird value system: it is a society where priorities are turned to their heads. For instance, the salaries of the less educated local government councilors are higher than that of university professors; it is a place where well known rouge, a 419ner is applauded for donating money to local communities and churches; it is a place where nobody cares about how one makes his/her wealth; it is a place where the roads leading to a million-dollar homes are filled with potholes; and the streets even in capital cities are littered with heaps of thrash, and nobody cares! Something is obviously wrong with any society that does not take her educational needs seriously.
With everybody chasing shadow of money and with the pittance sum invested yearly on education, how could the system produce the critical and creative minds Nigeria needs to guide and manage democratic system so as to survive as a viable nation? Consequently, the political landscape is littered with illiterate politicians, and we have a society that is incapable of gathering and maintaining a reasonable database for national planning and other developmental programmes.
Thus, lack of good education which will ultimately result to unemployment would contribute too many social ills, including crime, prostitution and the break down in law and order. On this ground, the society should invest more on the youths, and educate them to differentiate the right from wrong before they become adults. As Jean Jacque Rousseau noted: “People, like men and women are amenable only when they are young; in old age they become incorrigible. Once bad habits and customs are established and prejudices ingrained, it is a dangerous and futile enterprise to try to reform them; the people cannot bear to have the diseases treated, even in order to destroy it, like those stupid and fearful patients who tremble at the sight of the physician.”
The above stated analysis enumerates the level of decadence that has permeated our entire education system. According to Shonekan and Olujuwon, “The disruption of academic calendar, non-completion of syllabus and un-conducive learning environment has contributed to high increase in examination malpractices and anti-social behaviours like cultism and drug addiction. Lecturers on their part are not really into research anymore due to nonpayment of salaries, un-conducive environment and inadequate motivation. They have resorted to the production of handouts instead of scholarly books and journals.”
The socio-political and economic development of a nation is, in many ways determined by the quality and level of educational attainment of the population. Government should take politics out of education, as the continued neglect of this sector would lead to social paralysis.
However, the public and private school owners, and administrators, parents and students are joint collaborators in the decline in the standard of education in the country, with the government playing a leading role. Knowing well that the survival of any nation depends on the healthy state of its education; government should strive to save our education sector from its present state. It should prioritize adequate funding of the sector, stop the monolistic approach to knowledge acquisition by making education affordable and accessible to all and sundry, as a matter of urgency, reduce the influence of private ownership in knowledge acquisition, fund and encourage research programmes and re-orientate the teachers towards achieving the goals of education in the society.