Ethical issues in Nigeria’s higher education and governance
From all interrogations in symposia, lectures, workshops, conferences, submissions of policy makers and independent opinions of parents and parent teachers associations, Nigeria is in dire need of quality education characterised by duty, moral obligation and moral commitment different from the status-quo. Quality education can be defined as formal learning in schools, polytechnics and universities squarely related to individual well-being, competence, rights, duties, obligation, aspirations and national goals, a kind of integrated and holistic development of the individual and the society. Absence of quality education makes nonsense the ideal of individuals and society’s developments leading most often than not to violence, poverty, unemployment, corruption, graft, unaccountability and political instability. The cause and course are historically and vertically decipherable and horizontally clear and reducible. The dramatic fall in the quality of education is not an idea, not a myth but a reality which is a subject of contemporary history and sociological anthropology. We live by it and we live in it but paradoxically most us pretend not to be aware while pointing accusing fingers to their next neighbours. The historical and the anthropological nature of the phenomenon which calls for a synthetic apriori surgery, objective and sensible analysis is simply a reminder of the myopic, narrow minded straight jacket and suicide driven complexity of western capitalism which, though is being strenuously combated by the inventors, the western and U.S.A governments, is irresponsibly and unaccountably being used or allowed to inflict unbounded mortal injuries on Nigeria and African countries.
As we swim through this turbulent ocean of search, cognition, apperception and rediscovery of our cultural destiny anthropological re-definition of history is one solution to lack of quality education and another is the synchronic or structural analysis of the way out of the accumulated deposits of history, bourgeois elitism and satanic technology, or rather western monotheism, absolutism and imperialism
One monumental cause of disabled education in Nigeria is the failure of our successive governments to capture the price or negative side effects of western civilisations, and cushion them, as the originators have been doing, in the management of our educational and development polices. If our governments received or followed western styled systems discriminatively, we would have benefited qualitatively from western civilisations, just as they did with our African Egyptian civilisations, and achieved a synthesis of the African and western to become one of the bastions of glowing and expanding cultures.
Capitalism and liberal democracy is an expanding universe of an idea, the bastion and torchlight of western civilisations, which has enslaved most African nations in a box, a highly limited universe, an analogy of a prison yard or a demonic stronghold under the watchdog of capitalism, the Lucifer. The Lucifer, capitalism, an idea, demon itself, has the freedom to parade and monitor those it has kept in prison while the in-makes of the prison yard have no freedom and have no alternative source of life and energy. They have no idea any longer, for theirs had been killed by a strong idea. Yet the Bible warned us to fear most the power that kills our bodies and souls and fear less the one that kills only the body. But here is the demon, capitalism that has killed the African soul, even stolen it for its own chemistry and alchemy leaving the in-mates of African prison yard with no alternative while they intensively and extensively, from the collections of cultural artifacts from all parts of world, search for alternatives to their economies and education that suffer the headache or side-effects of their own capitalism.
The anthropological anatomy of Nigerian failed education, the pedagogy of the colonial education is, therefore, lack of alternative inherent with the in-mate in the prison yard and the only solution is to recapture the African soul and grant her freedom to search for contemporary alternative to contemporary educational problems. Historically speaking, capitalism breeds the knack to get rich quick, corruption and indiscipline. These side-effects of capitalism are rapidly pulling down Nigerian universities and schools while it is seriously being checked in the country of capitalist origin (U.S.A).
There are a number of unethical non-pedagogic and non-epistemic issues which underline the foundation of failed education programme in Nigeria. The liberal democratic reforms or growth which expanded the democratic specie for higher institutions has yielded a multiplier effect of vices that accompany individualism, free market forces and primitive competition. The underlying vices are corruption, graft, unaccountability, impunity, mediocrity and erosion of quality assurance in Nigeria’s higher institutions.
These vice chancellors know and sustain it either unconsciously or consciously, advertently or inadvertently, former ministers of education and former Heads of State, perhaps, not conscious enough to reflect upon their own educational back grounds are carried away by the paraphernalia of offices; but definitely the average rational Nigerian in the street or in the re-mote village’s natural habitat knows this but could not reach out even to his local governments’ chairman because of outrageous gaps or alienation caused by the overarching power, dominion and surreptitious security, nor could he get to the local government quarters because of high transportation cost and bad road. These are moral burdens of the oppressed in the society stifled and blighted from their capacity to contribute to knowledge growth in their environment. This is, by all means, a case of disallowing the citizenry from participating in knowledge sharing and when the suppression of a people’s latent skills and knowledge goes on unabated the height of absurdity is reached when rebellion in forms of Boko Haram, insurgency, robbery, social and political crises and instability sets on.
Education substantiates the moral worth of an individual as a moral and rational agent grounded in the Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative which treats man as an end (Kant, 1788). Certain contraries or antinomies are negations of this moral worth of the individual. Nigeria’s educational failure would continue to subsist unless these negativities are challenged by ethical, cultural and epistemic solution
Firstly, the appointment and promotion of teachers from the primary schools through the secondary schools to the universities has been drastically compromised since 1980s. Stake –holders of education in Nigeria have alleged that people from nowhere are lifted out of social or pecuniary interests and appointed lecturers whose primary contribution is to become professors and Head of institutions the way they were appointed. The traditional and excellence yardstick of “epistemic and cognitive endowment” decipherable from undergraduate school continuous assessment and final year results has been shortchanged by extraneous considerations and impunity. Strange category of “conversion” of administrative staff, primary and secondary school teachers, staff relations and wards and so on and so forth into academic positions in the universities has drastically jettisoned the irreducible minimum for academic appointments. This “conversion absurdity” has impetuously and pathologically dissipated the rigorous intellectualisation of the fetus of Higher Education in Nigeria.
Secondly the idea of institutional and university autonomy is like a blanket power vested on the heads of institution to appoint lecturers and professors without pause, which at any rate is justified by the currency of bourgeois autonomy properly construed, where professorship, according to critics, is lacking in international content in most Universities in Nigeria. Perhaps, the National Universities commission needs to seek for a redefinition of what makes a “Professorship” and who or what identifies it and in what context. This is the critical and dialectics juncture where most Vice Chancellors or Professors are found to be least qualified because those who go for equity must go with clean hands. The deontological ethical problem of Higher Education in Nigeria is, therefore, that the fingers of the managements are dripping with filths and cankerworms totally devoid of equity, honesty and justice of knowledge power.
Thirdly that some Universities allegedly reject some professors for appointments for sabbatical or substantive positions based on lack of merit only portrays poor quality of some Nigeria professors and teachers as well as that teaching and research is questionable in some University where conference sponsorship, TET Fund grant, Committee membership, Directorship, Deanship and Headship depend on your political portfolio or affiliation with the Vice-Chancellor.
Universities and other Higher Institutions are the ideal places for recognition of intellectual powers, creativity and pedagogy. But the opposite is the case in Nigeria. Battle-cry trails appointments in the universities and so merits are relegated to background. Quota and favoured appointments and professors are most often the gifted for the battle-cry for positions.
Fourthly, increasing population and expansion of number of universities are not being managed to correspond in geometrical proportions to the quality of education instead it has brought a rapidly alarming rate of educational corruption; as this phenomenon has released unmerited lecturers and teachers who cannot afford to sit down for at least one minute to ponder, cogitate on “problem predicate”, yet the system appoint and promote lecturers and professors indiscriminately every year. Fifthly, sorting-out, bribery and favoritism in higher institutions of learning are a society induced, a symptom of primitive and barbaric capitalism. A streaming population of unrestrained youths falls into the lap of ethnic, sectional and sectarian generated corrupt lecturers in order to grease the elbow of get certificate quick syndrome in our universities, some of which has been reduced to the status of Business centres.
The problem of Nigeria education has passed the level of describing it as facing challenges but is in a state of near irreversible chaos which however, can be paradoxically and mutably be re-written in new education history and constitution for our country. When a piece of history gets to its dead end only a revolution can re-define it.
It is against the above background that the National University Commission and the Ministry of Education need to express the rational and retro-active win to re-fashion our educational system that will meet the challenge of future Nigeria. First, funding, discipline and merit should be the defining principles of educational, academic and administrative actions in tertiary institutions. This will be enhanced if true academics and not politicians in academic gowns are appointed Heads of institution.
Secondly, corporate sector, individuals and business organisations’ participations in educational sector as players and partners have become imperative in the contemporary lopsided society and economic meltdown. Nigeria’s value system need to be attacked positively to avert the trend where social responsibility is a phobia, where egoism is philosophy and where politicians spent millions in a failed Senatorial election and millions in a failed House of Assembly election.
Thirdly parent teachers associations should be elevated to a corporate and responsible level and accordingly headed by responsible and influential personalities who can reduce or unmaske Heads of institutions and their lecturers in the discharge of their real duties. We can discern this sense of duty from Bill Gates’ financial and moral support to the American federation of teachers and whose speeches to the teachers on 2010/7 are reported thus:
“We have made public schools our top priority in the United States because, we believe, as you do, that nothing is more important for America’s youth and nothing means more for the future of the country…
If great teaching is the most powerful point of leverage, how are we going to help more teachers become great (Bill Gates, 2010).
This sermon on educational reform from within the world greatest liberal capitalist society and from the richest man and capitalist bastion in the world is a testament that capitalism can reform itself in a deontological way and that the self-inflicted unethical practices in the Nigeria’s liberal capitalist economy is both paradoxical and absurd.
Fourthly, as a matter of educational policy government should initiate a road-map in a revolutionary manner that would redefine the goal of Nigeria’s educational system which is currently only organized for the industrial age, a hang-over from colonialism and western mentality and cataclysmic jump over knowledge based economy; when indeed the west moved from knowledge economy to organized industrial age. The jump to education organized for industrial age without first of all meeting the demands of education based on knowledge economy is a fallacy: a blind action without premise that has set African educational system, especially the Nigerian on the perpetual teeth of failure and somersault.
Fifthly, good governance is the bottom line answer to educational failure in Nigeria without which democracy will not be sustained and corruption triumphs. In a corrupt country even private initiative in education will be corrupt. “The table is tumbling”, to use Professor Peter Okebukola’s inaugural lecture’s apt description of the state of education in Nigeria, is a requiem for the dearth of the deontological and normative foundation of education in Nigeria.
There is an adage that says that anything worth doing at all is worth doing well. Democracy and good governance must go along with social responsibility and private sector initiative and participation in education. Beyond this, Higher Education must have an epistemological and normative chain with the primary and secondary education awash with duty, moral obligation and moral commitments on both the part of teachers, their environment and stakeholders. Education should be seen as the bedrock of political stability, employment, value chain and wealth creation.
Dukor is Professor of Philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University and President/ Editor –in-chief of Essence Library.