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Teaching handicraft for effective youth, national development


Pupils learning arts and design

Nigeria’s education policymakers are not bereft of ideas but often they and their patrons lack the political will to implement the nation’s ambitious agenda of raising enterprise-minded schoolchildren based on the teaching of handicraft in schools as espoused in the primary and secondary school curriculum. Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL writes

He watched as the machines threaded the material into fine shapes. His intent gaze examined every single worker as they passionately produced one of the men’s favourite fashion accessories – the bow tie. A smile of approval formed on his face as his eyes glistened with accomplishment.

At age nine, he is already an entrepreneur. Please meet, Nelson Ashinze, the nine-year-old Nigerian designer. He has become a metaphor for the teaching of handcraft in the country’s primary and secondary schools.In acknowledgment of the prodigy, former minister of state for industry trade and investment, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar, said the Federal Government would support young Ashinze to realise his dream and potential as a designer. The young boy already owns a clothing line. It is called Nelson George Clothing.

The government promised to support him by ensuring that the boy will benefit from the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria and Bank of Industry (BoI)’s assistance. “We are going to make sure that he has the adequate training on entrepreneurship skills. We have BoI that will provide machines when he is in need of machines. We are going to help him access loan from the bank. We are promoting made-in-Nigeria products.


“This is definitely a made-in-Nigeria initiative. We are going to use him as one of our champions for the initiative. He is also promoting the cotton, textile and garment industries, which again we are promoting. So, we have a market for him and we are going to give him all the necessary support that he needs to ensure that he runs a successful business in Nigeria,” Abubakar had said.

But how did Ashinze become bow tie-making prodigy?
His response is not far-fetched: he developed the skill and passion to make bow ties in his school during handcraft classes. The chap is known for handmade bow ties, pocket squares, headband and accessories with the classic touch of African prints.
In 2015, the nine-year-old founded the Nelson George Clothing where he doubles as designer and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). It took him little or no time to showcase his craft on Nigeria’s fashion runway. “I believe that with children like this young boy, there is hope for Nigeria. He is an encouragement to children out there, with what he is doing the sky is his limit,” former minister of state for environment, Ibrahim Jibir had said.

Some education experts, however, found it curious that former minister of education, Adamu Adamu, was not able to use the emergence of the prodigy to stir up a conversation in the academic community for more emphasis to be placed on tangible academic outcomes and not head knowledge.

In 1982 many reforms were introduced into Nigeria’s educational system through the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system – which represents six years in primary school, three years in junior secondary, three years in senior secondary school and four years in a tertiary institution.

Something that scholars found eye-catching in that system was the introduction of vocational education into the secondary school curriculum. Today, even in primary schools, handcraft training is encouraged.The aim of the policy of vocational education in Nigerian secondary schools as stated in the national policy on education is to provide training and impartation of necessary skills geared towards the production of craftsmen, technicians and other skilled individuals who will be enterprising.

The policy is also intended to enhance young students in the country to have an understanding of the technology. At the junior secondary level (JS1-3) pre-vocational subjects were introduced with the goal of exposing students to the world of work through exploration targeted at enhancing students.

The pre-vocational subjects include business studies, home economics, and woodwork, among others. As the economic climate of the world changes, more and more academic institutions are now teaching entrepreneurship as a subject especially in the universities.But entrepreneurship was introduced to junior secondary one to three as part of business studies which is an optional subject. Scholars, however, expressed doubt if pupils are actually taught entrepreneurship in schools.

The learning goals of business studies include helping young ones to acquire basic skills for productive and profitable business venturing in changing business environments; creating, for them, business opportunities, imbuing in them the ability to creatively solve problems, take risks, and be self-sustaining.

In Nigeria, basic one to nine (primary and JSS) curriculum provides for the teaching of handicraft though as an optional subject, suggesting the huge need for technological advancement. But, for this technological advancement to become manifest, the young, impressionable students will need to have hands-on experience in weaving, sewing, designing, painting, molding, smiting, fabricating, and others in their schools.

A research work noted, “Apparently, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme is supposed to produce individuals who are masters of their own hands and minds. This is because it is handicraft element or: non-formal education programmes could be organised for the participants to acquire skills in sewing, batik, and tie-dye fabric design, manufacture of mats, aprons, woven sisal handicrafts, cane chairs, and tables as well as the production of confectionaries.

“Also, the skills and knowledge of artisans such as mechanics, carpenters, bricklayers, and ‘panel beaters’ could be improved in such workshops. Even when the people have acquired various survival skills, they must be exposed to the skills of business management. The training …should include how to manage bank accounts, stock-taking, and general book-keeping.”

What the policy advocates and what truly occurs in schools, experts noted, are not congruent. Pupils only read about crafts in their textbooks hardly having a go at experiencing what it means and takes to use their hands to make things, thus, killing the ingenuity of these young ones.

Researchers further observed, “Operation of the handicraft element in the curriculum seems to be the missing link between policy management and national objective realisation. The lack of proper operation of the handicraft element in the curriculum is increasingly seen to limit Nigeria’s ability to pursue effective technological advancement strategies leading to governments and private funding communities to place increased emphasis on effective administration.”

Without mincing words, scholars admitted that the failure of the government and schools to fully implement the handicraft element in the curriculum is adversely affecting the nation’s economic and technological development. They argued further that the delay in having schoolchildren apply their hands and minds to handicraft operation would deepen poverty, backwardness, and lack of skilled manpower.

A curriculum development geared towards “acquiring certificate and degrees” rather than “equipping the citizens to be nation builders”, they pointed out, will make it difficult for Nigeria to compete on the international scene.Education experts believe that now is the time for the governments, at the federal, state and local levels to pay more attention to handicraft if the future generation must make any positive showing on the world stage in the years to come.

According to them, one of the major challenges of developing countries is how to prepare youths to effectively cope with the global scientific and technological intelligence development.

“This development has created two priorities for education system development in Nigeria: it must meet the nation’s growing demand for technically competent workers who can readily apply new skills, and it must operate a curriculum to effectively support the sustenance of that knowledge. Consequently, a curriculum development envisioned to operate handicraft elements (weaving, molding, smiting, carving and painting among others) to initiate, develop and subsequently apply technological competence in the nation’s development ambition becomes imperative.

“This imperative is in realisation of the fact that we live in a world where science and technology have become an integral part of the world culture and any nation that overlooks this significant truism does so at its peril.” At a time that the Federal Government is campaigning for made-in-Nigeria products, it is considered imperative by analysts in the sector that the necessary authorities in the country should call for a “structural re-engineering of our education system to be able to produce and utilise our products to effectively solve our peculiar problems.”

A research work noted, “Quite often, the prominence of handicraft is an impetus for technical education development. However, the meaning and implications of the term are often too rarely clarified. In most developed countries including the United States of America, level of curriculum operation is related to educational achievement.


“Curriculum implementation helps transform and improve ideas, skills, and attitudes which lead to development. Technology improves labour structures and technological innovations.”It is not by chance that technological advancement is often linked to national economic growth and poverty reduction by both national and international analysts.

Following that, the development, promotion, and implementation of handicraft curriculum in Nigerian schools is seen as central to any successful administration of indigenous skill development critical for the solution of contemporary problems.
In Nigeria, the desire to develop local craft as a basis for technology appreciation and application is well articulated in the national policy on education, especially in the basic (primary and junior secondary) education curriculum.

Education experts’ advice, therefore, is that all stakeholders should examine the operation of the handicraft element of the basic education curriculum and determine its implication on the nation’s efforts to achieve technological advancement. The country may not witness every nine-year-olds turning to be exactly like Ashinze but a pattern can be set to producing enterprise-minded young individuals who can turn Nigeria’s ragged economy into a buoyant one.


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