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Does education really sell?

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Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu

“Education doesn’t sell” is a statement that I have been confronted with repeatedly over the past six years or so.

To put things straight, it has been many students’ strongest point against hard work in the university, and if I add the time spent refuting this together now, it would probably run into years of my life.

Unfortunately, I am not making much success of this enterprise.

No wonder I suddenly woke up at midnight and began to muse about the argument.

Let me first attempt to paint the picture of the present reality.

People just happen upon wealth and the society does not care.

We live in a society where people with no history of gainful engagement suddenly become wealthy, and rather than ask questions, we adore them.

This is a society where elements of questionable characters are the heroes and role models of the young.

This is a society where unemployed young boys from very poor backgrounds ride the most expensive cars in town, live in the most exquisite apartments and spend money lavishly, and the society is silent.

This is a society where dancers and musicians promote sex and gangsterism and are among the wealthiest in the country, and the society likes it so.

This is a society that has suddenly embraced gambling as one of the easiest routes to financial breakthrough.

The product of all of this is the mentality that the end justifies the means. How you make your fortunes does not matter; just get wealthy by all means and you are up there among the high and mighty!

Those who dedicate their entire lives to studying and doing their legitimate works tend to be hopelessly poor (many are now owed pensions, gratuities, and salaries of months) and the society regards it as normal.

And I dare say that it is even those that get the jobs that are afforded the luxury of being owed by government.

I now see many medical doctors who work in government institutions where salaries are not forthcoming.

Many lawyers are unemployed, not for want of legal needs in the society, but for want of money to engage them. Engineers have become housing agents, and the list goes on and on.

Those who are lecturers, like me, are handed only a fragment of their take home, the rest they count in the purse of government – as allowances owed.

The rest that I mean includes money to do research, which is supposed to be the mainstay of their calling.

The result is that people in the so-called envious professions are only placed delicately on cockroach-horses!

The youth see all of these, and conclude unsurprisingly that education no longer sells in this country.

I do not blame them at all; that is the only reality that is substantial in our society.

Consequently, they go about dancing and cat-walking around.

Girls who do not do this engage in sex-selling, advertising passionately with their dresses that now cover close to nothing.

Boys who do not dance go outright in pursuit of money; talk about yahoo-yahoo boys!

The recent killing of the daughter of a former Deputy Governor of a state in Southwestern Nigerian is proof of this.

The actual studying for which they are on campus has long been jettisoned by too many a student!

Let me quickly add, for the sake of fairness, that you will find only about 25 per cent of students who do not engage in these vices as their primary concern on campus.

As parents, you may wonder where your children belong.

But I assure you; if you depend on the version of the child that comes home on holidays or the child’s testimony of how smoothly school has been, you might just be among the fooled.

I really pity parents who put their children and wards in the university and go back to their normal lives, expecting that those children would soon become certified to excel legitimately.

They forget to check and see how the children are faring on campus.

They only send the money and sundry needs that would make the children comfortable. They might just be in for a shocker!

So how have we found ourselves in this mess?

The first cause lies in the values of our present society, which I think I have already touched on in the preceding paragraphs.

We can also not deny the fact that many of those who are supposed to impart knowledge are simply misfits in their respective higher institutions.

This, I put down to the who-know-man syndrome that has usurped the place of competence at the entry levels of government institutions in the country.

The beneficiaries of this back door route to the academic profession now belong to the class of lecturers that only go to class to fulfil all righteousness, who impart no knowledge, and encourage mediocrity.

Such clog the course of education such that whatever is produced by them is unproductive by default.

Lack of adequate funding, resulting in bookless university libraries and empty laboratories.

This is the reality of where reduced government funding of federal and state universities has left those universities.

The budgetary votes to education dwindle progressively, the universities are suffering, and the ultimate victims are the students who are trained without exposure to the world of the impact of their respective fields.

Such students may claim to be certified professionals. But the workplace has no room for certificate carriers having nothing to offer.

We see such professionals all around us, who have no jobs and are quick to apportion blame.

But we need to consider how the dwindling funding of higher institutions has robbed the institutions of their purpose, thereby rendering education entirely unmarketable.

What about the social media? Too many undergraduates now pay more attention to WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms than their studies.

They chart while crossing the road, and most annoyingly, while receiving lectures!

Gone were the days when students spend their evenings and weekends in libraries, searching for books to complement what the lecturers gave and attending to assignments!

I once gave an assignment to Year-two students and about four of them simply downloaded the Wikipedia page containing relevant information along with the customised headers and footers for me!

In the same semester, I gave another assignment to a class and one download an entire article along with the name and affiliation of the original author, without editing.

She made a cover page containing her name and other details and submitted as is.

I guess they never expected me to read the assignments! But I did and that is why I can tell you that the state of dedication of most students these days is near-zero.

But people who pass through the university with this attitude are most likely to be unable to make any telling contribution to society thereby rendering their education questionable.

Wrong training from home! By this I mean the parents themselves have trained their children to be dedicated to their televisions, talk-shows, and programmes that offer only pleasure without any meaningful impact of their life’s trajectories.

These days, you find parents who have several TV series they follow religiously on a daily basis, and this takes hours of their time daily.

Their children simply emulate them. To worsen the situation, parents now own pay TVs and subscribe so their children would not be bored while at home!

And I ask: where is the place of reading in all of these? Unfortunately, these children get to the university with their eyes set on pleasure.

In fact, many believe they do not have to read! Such may graduate from the university, but they are more likely to constitute a blemish to the ideals of education!

A very related reality is the practice, by many parents, of paying for their children to be taught in the examination halls in miracle centres; other parents buy results for children who did not write examinations, and these children, whether those who wrote their own examinations or those who did not, now believe that progress on the education ladder no longer depends on hard work; it depends solely on smartness!

These are the students that come to the university to be trained.

How on earth do you expect lecturers to succeed in training them?

Is it not the child that opens his arms that the mother will carry?

Yes, some manage to graduate, but they remain clueless where the uneducated traders and craftsmen and women prosper, and we complain that education has not made the certified better.

In the end, I return to the question; does education really sell in this country?

Your guess is most likely the same as mine. But what do we, as a nation, stand to gain in maintaining a starved educational system worsened by a perverted value system?

Seeing other countries take the knowledge route out of trouble, where will the relegation of education take us as a nation?

What is the way out? It does not lie in the government alone; we all share the blame and we all must change in some ways.

But I hope to return to that in another essay.

Dr. Adeniyi won the Nigeria Media Merit Award’s prize for Best Money Market Reporter in 2007, wrote from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.


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