Mr. President bring back education glory
Notwithstanding the government’s continued flying a kite with a slogan that education is the light of a nation. Even inscriptions in some schools’ motto such as ‘Knowledge is power’, or ‘Knowledge is light’ among other signs depicting that education is indeed the key to unlock the future as well as eradicate poverty in the society do not sway politicians to do the needful on education.
In Nigeria, education turns a new leaf every September as students resume another academic year, more so is the bugbear that affects the education sector. However, over the years, the ruling government and indeed previous governments in their continued perennial search for structural solutions in the education sector seem to cause more harm than good.
The other day, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) advised President Muhammadu Buhari who cited education as a way to end poverty in the country to stop making empty political statements on education.
According to ASUU, “Nigeria can only be developed by Nigerians themselves and they can only develop if they have quality education to grow the economy. So, it is not enough to make a political statement, you must follow it with action”. Nigeria’s governments, one after another has in the last three decades presented beautiful reforms by putting pen on paper to design patterns and shapes that will not only improve education standard but bring back its lost glory.
Currently, the House of Representatives is frantically making efforts to put into law and see that security and intelligence studies, the Nigerian Constitution and agricultural science are made compulsory subjects in secondary schools across the country.
In spite of all these efforts, it is disheartening to note that politicians hardly walk their talk. More so, it is easier to squeeze water out of a stone than for the government to adequately fund the education sector to achieve those laudable reforms. A case in point is the current minister of education, Adamu Adamu and the strong pessimism from ASUU about his ability to transform the education sector. This is because the minister failed to live up to his earlier promise of declaring a state of emergency on education.
In that regard, ASUU said, “He is back to familiar terrain, we are also in that terrain. He spent more than three years in his first term and made so many political statements that were never implemented. The administration has demonstrated its hatred for education by constantly reducing the budgetary allocation to education. Most of their policies are anti-university”. Given this brief insight from ASUU, it is difficult to relate any strong link between what the government is saying about education to its actions towards the sector. The big question begging for answer is, why are today’s leaders handling education with levity? Have they lost their sense of history that it was education that made the independence heroes achieve the purpose on a ‘platter of Gold’ without bloodshed as it were in Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa?
Are Nigeria’s leaders mindful of the fact that the key to any country’s progress is the sound education of its young population as well as the spiritual, cultural and national self-determination to succeed? The political elite must believe in the youth, therefore, educate them across the discipline to enable them to contribute their quota in the development of the economy and nation.
Too often government and its officials choose to be very sluggish to act on education and when it does, it is either too little or too late. Such shabby treatment and negligence make it too obvious for even a layman to believe that it is not in the character of government to make education shine its light on the masses. Much as the government’s body language and its cynicism towards education speak louder than its rhetoric. This brings to bear that politics or rather politicians behave like a pendulum. When the ruling party was in opposition, it presented itself like an angle to the people promising a positive change on everything and particularly singling out education for reform.
Now that it is in power, education seems to walk on a tight rope as Buhari’s government continues to drag its feet on prioritising education. It is common knowledge that the Buhari administration’s lack of adequate funding of education has gained notoriety especially as education’s budgetary allocation continues to dwindle. Does the government need people to protest before it wakes from slumber and give education its rightful treatment?
For example, when Botswana became independent on September 30, 1966, the country was one of the world’s poorest countries, with only 22 of its citizens with degrees. But when the country struck diamond in 1967, the government enacted laws to share the proceeds and spend them on infrastructure and education to avoid the “resource curse” suffered by mineral-rich African countries like Nigeria, Congo, South Africa, Sierra-lone, Angola among others to corruption and conflict.
Today, Botswana’s GDP per person is $18.650 higher than South Africa’s $13.870 even as Botswana rubs shoulders with countries such as China, Costa Rica and Serbia in terms of the adequate condition of living among its citizens. What is more, academics across the continent focus on its institutions for all the right reasons. Subsequently, it is indeed jaw-dropping to ask, where are Nigeria’s infrastructure and education status with all her oil wealth and a bunch of educated society?
It is a fact that workable institutions do not emerge from thin air, they reflect the political culture exhibited by politicians in the country. Consequently, the excitable rhetoric and lip service poured on education from Nigeria’s political leaders and its elite have been the bane society suffers from crime and criminality today and to a large extent, why the nation’s economy is unstable.
In that sense, well-meaning Nigerians and stakeholders on education should share ASUU’s apprehension and stop what it (ASUU) calls the government’s anti-education posture. This is because the current downward trend in education standards is not helping the country in any way. To come out of the woods, the government should be more consistent in their belief and promise on education. Also, it must be agreed by all education stakeholders that corruption is partly responsible for the dwindling standard of education and reach a resolution to stamp it out. More important, a national declaration of emergency on education is urgently needed because politically the ruling government is on perilous ground as it concerns education.