I’m going to try to get in this post without ranting too much in it. I’ll try.
Just how are we going to fix the university system in Nigeria?
As a soon-to-graduate-secondary-school kid about to get into university, the state of tertiary institutions in Nigeria can drive you nuts on two seemingly unrelated but equally frustrating levels. The silver spoons who opt for an education abroad get frustrated by all the international hulabaloo and lack of privileges. Forget what they tell you or how they try to make it seem, being an international student in America will NEVER be the same as being an American student in America. There are a lot of complications that come from a university education abroad; visa, sudden change of academic environment, lack of contextualization to suit the African situation you find yourself in, the list goes on. If you’re in this situation I believe you get annoyed at universities at home for not being
good enough attractive enough to you. You don’t want to be part of all that campus wahalla so instead, you hit the inconvenient but worth-it highway. More grease.
Then there’s the not-so-opportuned kid that’s trying to get into college. Like his aforementioned contemporary, he sees the rot in the Nigerian higher education system and he obviously does not want to be apart of it. But he has no choice. So he gets into some rural polytechnic where members of staff strike for months on end, he receives a ‘paper diploma’ (he can’t really account for his university education) at the end of his six-year course ,which was actually meant to last for four years, and he is flung into the job market with flailing arms and a forcefully incapacitated brain. If he no find work, na whose fault e be?
The sad part is that most Nigerians fall into the latter category. Some are even so bad that they’re resitting their exams again and again. The school system is so rotten that it can’t afford them an education good enough to get them into a rotten university. The imbalance in Nigeria you see is a direct offshoot of this situation. Those who go abroad often times stay abroad and contribute their energies to the national development of the country where they are. The few that come back try their best, but come on, it can only get us so far. Now, imagine if there was no difference between the guy that schooled here and the one that schooled abroad. Just imagine the difference that would have made to the development of this country.
There’s one possible solution to this whole problem though. As extreme as it sounds I believe that if it is vehemently enshrined somewhere in our constitution that no Nigerian student be allowed to study abroad, our universities will be turned right-round. When the senators’ and governors’ and oil big boys’ and Dangotes’ kids are made to go to all the UNIBENs and UNILAGs, won’t their parents be forced to contribute to the growth of those institutions? What you will see in the next few years will definitely surprise you.
This is only the first issue in the university rant series. I believe it is apt to elaborate on this subject because truth be told, it’s getting really out of hand. I think a Nigeria where no student has to give a hoot about the American Common Application or about flight fees to far-away destinations or about striking if he goes to a school here or about books, electricity or the availability of professors will be much better than what we have existing today. If we fix the university system, we’re fixing a whole lot of problems in Nigeria and charting a brighter future for ourselves. But till then, we seem left with no option but to keep mailing transcripts abroad.
One can write endless pages, theses, dictionary-sized essays about the dismal public sector of Nigeria, of which education has come to have the worst of. But I’ll try to keep it simple no matter how seemingly impossible that may be….
The truth is that we don’t have public schools in Nigeria. Teachers come to school as they please and strike incessantly, students don’t yet recognize the importance of academia, the government doesn’t give a hoot; after all your average senator’s son goes to school in Cambridge. It’s the same on all academic levels; primary school to secondary school to tertiary institutions. And from what I see, no signs of alleviation are imminent. If we know we want to genuinely substantiate our claims of international superiority, we have to do something about this as a nation. And fast.
A couple of suggestions have been made to this effect. The first suggestion here (a suggestion which, quite frankly, I’m getting tired of) is that we privatize education in Nigeria, just like that. The people who argue in this direction see commercial Nigeria as an unwavering messiah of efficiency. Not that their wrong necessarily, but you can only go so far combining commercial interests and welfarism. In fact, you hardly can. I’ll leave you to think about that one. Another school of thought touts that we involve the more ‘developed’ nations in our education sector by either importing expatriate educators or exporting students to give us a taste more refined education. Good point, though very consumptive. An even more authoritative opinion pool believes that a government decree be enacted to see to it that no Nigerian be allowed to send his child abroad. That way, we’d be forced to work on ourselves.
You may not realize it yet but sound, concrete education for all Nigerians would change this country unimaginably. The potential is there, all we need to do is tap it. I think it would be really cool if Nigeria as a whole was educated to a point where we’ll have brainboxes in media, engineering, medicine, creative arts, and even more importantly, where there’d be an unignorable collective spirit of national solidarity.
Now sing it with me!