Anyone who is over forty, and is educated, would definitely agree, that our education sector is dead!
The sector has been dying, gradually: from the famous Chinese method of death by a thousand cuts!
A litany of hare-brained polices, dug the grave, for the eventually interment of our education!
A few examples will elucidate this.
Our policy makers, (read each administration, and the politicians in control, crackpots if you ask me), insisted on tinkering with the system, in a bid to leave their mark; and they indeed left their mark: teeth marks on the carcass!
The first glaring error, was the promotion of the university degree, as the sine qua non of success in life!
Please note, I am not in any way disparaging,denigrating, or downplaying the worth, and value, of a university education!
It is the best anyone can get in life, if he is qualified to get one!
The reality is that even people without degrees still succeed, if they get educated through other right sources!
We jettisoned a perfect system that encouraged those who wanted to go to trade schools, and told them only a university would do!
So, many unqualified people, cheated in university entrance exams, and slipped into the university system!
While there, their inadequacy, led them to cheat to remain in the system: because they were not qualified in the first place!
At the end of the day, when these "graduates" emerged, they were just certified ignoramuses!
Before this, in those days, people wrote City and Guilds examinations, went to trade centres, and became educated in trades, and other crafts!
And the system benefited!
We had master craftsmen, who were deeply schooled in the theory, and practical sides, of their vocation!
This showed in the way houses were carefully, and lovingly built, welding work faultlessly carried out, and carpenters who were artists in their own right!
Today, that educated, trade school product, is lacking!
So we have executive, university-trained, suit hugging graduates, without the needed technologically educated technicians to flesh out their concepts into reality!
Instead, they need to rely on roadside artisans who might have an idea of what to do, but cannot read designs!
This same asinine policy, led to polytechnics been discriminated against in civil service career advancement!
Polytechnics would have filled this void, but not enough people chose, as a first choice, to attend them, they were always a fall back option, for those who missed out on university education!
The second mistake our country made, was to decouple Nigeria, from writing A Levels examinations in the West African School Certificate Examinations!
Our grouse was that our students were failing the exam, and to address the situation, we set up our own system, the 6-3-3-4 nonsense!
With this policy, we "incorporated" the A Levels, as an automatic part of secondary education,without the exacting, and tasking, and taxing rigor of study regimen required!
So while the rest of the world were involved in rigorous, and exacting, A Levels study, we were pretending to playing school, and deceiving ourselves!
We refused to submit our children to a universally accepted benchmark of tests, and set up our own, we lowered the bar!
In addition to all these hard to understand policies, we came up with the automatic promotion policy!
When I was growing up, if one failed, he repeated that class, period!
With this new policy, everyone was promoted, including the ones who had no aptitude for formal education, till they arrived at the top!
It was a policy designed to impress bean counters with the large number of children in the school system!
The reality was that many of them were impervious to formal learning, and were better off being referred to trade schools!
These failed, but promoted, children, clogged up the system, reducing quality, by putting unnecessary pressure on it, thereby imperiling it!
We now had over bloated classes, and an unhealthy teacher to student ratio, sometimes as high as one to sixty!
In many instances, subjects with practical components like Biology, Physics, and Chemistry, were taught, without laboratories for students!
Our decaying educational infrastructure did not help matters!
We failed to constantly invest in education, to keep it at par with concomitant rises in other sectors!
What our people did, because of corruption, was to increase the cost of government, in this case, recurrent expenditure, instead of capital projects, which would have benefited our education!
We "spent" money on contracts, not on improving education!
We spent a lot of money on contracts for school construction, but were lax in ensuring that good quality work was done by contractors, or that that teacher training, and welfare was catered for!
Education became a cash cow, and the children were well, and truly milked!
It became so bad, that many sat on the floor to learn,especially in primary schools!
The teachers, now demotivated by the abject neglect of the sector, turned to trading in schools, to survive, and only drop-outs, and the seriously called, went into the vocation!
We established one university after another, and neglected the foundation of all education: the primary level!
It was like a man who used inferior, and substandard, materials in his building's foundation, and foolishly went on to install a roof made of gold!
The mass failure we have been witnessing in the last five years, is actually an indicator of the failed policies from twenty years ago! Those defective children are still in the system, and will continue to embarrass all of us all their lives!
They are beyond help,as their foundations are faulty! The best we can do, is just grit our teeth, and close our eyes, as the results come out!
We have reached a level now, when only twenty percent pass secondary school final exams!
Have we asked ourselves why Ghana is not having similar problems with her education sector?
They do not, because they have not tinkered with a perfectly good system out of political expediency!
Instead, they have tweaked it, now, and then, to make the good better, and the bad good!
Why do we think many Nigerians are now sending their children to secondary, and even primary schools, in Ghana?
Because education is taken seriously there!
In the last school leaving exam conducted by West African Examination Council,WAEC, only twenty percent passed the examination!
It is a slight improvement on the two percent that passed the NECO examination two years ago!
We are approaching a level, where a university graduate from Nigeria, will not be comparable to a secondary school leaver in Ghana!
Some weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with my father-in-law, he has been a doctor for forty two years, and is about seventy five years old!
He told me that, sometimes, when he sees what education has now become, he wishes he were not around to see it!
It is that bad!
During his time in the university in Nigeria, he told me that consultants felt insulted when asked why they did not have private hospitals of their own outside!
They felt research, and teaching was what they were paid for!
The case is no longer true of present day Nigeria! Almost every teacher moonlights to earn more, thereby reducing the quality of time, devoted to the business of preparing for teaching!
Students were usually two to a room, they had people who came to do their laundry, clean their rooms, they ate chicken, fish, fruits, and all manner of delicacies, at the university cafeteria, even when they had no money!
The libraries were well stocked with current books, and no one bribed a lecturer to pass exams!
Those were the days when a primary school pupil could write a letter, and it would not need correcting!
These days, a university graduate, if care is not taken, is nothing more than a "well-schooled" illiterate!
An uncultured philistine!
And it is about to get worse too!
The current government is talking again about changing the system!
When will they get it, that the system is not the problem, but the quality, and quantity, of what we are putting into it!
First of all, our schools need to be conducive for learning, as opposed to being prisons where children are held, to be forced to learn!
Has anyone wondered why, when an average student leaves Nigeria to study, he/she suddenly becomes exceptional in an unfettering environment?
Our institutions are not centres of learning, they are actually torture chambers!
Secondly, the remuneration of teachers, if the best quality human resource are the ones we want teaching our children, needs to be reviewed dramatically upwards!
In Finland, a country renowned for the best educational system in the world, an average primary school teacher's annual salary is $35,000.00 ! That is about five million six hundred thousand naira, in Nigeria!
Secondary school teachers earn an average of $42,000.00, about six million seven hundred and twenty thousand naira!
These figures, to an average Nigerian, sound out of this world!
But if you want the best, and need to retain them, you need to give them the best deal possible, one they cannot get elsewhere!
In Finland, I am told, a masters degree, is a must have for a permanent teaching appointment!
We need to wake up, and face the reality, we do not have an educational system, what we have, is chaos!
Until we realize this, we would be wallowing in ignorance, and disseminating it!
Our aspiration to becoming one of the top twenty economies of the world, by the year 2020, our Vision 20-20-20, will amount to only a wet dream, one fulfilled in another dimension, with no earthly results to show, if we refuse to do right by our education!
MAY GOD BLESS NIGERIA, OUR NIGERIA, FOREVER!