(By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni)

Did I mention how dastardly, corruption driven and debasing the 3 admission musketeer of UTME, WAEC and NECO have become? It is simply a “money for hand back for ground” case. Does someone still need to know why our graduates cannot communicate effectively? Can mansions be built on quicksand? Can a deficient teacher teach effective communication skills?

The lamentation by the Kano State Coordinator of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Mr Sanusi Abdulrasheed, that about 89 per cent of corps members cannot write good application or communicate effectively in English Language but would rather prefer to communicate in “broken English,” did not come to me as a surprise, but an affirmation that we have lost everything that can be called qualitative education in this nation.

Gone are the days when education used to be a pride, when an under graduate and graduates in a family or community used to be a point of reference and means to flaunt the ingenuity of such family to have taken the mental and financial torture to send such child/ward to school. In those days as recounted(my generation didn’t meet any), a Grade 5 certificate makes you grow boil in the armpit(your shoulder just have to be up, this feat comes with a natural pride which perhaps is understandable). If such person(s) considers furthering, it comes with a scholarship.

To have gone to the University and return, automatically makes you sit with kings. In the stories we have heard, particular emphasis is never placed on your graduating grade because every person in that generation seems to be exceptionally brilliant or was it that they were exceptionally privileged with multiple job offers that they can afford to choose, since the companies even have limited choices?

During those times of foregone memories, leaders of exceptional characters made education free. They knew the essence of qualitative and quantitative education so they established schools and equipped them with necessary facilities from the people’s resources . By the depth of vision, our present crop of leaders were practically forced to school with canes by the generation our own generation missed.

Then, education has to be by force, because industries guided by vision were springing up, nationalization was in top gear and Nigeria, just out of colonialism, was skeptical of neo-colonialism, so the practical thing to do was to make sure more Nigerians go to school in other to fill the void of mass emigration of our former oppressors.

Our current crop of leaders were motivated, enticed, and empowered to get education. Many of them went abroad in droves and those who did not, were never marginalized based on quality, everybody was magically brilliant. My late mother who falls in that generation and had only first schooling certificate(primary school certificate) once challenged me to a reading contest in my first year at the University. She can communicate convincingly in english and wrote lots of grammatically structured letters both in english and yoruba to families abroad. That was the depth of what we lost.

With military incursion into our body politics, education lost it allure, credence was given to fortifying personal pockets and corruption sweeps across every strata. In 1976, Universal Primary Education (UPE) was launched to savage the downward trend, but even that failed because fund were outrageously made unavailable. Unfortunately for us as a nation, 37 years after, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) launched in 1999 to replace UPE and fit into the Millennium Development Goal 2 of Achieving Universal Basic Education, is significantly becoming a drop of water in the ocean – grossly insignificant. The present decay in public primary schools cannot just be quantified.

While the inability to provide structures, decongest the class rooms, provide instructional materials, and provide conducive environment for learning stand in the way of objective needs of our educational system, the subjective policy that National Certificate of Education (NCE) be made the minimum educational requirement one should possess to teach in the nation’s primary schools worsen the foundation. And to a large extent, a reflection of what we have today.

We have either by deliberate or myopic attempt conditioned the education of the future of the country to half-baked NCE holders who are themselves dispassionate about education but were the frustrated many who could not gained admission into either the university or polytechnics, so as option of last resort, colleges of education became their lots. Is it possible for a disoriented and poorly motivated teacher who himself acquired very little, give the best? Without prejudice, how many NCE holder can communicate effectively? Or is it not those produced by these teachers from primary schools that would proceed to secondary schools then universities?

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in it’s ‘state of the world’s children’ report for 1999′ pointed out that about four million Nigerian children have no access to basic education, and that majority of those that are ‘lucky’ to enter schools are given sub-standard education. That cannot be further from the truth if not worst now.

Then in the name of national service, NYSC Corp Members are deployed across the nation to teach in very critical subjects such as English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Government, Financial Account etc, pardon my debasement, what do these corp members themselves know? A good number of them end up doing nothing, than adding to the injury of retard pupils who are hurriedly pushed over to the universities.

Did I mention how dastardly, corruption driven and debasing the 3 admission musketeer of UTME, WAEC and NECO have become? It is simply a “money for hand back for ground” case. Does someone still need to know why our graduates cannot communicate effectively? Can mansions be built on quicksand? Can a deficient teacher teach effective communication skills?

Allocation to Education in percentage for the year 1995 was 7.2, it improved appreciably in 1996 to 12.32, then 17.59 in 1997. It came down in 1998 to 10.27, 11.12 in 1999. The first educational budget by a civilian president at the turn of the fourth republic was 8.36 in the year 2000, it was reduced to 7.00 in 2001. Pause, fast forward to 2011, 8.43 per cent with a 0.24 per cent increase to have 8.67 in 2012.

The above analysis still falls short of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO)’s 26 per cent recommendation. For 2013, while neighboring Ghana committed close to 31 per cent of her budget to education, Nigeria, the “dwarf of Africa” committed a miserly 8 per cent. Do we still wonder why Ghana remains highest receiver of Nigerian students in recent time after Europe?

A school of thought, however, posits that the problem with our education is not the budgetary allocation but the management of the meagre some made available, as we pursue UNESCO’s 26% like the analogical blade of a ceiling fan, they can never meet.

With 1,503,931 youths in 2013 seeking admission into our universities that can barely take 500,000, one can start to reason why the racketeering is that obvious, with the haves with no brain gaining admission and the have-nots with brains getting frustrated.

And there came almighty Academic Staff of Universities Union(ASUU), who by default have elongated every student’s academic year. The union’s first strike was in 1988, over unfair wages and university autonomy. Sadly enough, it is on the same premise that the union is on strike presently. This fourth republic has really been a sour point to anything qualitative education.

Even though as a graduate, I cannot qualify myself as broadly learned, I am in the same vain not qualified as a non-reader yet I can say boldly that I learnt very little in the cause of my passing through secondary school and university. Something close to qualitative education I have received so far as a Nigeria youth is that which my guardians allowed me by making me attend a private nursery and primary school. Categorically speaking, what I gained in primary school contribute largely to what I can do today. So, how is it my fault if I cannot write an application letter or communicate effectively?

African Novelist, Chimananda Adichie in her latest work,”Americanah”, gives a lucid picture of how university runs in that system. Students are trained to express themselves and not bottled up in the shadows of irrelevant text books written in the last century. Students are not made to read books that hardly fit into contemporary usage. Here, we are trained to be timid and see our lecturers as god, no compassion to train us to be future leaders, no room for independent thinking, no room to provoke discussions at variance with lecturers thoughts, no room to be real but mechanized zombies after a certificate that hardly bring employment.

Statistically, if 50 percent, 35 per cent and 15 per cent of Federal, State and Private Universities respectively form the bulk of NYSC enrollments at every batch, where did a large percentage of NYSC Corp members that are unemployable sprout from? Your guess is as good as mine. Is it not a shame on the government?

If the government or NYSC is so concerned about the standard of Nigerian graduates’ learning and communication skills, let ASUU demands be met in totality and depth attention paid to our primary and secondary schools. Universities are meant to broaden what you learn in secondary school, so how does one build a structure on a non-existent foundation?

Again, who advised government out of the 6-3-3-4 educational structure? I still believe that is the best structure so far, what needs to be incorporated is a structured procedure to move deficient student to well equipped vocational schools. It’s high time we go back to the basis and of course basics.

(Source: Sanity0407)

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”