It would be an impediment to the Objectives of this screed if we eroded the fact that Africa's biggest Economy and infact the 7th largest producer of the world's crude Oil, moreso, a strategic partner and beneficiary of about 17% percent of infrastructural bilateral agreements from China is not anywhere near the top 20 African countries with the most functional and viable Education systems.
It would interest you to know that the nation's like Seychelles, Angola, Tunisia, Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya, are by light years considerably ahead of Africa's "Giant". Now we don't hear of "ASUU" strikes in the aforementioned countries despite the fact the economy of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial Hub, is larger than the economy of over 50% of these African countries. the significance being that, if Lagos were to be an independent nation like Ghana, it would have no excuse for not having a fully viable educational system.
A few years ago, I was addressing an issue of academic lethargy amongst Nigerian students on live television. extenuating that on average, a student studies less than two hours in a week. now reading an article about why relationships fail and why some partners aren't just compatible sadly doesn't fall within the context of study as some might want to contest. However as the conversation progressed, I explained that one of the issues why we consistently churn out graduates with lesser relevance to societal demands and moreso less efficiency to replicate what is traditionally expected is fundamentally tied to Nigeria's Educational make-up. with further analysis , we discovered it was in part, due to policy making which seemingly involves the Government across all levels.
Today, you can enroll to take a short course with Harvard, Stanford, University of Capetown, Huddersfield or the City of London University with just the aid of your smart phone or PC. In the last 6 months, I've undertaken about 7 online courses from over 5 Universities across the World. This has greatly improved my work efficiency. it would interest you to know that most of these courses cost within the ballpark of 200-1000$ depending on it's market demand and relevance. as I take my online classes and interact with thousands of learners around the world, it stupefies me and at the same makes me reflective of how much we need to do as a country in regards to Education.
In comparison to some African countries whose Investment in Education average at about 15-25% of their budget, We still struggle with a 5% actuality. it is even more disturbing that as a country, we run one of the cheapest Educational systems in the world, as much as we have also been lucky in producing some of the brightest minds who sadly will rather give credit to a Harvard or Cambridge for their proficiency and would rather give more credence to their foreign leanings or connection to those countries than they would be so proud in associating or giving full credence to Nigeria. what plays out in the oil sector sadly replicates itself in our education sector: where raw talents are either exported or forcefully immigrate to more developed countries and finally return to us as finished products. the poor investment in education remains one of the most inexorable challenges of Nigeria's education sector. Now Contrastingly this is followed by the proposition that this investment should not be entirely shouldered by the Government.
The Nigerian Government bears the costs of paying lecturers and virtually the entire workforce of public tertiary institutions. If partnerships or agreements with more developed countries on our Road Networks, refineries, Electricity, Oil production and Security in terms of grants and loan facilities is perceived as imperative, why is education not factored in as a cardinal priority of state interest. every year, the federal Government undertakes projects in concert with the private sector. I believe same could be done for our varsities. asides the need to invest more in education, there is a need for the Government to consider viable partnerships with more developed countries and Financial institutions like the World Bank and the International finance Corporation in regards to procuring sustainable credit facilities exclusively earmarked for educational infrastructures. more importantly, strategic partnerships focused on affiliations and exchange of skills cum Human Resources should be embedded as a vital criterion when putting the sector into consideration.
Emerging giants in the middle East like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE optimised the dividends of the oil Discovery and boom of the 1970's to diversify their economy. One of the primal aspects of this diversification process included a massive investment in education alongside the provision of basic infrastructure. It was around the same period in the 70's when Nigeria's former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon stated that "Nigeria's problem is that we don't know what do to do with money". Suffice to say, that it is the opinion of this writer that if he was surrounded by strategic thinkers and if the Government had envisaged other components of the Economy begging for investment, that question wouldn't have been just rhetorical. in the years to come, the likes of UAE had transformed it's economy and educational sector through massive investment. Thus it succeeded in improving literacy from 30% to over 80%. remember that the middle east giants are also majorly oil producers as we are. matter of factly, Nigeria can boast as more endowed than the likes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia due to it's possession of some other highly valued natural resources like Gold and Diamond. but with the little within it's reach, the region has been able to assert itself as the World's biggest tourism attraction and also an emerging tech Giant. as the English writer and philosopher Jonathan Swift Opines in his fabled laputan theory, he speaks of a society where emphasis is placed on ancillary infractions while matters of Imperative cogency is overlooked. permit me to say that the difference between Nigeria and the aforementioned Countries is simply a misplacement of priorities.
As a corrolary to this, the Nigerian Government should completely erode education subsidy. this should rather be replaced with the engagement of Renowned educational Consultants and administrators who would be saddled with the responsibility of managing the varsities and in partnership with the private sector while the Government maintains it's supervisory role by attracting foreign Investments into the Sector. as i've earlier mentioned, if the Government can attract the likes of China and the United States to partner with us on Infrastructure, Security and Technology, there's absolutely no reason why education should not be given state priority as well. The problem has consistently remained the notion or perception that education is exclusively a domestic responsibility to be undertaken by the Government. If this was the case, we wouldn't be having incessant strikes because it has now become evident that the Government lacks the full instruments at its disposal to assuage the crisis.
A very Important aspect of our of this argument is revenue generation. as is known, asides selling handouts and textbooks- which is largely creditable and pecuniary to lecturers- tuition and other mandatory fees, our Universities have no other verifiable source of generating revenue. this brings us back to the issue of shared responsibility. we cannot consistently burden the federal Government with a mandatory expectation to finance our institutions when this universities lack a financially regenerative and maintenance policy. An average Nigerian student in final Year blaming both ASUU and the Government today probably hasn't paid a dime from his first year till date. this goes to show you that even the basic source of revenue is not sacrosanct or efficient. this then implies that the buck lies within Institutions to devise other effective sources of generating income to enable it both provide and maintain it's basic infrastructure as well as it's basic expenditure. One way this could be done is by leveraging on the Cyber space. Introducing online education to Nigeria's academic community is one way of achieving this. as aforementioned, It is commonplace to take short online courses today which could cost for as little as one hundred thousand to one million naira. a few days ago I tried registering for an online course in feature journalism with the University of Capetown. now this was supposed to be for about 10 weeks and guess what, it cost about 700$. what's more interesting about this was that this wasn't a degree In journalism, but rather a course in journalism. One of the courses which make up a degree . what this implies is that this South African Varsity has leveraged on the internet to generate more revenue. when you evaluate this, you will discover that it is likely to generate more income in a year by offering paid online courses than it would make from the tuition fees for degrees. moreso, today, you can obtain a three or four year degree online with the flexibility of financial aids or student loans similar to on-campus or physical learning. this has greatly influenced the various ways Universities generate income as well as also provided an opportunity for Young people to learn remotely and at their own pace. with online learning, there can't be strikes. except you choose to relinquish time for online classes to attend to other issues.
Conclusively, as we engender more creative ways to mitigate Nigeria's education challenges, it is just as important to understand the Importance of more Investment in the Sector by the Government, as much as the need to enter more meaningful bilateral partnerships with developed economies on improving our Educational infrastructure and Overall performance through the issuance of credit facilities, Investments, exchange of knowledge, skills, technology and human resources. the Government should also consider ways of relinquishing exclusive management of our tertiary institutions to the Private sector whilst still maintaining a regulatory and supervisory role. More importantly, leveraging on the Cyber space is one viable way through which universities can generate more revenue to fund it's workforce as this would enable a seamless continuance of activities irrespective of the prevalent challenges.
Also Known as Saint Louis, David Nwokorie is a Nigerian Author, Multimedia Journalist and P.R Strategist. he has authored a litany of articles published on journals and tabloids. has also had stints as a radio broadcaster and TV Presenter with some Media outfits in the Country. He is currently a media Consultant to the Imo State Government and serves in several media Advisory Capacities.