Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nigeria at 51: My Reflection on Education.

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in another.” Abraham Lincoln.

Putting my best foot forward on the subject matter, I will do well by saying I write to critique education in relation to the role it should play as touching national development.

In most civilized countries of the world, the most important instrument of achieving a sustainable national development is education. These countries usually align their educational system to aid the achievement of their national philosophy and objectives. This view is also true of Nigeria, at least, as documented in the National Policy on Education (NPE, 1981 revised) where it reads “…the Federal Government of Nigeria has adopted education as an instrument per excellence for effecting national development…” In other words, Nigerian government agreed to tailor the educational system to aid the achievement of our national philosophy and objectives as stated in the second national development plan; 1970 – 1974:
A free and democratic society.
A just and egalitarian society.
A united, strong and self-reliant nation.
A great and dynamic economy.
A land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens.
This the National Curriculum Conference endorsed as necessary foundations for the philosophy guiding the National Policy on Education.

The education we so speak of here do not mean more literacy – the mere ability to read and write; it means a process of physical and mental culture whereby a man’s personality is developed to the fullest. He is what he is because the three main constituents of his entity – body, brain and mind – are fully developed.

In the words of the sage – Obafemi Awolowo - “if a man’s physique is fully developed but his brain and mind are left undeveloped or only partially developed, what we have is a being powerful enough to hew stones and draw water for others, and discernment that he is unable to appreciate and assert his human rights. If the mind alone is developed and both the body and brain are neglected, then we have a sorry figure of a religious fanatic who condemns everything, and everybody but himself, and whose only prophecy is one of pessimism, catastrophe and gloom for mankind. If his body and brain are fully developed whilst the mind remains undeveloped or only partially developed, then we have a shattered soul. By his lack of a sense of spiritual values, he denies freedom to a class, and by doing so, brings about a situation called revolution in which the freedom of all is seriously threatened and in some cases completely submerged by a deluge of war…”

It is against this background that I posit that Nigeria has done badly in her 51 years of existence; no apology. In the case of us Nigerians only bodies are fairly developed. Our brains and minds largely remain undeveloped, and only partially developed in a few cases and this explain why our national philosophy and objectives stands unachieved, and perhaps unachievable.

For instance, a national objective believed to be instrumental to the much needed national development is the creation of a just and egalitarian society in which justice, fairness, trustworthiness interplay with equal opportunities for all citizens. The curricular offering at all educational levels should be responsive to the development of such attributes in the scholars. What do I see around me however? A legal/justice system which seems to crisis-ridden and as such, the defense of ethics and the poor masses is in jeopardy. Square pegs in round holes; consequently, a lot of lopsidedness and imbalance permeate our socio-economic and political life.

One would think at 51, Nigeria should be getting it right already. One argument I have been getting lately is that “…even America never got it right at 51.” I beg to disagree with that line of argument. I advise Nigerians undertake a brief journey into the history of the United States of America that they may learn to argue and analyze rightly. Oh, sorry. I have forgotten we do not even know or pay attention to our own history. I remember when I went to the University some years ago to study history, many frowned at my desire. I doubt if they still teach history in our secondary schools. An unnecessary subject you say? What a nation.

Even as I made to halt the flow of my pen, I will not sign out without making a suggestion. One major landmark in the historical development of education in Nigeria, even predating her independence was the Phelps-Stokes Commission reports of 1925 which recommended among others that: (1) education should be adapted to local needs and conditions, (2) moral and religious education is fundamental to the total development of scholars. So, I suggest a total recalibration of our educational system, this time around with all sense of purpose and not seeing it as another shot at registering a political point or wetting the throats of political jobbers. It is on record that Nigeria produces communiqués without commensurate actions. Let us set a new tone from now on.

Long live Nigeria.

Alamu Samson.

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