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The Miseducation Of Nigeria's Future
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The Miseducation Of Nigeria's Future
An essay about the pitiable state of education in Nigeria.
[1,077 words]
Toluwalope Olugbenga Ogunlesi
[September 2003]
[email protected]
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The Miseducation Of Nigeria's Future
Toluwalope Olugbenga Ogunlesi

Someone once said, "Education is a process by which information is
transferred from Professors' notes onto students' books without it passing through the brains of either: Amusing, but in the Nigerian context, painfully true. Unless there is a drastic change in the way our educational system is built, we will continue to wallow in the mire of intellectual mediocrity.
Nigeria is a great country. I can assure you. We have so many wonderful role models, in academic, business, sports et cetera. It is particularly heartwarming to hear that a Nigeria was nominated for this year's Nobel Prize in Physics. Chinua Achebe recently won the prestigious German Publisher's Peace Prize and the North Star Award for lifetime achievement. This was in addition to the honorary doctorate degree in Literature conferred on him by the University of Cape Town. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate also recently won the Medal of the Presidency of Italy, in recognition of his prodigious output in creative writing. A Nigerian, Cardinal Francis Arinze is now the fourth in the Catholic hierarchy. Dr.(Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was recently promoted Vice President at the World Bank. Chike Ofili, Ben Okri, Aloy Chike, Philip Emeagwali, Emeka Anyaoku are also some of the many Nigerians who have distinguished themselves on the global stage.
It is pertinent at this point to note that majority of these distinguished Nigerians accomplished their feats outside the shore of Nigeria. Philip Emeagwali is based in the U.S.(for the past donkey years) so is Chike Ofili, Ben Okri is based in the United Kingdom. Aloy Chike is in the U.S. , Wole Soyinka only 'pops' in to visit us in Nigeria. These people are thriving in systems that encourage and inspire them to maximise their potentials, and reward them for outstanding work - something the Nigerian system has not been able to do. I have a feeling that Emeagwali, had he stayed in Nigeria might just have been one of the 44 lecturers sacked by the University of Ilorin.
Our University campus, far from being Ivory Towers, seem to me breeding grounds of idle students in the sense of intellectual idleness. Of course they go through the motions of attending lectures, writing exams and struggling to cope with 'CGPA', yet they serve little value or essence of relevance in what they are forced to learn. Rote learning and memorization are the sole keys to survival. Creativity, innovation and intellectual adventurism which are supposed to be the hallmarks of higher education have been strangled and choked to death. In an age in which computer programming is carried out using Visual Basics and other such advanced languages, Nigeria institutions are refusing to let go of the outdated FORTRAN and BASIC programming languages.
Sometime in the early nineties, a University of Illinois student, Marc Andressen helped write the Mosaic web browser which eventually evolved into the Netscape Navigator, the first popular internet browser (that revolutionised the concept of the internet, transforming it into a commercial success). Michael Dell was a 19 year old University of Texas student when he started Dell Computers with a thousand dollars. Before the dotcom crash, a significant number of Silicon Valley's multimillion dollar startups were owned by twenty-something year old University students.
Brilliant students abound in our Universities. People who, in favorable education systems, would confound the world with inventions. Also, something is choking them, caging them. With libraries that seem more like 'National Archives' and lecturers' notes that seem to belong to the Middle Ages, little wonder there is a growing discontent in, if not all students, at least those who are burning on the inside with lofty ideas and dreams waiting to be translated into reality. The idea of going to University to do what you were cut out for, what you had a passion for, died a long time ago. Now you have to calculate and exptrapolate, and God bless you if you do not squeeze your way into Medicine, Engineering, Law or the Business Science. (But then, why bother with education when you can become number 4 citizen with a forged certificate).
Until Nigeria realizes that her future lies not primarily in oil or even agriculture, but in her vast wealth of human and intellectual resources, she cannot make much progress. Foreigners will never build Nigeria. Debt forgiveness is not the issue. Cap-in-hand begging all around the world for investment is not the way out. The IMF and World Bank are helpless in assisting us until we help ourselves. Until we make a determined resolve to help ourselves, nothing changes. Japan, devastated by World War II, and lacking in the kind and quantity of natural resources that we can boast of, turned to her only hope, her intellectual capital. Today, the ignored 'imitators' have been transformed into envied 'innovators'. Take a look around you, and you can't miss the evidence of Japan's technological superiority from automobiles, to mobile phones, to household electronics, Japan is a leading player. Some time ago, I came across a book on the pioneering work of Japan in the ;field of Artificial Intelligence ( a fairly recent field of technology that aims at giving 'human' intelligence to computer and machines). The Japanese language has developed along with their technology, such that complex software can be written in Japanese. Tell me which indigenous Nigerian language is developed enough to handle computer vocabulary and jargon.
John Kao, business creativity guru in his book 'Jamming' told of Singapore's national policy teaching creativity to its children right from nursery school.
The sad fact is that Nigerians will never know how much they are missing out of until they begin to experience things as they really ought to be. Until then, we will continue to wallow in mediocrity and deceive ourselves into believing we are being educated. I have, like many other Nigerian students, had the opportunity to browse through brochures of British and American Universities. What I see is painful reminder of how almost hopelessly lost we are in the wilderness of backwardness. Beautiful campuses, stimulating course content, sports, recreation and social activities, inspiring faculty, computer technology, generous grants and scholarships, prioritization of creative thinking, the list is endless.
As someone said, University should instill in students the creative flair needed to innovate and build a knowledge-based economy. Until our policy makers grasp this, the future doesn't seem worth looking forward to, and the already wide gap between us and the Western world will inevitably widen past remedy.





"thoutht provoking and painfully accurate. i believe the excuse tha it took the western world a long time to reach its present state rings hollow. Nigerian "underdevelopment" and backward progression ( acotradition in terms ) can also be acconted for by the sheer lack of central and cultural support for anybody trying to make a difference. te culture of excellence in criminal and other unwholsome activities has to die first. I those who will not accept the stsus quo and continue to state the perhaps painful and embarrasing but truthful evaluation of Nigerias prolonged adolescence at 44!" -- Senu Hundeyin.


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© 2003 Toluwalope Olugbenga Ogunlesi
February 2003

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