In this follow-up article on the challenges facing education in Nigeria, I wish to concentrate on looking at solutions to the situation at hand. In order to do so correctly, there is the need to ask some pertinent questions here. I will follow normal life procedures so as to make this easy to understand for all.
Whenever a sick person goes to a doctor, he or she gets asked some fundamental questions in order for the doctor to understand the nature of sickness and how to go about handling its treatment in his or her search for a cure to the ailment. Such questions include simple ones such as (a) How old are you? (b) When and how did the sickness start? (c) Where and how do you feel pains? And so on and so forth. No good doctor goes about telling you that you or your parents are responsible for your illness or stuff like that. He searches for the reasons behind your illness knowing fully well that the answers will help him or her get a curative means to your ailment.
That is exactly what the government should be doing right now even though I am of the opinion that it should have started that process long, long before now. It is however always better to do something late than not do it at all.
It is however pertinent to point out here as fast as possible that unlike a good doctor, the government is going about the search for a solution to this challenge completely in a wrong manner. You do not solve such a challenge through the usual bureaucratic processes employed in other cases. Let us look at a few examples here.
It is on record that some governors, senators, and a few other “leaders” in their own wisdom decided that the best way to help the educational sector in their territories was to donate text-books, exercise books, and in some serious cases, a block or two of classrooms to their community. This is done under the auspices of very elaborate media coverage, applause from their supporters and they then return to their in most cases, Abuja base. No one seems to care what actually happens to the “donations” and if they are actually put to good use or mismanaged thereafter. It does not matter if the books found their way into the illegal markets and not to the students’ use. It does not matter if the teachers are in a position to actually use the books to better the lot of their students or not. Let me ask a simple question here please. Let us assume that the books actually get to the students. What makes the donor believe that the presence of the books will galvanize the teachers (who in all of these actions have been overlooked together with their welfare challenges) into suddenly becoming more dedicated to their duties? Are they not being shown in the actual sense that they really mean nothing to the society? Is the situation being made better or worse with these uncalculated and selfish acts? Is it so difficult for anyone to know that the teacher is actually the central point in the jigsaw of trying to find a solution to this serious problem? Please tell me what stops a teacher from leaving the job to take up full time farming at a time when farmers, petty traders and the likes are now doing better than him or her? Are teachers no longer human beings with blood running through their veins like other humans and with their own normal needs?
Let us look at the issue from the perspective of those actually responsible for running our educational sector. President Goodluck Jonathan recently discovered that some of his supposedly reliable cabinet officers were not giving him the correct position of things in their areas of responsibility and he had to replace them. What makes the Minister of Education think that she gets a correct report of what is happening in her sector? We do not need a prophet to tell us that many of the reports that get to her table are doctored ones and has nothing to do with the real situation on the ground. One would have expected the Minister to suspect this when virtually every corrective measure put in place not only failed but made the situation worse. If I were to be in her position, I would have deployed means other than the usual official ones to try to get to the root of the matter as well as get some input from the players on the field itself and these are the teachers. I am not talking about getting in touch with any commissioner of education, permanent secretary or even an area office director of education here. I am talking about the teachers themselves. Those afore-mentioned remain who they are, officers who sometimes do not really know what the classrooms look like these days not to mention what is going on in them. I am also not talking about the inspectorate of education whose officers only go to select schools to get materials for their reports after getting gratification from the Principals without actually getting to meet with the teachers.
With all these facts put together, you find a system where all that is really going on in the education management sector is a systematic compilation of unrealistic and at best useless reports from the grassroots level to the highest offices in this very delicate area of our society. If this were not so for example, how come we have almost all of our universities manned by roving lecturers while the streets are littered by jobless graduates from these same universities? It is now “normal” to have a lecturer who is attached to and gets paid by as much as five different universities spread across the country and those that apply for lecturer jobs are always informed by the authorities of these same universities that they have no vacancies? Are the Minister of Education and her commissioners claiming not to be aware of these practices? Are we saying that year in year out, we actually churn out graduate incompetent young men and women are not even qualified to be assistant lecturers in any of our higher institutions? If so, is that itself not an indictment of their lecturers and the system that allows such people to earn salaries from multiple institutions thereby blocking out a good number of employment opportunities for the young ones?
With such a system in place, why does the government pretend to be surprised by how well organized the militant groups are? What were those in the corridors of power expecting our teeming unemployed youth to do in their present circumstances? Fall down and die? Can the government imagine what a frustrated but creative graduate in a field such as Chemistry Engineering, Physics and related courses can do to this nation if he, she or they decide to take vengeance on a country that has abandoned them to their fate? Does the government realize that we are lucky that the Nigerian youth is more patient and enduring than those of even some neighboring countries? Are we hoping that they will remain that way while their supposed parents and guardians loot the nation dry right before their eyes condemning them to a mortgaged future?
Oh yes, I know that I promised to concentrate on corrective measures in this part of my article but it is simply difficult not to express the anger inside of one who daily watches his country gradually raped and systematically destroyed by the same people who only until recently pretended to be normal human beings and promised the nation to make a positive difference if elected into office only to show in a very short time how satanic they really are on the inside.
As far as possible solutions are concerned, the major challenge facing the nation in this sector is the will on the part of the officers in charge to really face this challenge with the sincerity and determination of making a positive difference. In a situation where a doctor has recommended an operation as the best solution to handling an ailment, you do not go about it by instead taking paracetamol to reduce the pains you are having unless of course, you are and wish to remain an integral part of the problem.
Having said that, I expect the Minister concerned to borrow a leaf from the President, leave the comfort of her office now and then, have unscheduled meetings with teachers on the ground, cross-check the reports she gets from her officers on a regular basis and she will be in a better position to know exactly what is going on in her territory. These are the same measures which her predecessors failed to take and which have contributed to a steady retrogressive movement of this all-important sector of the nation’s society. With such measures in place, the Minister and by extension the government of the day will not easily be misled into confrontation with the most important people in this sensitive sector of our society – our teachers.
Has anyone imagined what Nigeria would look like without its teachers? At the rate at which we are presently moving, we may need to start importing teachers soon. Maybe then and if we actually get some to import will we start appreciating what the Almighty God has blessed this nation with. I hope it will not be too late then though. Positive action is long overdue. A word is enough for the wise, goes an adage. The clock is still ticking.
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