Posted on: 2014-04-02

The wages of neglect
I visited a friend last week in Abuja. We took a stroll round the new and posh estate where he lives. As we strolled around he explained to me how the estate owner planned to complete the extensive project of a thousand housing units. As he showed me around we met a large group of young labourers arriving at work early that morning. Then, my friend said: “And here are the workers building this place. They are the ones who will come back to rob us after they finish their work here” Then he walked on. It took quite a while for his message to sink in and I did not find it particularly amusing. I asked him why he said such a thing and he explained: “Yes, these people will finish their work here one day. They will then join many like them with no regular jobs because we have not made any provision for them. Some of them will simply think back and return here and you know for what”. His message delivered with a touch of humour already has a resonance in what is happening already today. Holistic education is the only thing that can reduce such a risk to the very minimum.
The search for a solution
Such quality education is precisely what is lacking on Nigeria today. “Teach your child and he will give you rest” declares the Bible. A Yoruba proverb teaches the same: Omo ti a ko ko ni yoo gbe ile ti a ko ta” meaning, “The child that is not trained will sell off the house that we build one day”. Uneducated or poorly educated youths constitute the largest and the most destructive section of the Nigerian population today. There is however seeming agreement that at the basis of a sure solution must be holistic education for Nigeria’s teeming population. The Nigerian Economic Summit has discussed the importance of quality education in nation building. A former Minister of Education Nigeria, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili has raised the alarm that if things continue as they are the country’s education sector, by 2020 may only breed skilled and motivated criminals and women of easy virtues with only negative energy to contribute to the nation. She proposed a set of steps with the acronym CREATIVE, (Curriculum, Reactionary, Institutional, Systemic, Imagination and Sanitisation) to furnish education which provides for character, attitude and needs. She urged early childhood education and partnership between government and the private sector in seeking a solution to the education crisis in the country.
Convergence on quality education
The final communique of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria after their last meeting converges with the foregoing and reads in part thus:
The good health of a nation is largely dependent on the quality of education of her citizens. The numerous problems affecting our country Nigeria are very obvious: corruption, abuse of power, insecurity, poverty, discrimination, to name but a few. We cannot confront these challenges without investing in the provision of quality education. With integral education, the human person is formed to be loving and caring, able to actualize his or her potential, contribute to the attainment of the common good and fulfil his or her aspiration. Quality education in this respect has a religious and moral content. Education, in the final analysis, is a means of cooperating with God to overcome evil and bring out the best in the human person.
Challenges Facing the Education Sector
Nigerians have a deep hunger for education. The quality of facilities in our schools, secondary schools, polytechnics and universities is not commensurate with the announced budgetary allocation, a fact which strongly suggests the invasion of the education space by corruption and misappropriation of public funds. The high cost of quality education places it well beyond the reach of the poor. Yet, some Nigerian parents are willing to sacrifice much, including personal comfort, in order to ensure that their children receive good education. Not finding schools good enough within Nigeria for their children, they send them around the world, not only to countries of Africa, but even to Europe, America and Asia…. The future of the education sector in Nigeria largely depends on planning, funding and proper management.
Funding of Education and Partner-Friendly Policies
Nigeria, therefore, needs to take an urgent look at the regulatory framework in the education sector. The current formulation and execution of policies in the education sector do not enable public-¬private partnership. We therefore urge Government to abrogate policies that impede partnership in education. On the one hand, experience has shown that Government’s sole funding of education is not realistic in our present circumstances…. Rather, Government should, in line with the principle of subsidiarity, assist parents to play that role, to enable them to exercise their right to choose the type of education they want for their children. There is, therefore, need for synergy in funding education in Nigeria.
The provision of quality education should involve the government, parents, religious institutions and other corporate bodies. Nigerian children studying in mission and private schools should not be discriminated against. They have equal rights to be properly educated. Their parents are tax payers. Government should assist in the provision of the necessary infrastructure, tax relief for parents of children in school and demand minimal charges on the land on which mission and private schools are built. In addition, in the spirit of partnership, we urge Government to reinstate grants-in-aid to mission schools, in order to make quality education affordable. The ideas therefore are much the same. What is left now is for us, leaders and people to walk the talk together and sincerely provide the much sought-after cure for our haemorrhaging country, Nigeria.