In any country at all that desires to ascend to scale heights of sustainable development and subdue the wild thrashings of poverty, education does not just evoke an equalizer – it elicits the ease of access through which the progress of any country can be measured with some authenticity.
It is not because they are alarmists that those who cry wolf in the education sector cry each time it emerges that in this 21st century, in some parts of Nigeria, children still sit on the floor, in classrooms without windows, to take half-baked lessons from poorly trained and poorly remunerated teachers, in schools without adequate sanitary facilities.
It is not for nothing that teachers across different levels of education in Nigeria down tools from time to time whenever they feel that they have run out of options with which to press home their demands across the table from governments that achieve very little while doing their best to look like they are at their best.
So, education in Nigeria has continued to stutter, failing to rise above many of the bottlenecks that have come to symbolize Nigeria`s developmental struggles as a country.
The travails of education unsurprisingly provide the springboard for many of the country
s knotty problems. In spite of the lacerating lyrics of A-list Nigerian musicians who have risen to rinse education in recent times, at the bottom of Nigerias struggle to sustain a mindset capable of engendering and sustaining constant positive development is a deficiency which comes from a place of poor education.
Because many Nigerians lack quality education, they have become products of their own handicaps and in their interactions with Nigeria, they have succeeded in hatching a handicapped country of considerable heft. Thus, if many Nigerians are unable to understand their complex problems and craft solutions to them, it is because many of them simply lack the tools with which to do that. If many Nigerians are unable to resist the systematic decimation of their most prized values and most important national assets, it is because they lack the inner fibre of resistance that only education can form and firm up.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities is currently observing what has now become an annual strike action leaving thousands of undergraduates to languish at home. The Union has gone back and forth with the government on many issues but no common ground is yet to be found.
At the heart of the grievances of the striking Union is outrage over the refusal of the government to stick to previous agreements over wages, and the lamentable state of education in Nigeria.
With everything going wrong in the education sector, Nigerian legislators have devised a most curious solution to the problem: establishing more
institutions in the country. Indeed, to watch a man attempt to scale the heights of an iroko tree after suffering defeat by an orange tree is beyond amusing. A blizzard of bills has been pushed and are being pushed to establish more institutions in the country.
In a country where the institutions on ground are crying out for funding and maintenance, what else can possibly be behind the spate of bills seeking to establish various higher institutions in the country if not parochialism, provincialism and even outright folly?
Does anyone in their right senses make the location of any institution anywhere part of their promises on the campaign trail or constituency projects afterwards? At the moment, does Nigeria lack for institutions as severely as it lacks the financial management to get those institutions up and running?
We are a country obsessed with numbers. For us, it is quantity over quality. Our mantra is ‘the more the merrier’ and the safety we seek is the safety that comes from numbers. So, as long as it is majority, we are comfortable and even happy.
This obsession with numbers recently instigated the unsightly scramble that led to the establishment by the Senate of six new campuses of the Nigerian Law School to bring the current number to twelve even when there is abundant evidence that the existing campuses are creaking under the weight of neglect and negligence. Government officials who have otherwise failed in office know to strategically locate these institutions in their villages so as to epitomize illusory legacies.
Things have got so bad that some communities where these public institutions are located now perceive them to be communal properties. When their misplaced sense of entitlement is threatened in any manner, they plumb the depths of shamelessness to scribble a message. The utterly disgraceful conduct of some persons when the recent appointment of a Vice Chancellor for the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife did not go to according to their plans paints an ominous picture.
For the Giant of Africa to walk again, it must get its priorities in education right. Getting these priorities right certainly cannot involve putting numbers over substance. It is not by citing a federal institution in every nook and cranny of the country, it is about funding and sustaining them.
But with legislators who are all itching to cite a federal government institution in their village squares, we are primed to continue building a country of numerous schools but few scholars.