About fourteen years ago, a lady was jailed by a court in the United Kingdom for obstructing the child’s attendance at school. I was quite surprised to learn that keeping a child away from school could be an offence against the state. I have since confirmed that child education is compulsory in most developed countries. It is one of the major ways of ensuring the future prosperity of their countries. It is rather unfortunate that African countries do not try to control the future. We abandoned the future to fate and waste our resources trying to control the present. The truth, however, is that our today was created yesterday. We should not spend more money trying to correct the past than we do trying to create the future.
The difference between the training of the average child in Nigeria today and another child in the United Kingdom is a clear prophecy of the difference between the two countries fifty years from now. What we invest will determine what we harvest. An output is usually directly proportional to the input. We must programme our children for the kind of future we desire. And that brings us back to the issue of vision. We must develop a picture of future Nigeria. It must be a developed and prosperous Nigeria. We can then design the training necessary for the Nigerian who will live in that developed Nigeria. Until then, the 6-3-3-4 System or any other one for that matter may not work.
I walked into public-school towards the end of last year and was shocked at the sorry state of its facilities. I saw long sheds covered with rusty and leaky corrugated roofing sheets. There was no cement screed on the floors. There were neither chairs nor tables. Any student who wanted to sit on a chair had to bring one from home. In that school, were two pit latrines; one for teachers and another for students. Tears welled up in my eyes as I projected into the future of these children. Except for divine intervention, they are set to live mediocre lives thirty to fifty years down the line.
I remember a statement made by Mr Philip Emeagwali; the Nigerian born IT expert based in the United States. He said if he had the opportunity, he would advise the Nigerian government to spend almost all the money it makes from oil on education because oil is a wasting asset. He added that the brain drain happening in our country is brain gain of Europe and the United States. I must add that our brain drain is our future prosperity being drained away. In the absence of a vision of the development, are young people will continue to run out of this country.
A New Beginning
Our turnaround must begin with the definition of the Nigerian dream. A dream is probably the greatest gift one can give a child. This dream must be of a developed Nigeria where every Nigerian whether Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw, Fulani, Ibibio or Tiv will be prosperous. We should then design an educational system that will make it possible. It is a bit difficult for a foreigner to become a teacher in an American school because their school system is designed to fulfil the American dream. The child is made to value human life and to love his country. In fact, they are so programmed to be civilised that they get really frustrated when their parents break traffic rules. Their value and rights as human beings are so respected, motorists are not allowed to overtake school buses when they are packed to pick or drop schoolchildren.
Our National Assembly passed the bill about fourteen years ago to protect the rights of children in Nigeria. The law should be enforced. All tiers of government, religious organisations, foundations, corporate bodies and individuals should be involved in the revolution of our educational sector. If the rich in our country send their children to the best schools within and outside the country, they should remember that their children will have to come and live with the area boys and armed robbers that the public-school system would have produced.
Just like it was the younger generation that made it into Canaan and with Joshua in the Bible, we should give way to new dreams and new ideas. After 44 years of going around the wilderness, let us move to the Promised Land. The government should depend on the prosperity of its citizens. The former American president, Bill Clinton, was already a governor at the age of 32. And that is someone who grew up as an ordinary American. Our own system is so frustrating that it is difficult to succeed at that age. Because of incessant strikes in the school system, we have people who should be married and blessed with children still in school. When they graduate, they roam the street for years in search of jobs. But the jobs are not there. They should be trained to create jobs. And our system should be restructured to help people succeed, not to frustrate their aspirations.
Parents must also take up the challenge of breeding new Nigerians. Aiding a child to cheat in examinations, living beyond one’s means and paying children’s school fees with stolen money are some of the quickest ways to breed thieves. Let also raise children who have character, who are prepared to succeed in life.
My dear reader, somehow, I see light at the end of the tunnel. If you were and I will play our part, I have this intuitive feeling that we will make it. Yes, Nigeria will succeed.
What did you think?