Educational Plateau — Musings of a Literate Ignoramus

The purpose of a tertiary education one might say is to prepare an individual for a professional career or to be a more useful part of society. On both accounts it appears there is a disconnect in the Nigerian situation.

It is common road-side “newspaper assembly” gist to argue about the many failings of the Nigerian education system with its incessant strikes and deplorable infrastructure. However, less spoken of is the stale and unchanging nature of course offerings in Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning.

I will not try to brandish statistics of the number of unemployed “graduates” — many of whom are ‘unemployable’ in the current economic and development-driven climate, nor will I try to increase the number of citable articles on the education-flight and loss of much needed foreign exchange to said cause. I however hope to point in another direction — the relevance of a university education today to the nation’s development needs.

A cursory glance at the course offerings of high-ranking Nigerian universities will reveal that course offerings in the 70s — regarded as the period of highest industrial growth in the country, are very much similar to course-offerings in 2016!

One might wonder what the relevance of this is. Putting it plainly, the university system has taught the same thing for 46 years! While this might not sound dreadful, I will be quick to ask the reader to imagine what it would feel like reading the same newspaper for four months, four years talk less of forty-six years!

While it might appear I am casting aspersions at the Nigerian education system, but we are all too familiar with the age-worn “hand-me-down” notes our lecturers used in lecturing us, many of such notes gotten from their own lecturers. How can we really claim these notes still carry functional information in such a dynamic time as one we live in?

With all due respect to students and faculty of certain courses, but of what relevance is a course like “Urban & Regional Planning” and “Estate Management” at the scale it is being taught in schools to the current and future needs of the country? Maybe I am ignorant of the course content of these noble courses, but why do almost all Nigerian Universities have to offer these courses among others, churning out thousands of students who expect to come out of school to ‘plan’ and ‘manage estates’ in Lagos and Abuja? Even though I am sending myself to the gallows with this, but we should all ask why accounting graduates have to spend extra time, money and productive energy trying to get chartered, and many a times failing? What were they learning from school for four years if the failure rate is so high?!

All these just for kpali

I shall rid you soon of my nagging, but I beg to ask first what stops us from deploying some of the resources allotted to studying normal courses towards offering “Risk Financing” or “Data Informatic” (considering the paucity of data available for meaningful planning), ‘Environmental Management Science’, and if I care to dream ‘Robotics’. The list of courses one can conjure specific to Nigerian development needs is endless; in fact every sector has a need for an evolution in degree programmes. Such courses will not only make Nigerian graduates more marketable and relevant to society, nationally and internationally, the effect on unemployment will be largely positive.

We should take a leaf from Western Universities where our parents seem to spend all their hard-earned money. Degree programmes there have evolved to reflect changing times, even in the most traditional of universities. Would it not be a sight to see universities in Nigeria take on courses based on their comparative advantage, location, strengths, regional and national usefulness? There appears to be a task for everyone — curriculum planners, career counsellors, Ministry of Education, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, students and parents.

Let us concertedly look inwards to develop or bring back course that will help our national and collective development. Hopefully then we will not be flung to involuntarily study Igbo for our first degree.